Last month we brought you news of TouchFire: the Screentop Keyboard for iPad, which, during its short time as an open Kickstarter project, has swiftly reached, and then far exceeded, its funding goal. The TouchFire has obviously struck a chord with Kickstarter backers.
I spoke to Steve Isaac, TouchFire’s creator, about what he’s hoping to achieve with this iPad screen overlay, and what it’s like to be a Kickstarter superstar.
The TouchFire is a flexible overlay that sits atop the user’s iPad keyboard. Unlike full-sized Bluetooth keyboards, which are bulky and expensive, the TouchFire is designed to allow a user to touch type on an iPad. The TouchFire’s keys actually allow the users fingers to rest upon them as they would on a standard keyboard, something that is simply not possible using the iPad’s native touch screen keyboard.
Isaac created the TouchFire in concert with mechanical engineer and product designer Brad Melmon because he wanted to make something that “integrated well with the DNA of the iPad.” Isaac explains that they tried to “respect the touch interface design” of the iPad, since that’s part of the experience of using one.
The TouchFire’s design is elegant and simple. Isaac hopes that using the TouchFire will “make typing on iPad feel like typing on normal keyboard, but doing it so that TouchFire is available all the time, but also gets out of the way when you don’t want it.”
The TouchFire overlay is extremely flexible. It can actually bend 180 degrees. The device actually rolls up inside of the Apple Smart Cover when not in use. According to Isaac, “We took a long time to figure it out. It’s thin and flexible enough so it disappears when you don’t want it, but it still feels good when you type.”
Isaac and Melmun wanted everything that Apple puts in the keyboard to work with TouchFire. For example, the TouchFire is so thin that users are able to swipe through the keyboard to select an alternate character. “The keyboard is active from a touch perspective. The iPad’s keys are much bigger than they look, so we designed TouchFire to support the entire size of the keys. There are no dead areas,” explains Isaac.
Just how they did that is a trade secret. The methods used to create the device are precise and novel enough that the TouchFire is currently patent pending. The TouchFire fits both the iPad 2 and the original iPad, and works integrally with Apple’s Smart Cover, as well with some other third-party covers and cases.
Why they did it, however, is no secret at all. As one test user in the TouchFire video remarks, “if I had a keyboard, I wouldn’t need my laptop.” Keyboard frustration is one key factor holding back the iPad from becoming a laptop replacement for many users.
Isaac says he and Melmun were “flabbergasted and thrilled beyond belief” by the incredible monetary support TouchFire has received on Kickstarter.” At the moment the project has already raised over 6 times more than its original $10K goal.
The TouchFire, Isaac hopes, will have a retail presence once the Kickstarter campaign ends. “We’re doing this as a Kickstarter project,” Isaac explains, “because we want to launch a company. We don’t see this as a one-shot thing. It’s given us the ability to test that our idea has some traction.” Every dollar that the project raises now will help Isaac and Melmun get the device into retail outlets more quickly.
Interested backers don’t have to wait until TouchFire comes to a big box retailer near you. There is still time to pledge in support of TouchFire. Simply pledge $45 to receive one, or $80 to receive two, TouchFire screentop overlays. Make a pledge before the funding period closes on December 13, 2011.
Isaac estimates that backers should receive their TouchFire’s no later than early January 2012, which means there is less than two months between you and the much-desired ability to touch type on your iPad.
This post is part of our recurring PadGadget Kickstarter series. Find out how you can submit a Kickstarter project or get more info on this series by clicking here.