Google Japan’s weird keyboards might be the best running joke in tech • TechCrunch

The techCrunch newsroom fears only one thing: the arrival of April 1st. Because, I’ll just say it, the tech industry isn’t much fun. But Google Japan’s continuing series of ridiculous keyboards, where they go completely into the joke, suggests we may have found the first known exception.

The latest is the “Gboard Bar Version”, (or stick version depending on the translation), a keyboard about 1.6 meters long (compared to 2.4 meters in the prototype) with all the letters and numbers arranged in left to right in a “one-dimensional QWERTY layout”. There are options for ABC, ASCII and katakana codes.

You’ll no longer have to hunt and peck for individual keys, the creators explain. “With this keyboard, it’s very convenient to immediately know that the 16th letter from the left is G.” It’s so simple!

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It also has ergonomic advantages:

“When you use this keyboard, your arms extend naturally, so you can stretch your arms secretly even at work. When you press the rightmost and leftmost keys simultaneously, you can stretch your legs unintentionally,” the team writes.

Of course, it also doubles as a range tool for hitting distant light switches and triples as a walking stick when you need to hit the grass. Watch the video below for many more lightweight and truly laugh-worthy uses and benefits:

It was posted on September 1, I think because it has 101 keys. The joke not appearing on the traditional day for such things makes it all the funnier.

But this is not the first “new entry proposal from the Gboard team”. The posts have been around for 10 years now, starting with a Morse code entry method and getting a bit more involved from there. Some are more successful than others, but even if the spoon bend is a bit much, the original video is still amazing. I love serious product travel shipments, and this is no exception:

The Tegaki “physical writing” keyboard, essentially an actual version of the swipe used on the actual Gboard and others, is close enough to the real thing that you can think of it as an actual product. In fact, I’m sure I’ve seen something like this before, as a way to control the cursor.

Some of the designs are really interesting and remarkable little pieces of engineering, like this tilt-key keyboard:

Image Credits: Google Japan

And this built-in teacup article is delightfully absurd:

teacup keys

Image Credits: Google Japan

In case you’re wondering how you use it (translated by Google from Japanese): “The kanji for fish are arranged in the syllabary on all 50 keys. Instead of [an] alphabet, it uses a sushi arrangement of horse mackerel, sardine, eel, ei and okoze, and the characters are introduced by fish-kanji conversion. Very finny.

But the team clearly had fun with it, and amazingly, they built these designs… you can find the code and blueprints here.

It’s certifiably old news for our Japanese readers, but I hadn’t seen it play here in the United States. And I think the end of the year opposite April Fool’s Day is the best time to highlight this delicious work from a team that seems to be funny and dedicated in equal measure.

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