By Terry Gardner, Special to Tribune Newspapers
8:18 PM EST, December 26, 2012
Name: Celluon Magic Cube (or Virtual Keyboard at Hammacher Schlemmer)
What it is: A palm-sized Bluetooth device that projects a laser keyboard on a flat surface. The keyboard, 93/4 inches wide by 4 inches deep, pairs with an iPhone, iPad, Android and other devices. The keyboard recognizes keystrokes in three dimensions using an optical sensor and an infrared sensor to detect finger placement at different areas, distinguishing between a finger hovering above the space bar or a number key. When the infrared plane is interrupted by a finger, the Magic Cube assigns a keyboard character and passes it along to a paired device. Its rechargeable battery provides up to 21/2 hours of operation from a 11/2-hour charge from AC using the included USB/AC adapter. The device weighs only about 3 ounces and easily fits in a jacket pocket, backpack or travel case.
The good: I hate my iPhone's little keyboard, so this gadget has proved indispensable when I needed to jot down some notes or compose emails. Though Hammacher Schlemmer tested the device with typing speeds as high as 400 characters per minute, I haven't gotten nearly that fast because the keyboard isn't quite touch-typing size, so I have to hunt and peck. The biggest challenge when using the Magic Cube is trying work when people begin hovering around, especially at Starbucks, to see how I've created a keyboard out of thin air. The Magic Cube works equally well with an iPad, but it can only be paired with one device at a time.
The bad: I wish the keyboard were slightly larger to enable me to touch type. I'd love a shade that would allow me to use it outside. Even on a cloudy day, the keyboard is hard to see outside.
Cost: $199.95 (Amazon.com was cheaper at press time.)
Available from: hammacherschlemmer.com (Virtual Keyboard, Item 81759), amazon.com and celluon.com
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