Perfect design is like Big Foot– maybe it exists, but it rarely gets seen. Steven Isaac and Brad Melmon may have created a Yeti of an iPad accessory with their TouchFire screen top keyboard. Made of very lightweight and flexible plastic, the TouchFire allows you to feel the keys on the iPad screen and type as easily as you would on a laptop. Not only does the TouchFire restore the tactile sensations required for accurate typing, the flexible keyboard squashes flat so that it can be stored underneath the iPad cover. It travels wherever the tablet computer goes and pops out ready to use whenever it's needed. The simple ingenuity of the TouchFire is clear in the detailed videos of the device Isaac and Melmon have published. See them below. Still in the prototype phase, the TouchFire team turned to KickStarter to raise funds for their launch, asking for just $10,000. They got $160,000+. The unheard of popularity of their project highlights both the demand for this kind of accessory, and the success TouchFire has had in the early stages of execution.
TouchFire's broad overview showcases the easy storage and use of the accessory. Magnets and friction secure the raised plastic in place, but allow it to be folded out of the way quickly as well. When the iPad is no longer in use, the TouchFire squeezes in the space between the tablet and protective case. It seems so simple, but the patent pending design for the keyboard is being heralded as ingenious by many web reviewers:
The team demonstrates how the TouchFire can work for those with the original iPad as well:
Isaac is no stranger to tablet computers, he helped develop PenPoint, one of the earliest tablet operating systems created back in the early 1990s. He's also worked with Sun, and Microsoft among many other firms. Melmon is a product design guru with more than 25 years in his field. Together the TouchFire team has crafted an iPad accessory that aims to fulfill the unspoken needs of the iPad community: It secures quickly, it allows for touchscreen use through the keyboard, it cleans easily by running under water, it folds under the most common iPad screens, it's completely transparent...etc, etc. The internet loves this thing, with TouchFire gaining rave reviews from sources like TechCrunch and Mashable.
The real testimony to its success, however, is in the 2500+ people who have donated to the company via KickStarter. Raising 16 times the requested funds is remarkable, but perhaps completely understandable given the rewards offered. For a $45 donation, supporters will receive their very own TouchFire before it officially hits market. With the vast majority of donors coming in at the $45 level (1700+) TouchFire is essentially funding itself by selling pre-orders. We've seen that before with video recording glasses, but TouchFire has been even more successful.
As with so many KickStarter projects, there's no firm date on when TouchFire keyboards will appear on their donors' doorsteps, but the team has released videos detailing the construction of the prototypes and updated donors on the pursuit of manufacturing partners. Hopefully TouchFire will segue their windfall fund raising into a quick and successful retail launch. The demand for the product, and the design expertise are both clearly there. It's about time everyone got their own glimpse of Big Foot.
[image and video credits: TouchFire]