Microsoft has been working on several keyboard advances to be applied to future versions of their Surface 2-in-1 device. The ideas have ranged from integrating touch and gestures to introducing holographic interfaces and even adding gaming functionality. In the last few days Microsoft Research has introduced a marketing prototype of their most ambitious new Surface-device keyboard to date. Microsoft is calling this new tablet keyboard "DisplayCover." The new keyboard will replace a typical touchpad with a new E-ink display that will be positioned at the top of the keyboard as noted in our cover graphic. The new DisplayCover will provide far more functionality than is possible today with traditional touchpads.
DisplayCover supports dynamic UI manipulation, concurrent access to multiple applications, stylus annotation, gestures and trackpad interactions on the horizontal plane as described in the video. To illustrate these features, Microsoft demonstrated its use in a suite of example applications built around the proposed interaction techniques.
A thin film e-ink display with a resolution of 1280 x 305 pixels extends the available screen real estate of the slate device by up to 8%. This kind of secondary display will be easy on battery life too.
As the video shows, it's a nice idea – but Microsoft isn't even hinting that this prototype is ready for primetime just yet. Is it simply marketing hype or will Microsoft push this to market in the coming year? Only time will tell.