6 Best Virtual Keyboards | April 2017

We spent 32 hours on research, videography, and editing, to review the top selections for this wiki. If you want the convenience of large keys when typing while traveling but you're strapped for luggage space, then try one of these virtual keyboards. They will project onto almost any flat, opaque surface, are compatible with most smartphones, computers, and tablets, and are small enough to fit in your pocket or purse. Skip to the best virtual keyboard on Amazon.
6 Best Virtual Keyboards | April 2017
Overall Rank: 3
Best Mid-Range
Overall Rank: 6
Best High-End
Overall Rank: 2
Best Inexpensive
Because the BTC-LE has a detection rate of over 400 characters per minute, as long as it's projected on a smooth table, even fast typists can use it without feeling like it is slowing them down too much. Unfortunately, it is very difficult to use in bright areas.
  • runs on a battery or usb connection
  • low power consumption
  • no way to turn off feedback sound
Brand Office 4 All
Model BTC-LE
Weight 5.6 ounces
Rating 4.2 / 5.0
The iNextStation Virtual creates a clear laser image of a Qwerty keyboard with keys that look crisp on flat surfaces. It has just the right amount of spacing between the buttons that helps reduce the number of errors you make.
  • handy touch mode
  • fits in a pocket
  • delay when typing
Brand iNextStation
Model BC81671
Weight 5.6 ounces
Rating 4.0 / 5.0
The AGS Laser Projection has a built-in LCD screen that displays the unit's remaining battery life. It also shows your keystrokes as you type to help you improve your accuracy. Its mouse mode supports multi-touch gestures and has smooth cursor movement.
  • quickly connects to devices
  • adjustable audio volume
  • short battery life
Brand AGS
Model 5316702
Weight 5.6 ounces
Rating 4.3 / 5.0
The Celluon EPIC Ultra-Portable has a mouse mode and fully adjustable brightness, sensitivity, and sound feedback settings, so you can create the workspace you want anywhere. It's compatible with most Windows, iOS, and Android devices.
  • works on almost any opaque surface
  • bluetooth connectivity
  • flashes for low battery alert
Brand Celluon
Weight 7.2 ounces
Rating 4.8 / 5.0
The ShowMe Bluetooth Wireless has a 1000 mAh battery, compared to other models that generally have a 600 mAh one, so you can use it for extended working sessions. It also doubles as a speaker that lets you play music or hear video calls.
  • automatic sleep mode
  • does not require additional apps
  • easy to carry around
Brand ShowMe(TM)
Weight 4.8 ounces
Rating 4.8 / 5.0
The Lamaston LK100 is a compact and portable option that is smaller than your average mouse. The unit becomes instantly discoverable on Bluetooth when you open it and connects to nearly any type of laptop, tablet, or smartphone.
  • good sensitivity
  • adjustable brightness
  • micro usb charging
Model LK100
Weight 6.4 ounces
Rating 4.9 / 5.0

Buyer's Guide

Have Flat Surface, Will Type

What if you didn't need a physical keyboard attached to your computer? Imagine yourself sitting in a coffee shop, your desk at the office, or even at a table in your home with the ability to type as you normally would on a laptop without the need for a bulky keyboard. Is this the work of magic? Not really. Is it practical, convenient, and worthy of a tech geek in most respects? Absolutely–and consider tech geek to be interpreted in the most positive sense possible.

Regardless of whether you prefer to travel light or whether the sound of a keystroke makes you cringe, a virtual keyboard can be a cutting-edge addition to your technology arsenal. Why is that? Let's dig a little deeper into what this device actually does.

Also referred to as an optical virtual keyboard or projection keyboard, a virtual keyboard is a unique form of computer input device, whereby a digital image of a keyboard is projected onto virtually any flat surface using a red diode laser. This laser shines through a Diffractive Optical Element, a tiny image of the QWERTY-style keyboard. Along with special optical lenses, the DOE then expands the keyboard image to a usable size where it is finally projected onto a level surface. However, the image of a keyboard by itself isn't enough.

The device still needs a way to interpret the information as you type. An infrared laser diode, located on the bottom of the input device, projects a thin plane of invisible infrared light running parallel to the intended typing surface. As you type on that surface, your fingers pass through certain areas of this plane. A complimentary metal-oxide semiconductor images the position of your fingers within the area of the keyboard, while an integrated sensor chip called a Virtual Interface Processing Core analyzes the location of the intended keystroke. Finally, the device sends this information back to the computer to interpret the command.

The virtual keyboard operates in a similar fashion to how a conventional keyboard operates, meaning that it's still considered an input device that accepts and interprets commands (or keystrokes) and renders them appropriately on your computer or mobile device. Its main advantage over conventional keyboards is its portability.

Most virtual keyboard devices are small and lightweight, often times being no bigger than a pack of chewing gum. This means they can fit into almost any bag or pocket. The virtual keyboard can connect to your laptop, tablet, PDA, or smartphone using either a USB cable or Bluetooth technology. Once connected, the virtual keyboard can send commands/keystroke information back to a word processing program or most any other active window on your mobile device/computer.

Projecting The Right Ideas

It is important to keep in mind that a virtual keyboard requires a flat, non-reflective, and opaque surface on which to operate. That said, using it in certain places (i.e. on the bus, train, or in the car) isn't the most user-friendly of experience for the device. But that should hardly be a deterrent from investing in one to make working on the go easier.

Speed is an important factor to consider when making your choice. Some virtual keyboards can detect up to 350 or 400 characters per minute, so even if you're one of fastest typists out there, you shouldn't have to worry about the unit's ability to keep up. On that same note, pairing speed also matters, since you don't want to waste time installing additional drivers. Many virtual keyboards don't require software drivers.

If you're like many computer enthusiasts, you are familiar with both Macs and PCs, so finding a virtual keyboard that is widely compatible with a variety of operating systems is helpful.

A built-in range of adjustable brightness control settings also comes in handy if you plan to use it throughout the day. Obviously, you'll want easy adjustments at night to ensure the projected light is bright enough to see.

Battery life is another biggie. Many virtual keyboards feature lithium polymer batteries, giving you extended run time of up to 2-3 hours, and allowing you to charge the device almost anywhere.

Innovation: Past and Future

The optical virtual keyboard was originally conceived, invented, and patented in 1992 by IBM engineers.

In 2002, a startup called Canesta created the first projection keyboard using its proprietary electronic perception technology, which is a low-cost, single-chip imaging technology designed to create 3-dimensional images of its nearby surroundings and objects in real time. Canesta's projection keyboard was the first application of this technology.

From there, this type of perception/recognition technology may be used in the future to create additional spatial/object recognition functionality, including such things like doorknobs that recognize the hands of the homeowners or home security systems that are smart enough to distinguish questionable movements from authorized activities.

With its recent patent, Apple has also been testing the waters since 2006 for the development of its own virtual keyboard, which would make the technology highly adaptable considering its innovation of the iPhone and iPad among its other products.

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Last updated on April 24 2017 by Vann Vicente

Vann Vicente is an undergraduate Economics student and writer who lives somewhere in the Eastern Hemisphere. He spends about half of his time watching films and is still smiling about Moonlight's incredible Best Picture victory.