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Gear & Apps

Sonder E-Ink Keyboard Gives You Visual Shortcut Cues

By Kishore Sawh on June 11th 2015

I hesitate with ever calling a piece of machinery ‘sexy,’ though there are some I find distinctly so. The thing is those pieces tend to have character, and are tools that raise the senses, like a Jaguar E-type, or an F-14 Tomcat, or perhaps a classic Leica. Apple has tried to make computers and their components sexy, and to some degree has succeeded, but you didn’t hear me say that.

A company called Sonder, however, has created a keyboard that’s as about as an attractive a keyboard as I can ever recall seeing. Sonder’s Bluetooth computer keyboard uses e-ink tech to label individual keys and offers customization for 50 of the buttons. You can program the keyboard keys to show a specific symbol, or even change the letter you want on that key, you know, should QWERTY just not do it for you, you rebel.

As creatives we use an array of applications that can become keyboard intensive. Obviously anything Adobe comes to mind. Post processing with shortcuts can save hours upon hours, but it can take hundreds of hours of usage to learn what keys do what. Some never learn, and even those that do can’t always do it without looking, and having a little image on the key to help our peripheral vision detect the target we want can be immensely helpful.

The Sonder design is elegant and the company touts the ability to change all settings, images, emojis, and languages with the quick flip of just a few settings, and will change as you change applications. The keyboard is also lit for working in the dark, and seems to be Mac geared as you’ll notice the ‘command’ and other buttons typically found on Apple keyboards.

[REWIND: CTRL+Console For Lightroom | Is This The Best Way To Control Lightroom?]

I honestly wish I had something like this years ago to steepen my learning curve, and even now I find myself forgetting all but the utmost often shortcuts used, so I’d buy one now. Except I wouldn’t, because you can’t yet.

Supposedly, it will arrive with a cost of $299 but can be had for pre-order for $199 right now. That said, the Kickstarter campaign has even yet to launch, so you’ll be waiting a while, but I hear good things come to those who wait. Or something better comes along.

Check it out here

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A photographer and writer based in Miami, he can often be found at dog parks, and airports in London and Toronto. He is also a tremendous fan of flossing and the happiest guy around when the company’s good.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Ralph Hightower

    I like this. If it can handle Lightroom, Photoshop, Corel Paint Shop Pro, Microsoft Visual Studio 2013, and Microsoft Office 2013, I’m in!

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  2. Thomas Horton

    I hope there will be an option for a corded keyboard. I am personally not a fan of BT keyboards, but I am probably in a minority about that. :)

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  3. Thomas Horton

    “I honestly wish I had something like this years ago to steepen my learning curve”

    I do not think that word means what you think it means. :)

    Why would you want a product that would make your learning curve MORE steep?

    I think you meant to flatten your learning curve…. unless you just like doing stuff the harder way. :)

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  4. Dave Haynie

    Curious that they didn’t use e-ink keys on the OS-specific keys — this one’s clearly set up for a Macintosh.

    Something like this has been long rumored, so it’s nice to see it out. On the other hand, I’m really not a fan of the flat-keytop, super-flat keyboard that seems to be popular amoung Mac users these days. I use a computer far too much to go without at least something reasonable for touch-typing and reasonably ergonomic.

    I shelled out years ago for a Bella keyboard with Sony Vegas keytops. Really expensive, as keyboards go, but for that price, just not built to take a few years of professional use. Replace it with a much more generic Lenovo with full travel keys and that’s still going strong. I also wore the silkscreened writing off the Bella on key keys in six months — not a problem for touch-typing, but the whole point of that extra cash, other than the built-in jog-shuttle, was the Vegas keytop markings. At least this one solves that problem.

    But e-ink or not, I’d absolutely have to try this bad-boy in person before shelling out that kind of green. And as mentioned, already it seems to follow that Apple “form over function” aesthetic.

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  5. John Sheehan

    I’m torn on this. I rarely look down when I’m typing, but I constantly forget shortcuts. Right now I have post-it notes on the wall next to my monitor with shortcuts written on them.

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    • Francisco Serra-Martins

      G’day John, there are a lot of other features create and share widgets, personalised macros, swap between any language etc. If it helps you do what you do best, faster and with more confidence than we’ve done our job. Cheers, Sonder engineer

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  6. Jesper Ek

    A bit pricey as well…

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    • Francisco Serra-Martins

      G’day Jesper, I’m one of the engineers. Currently our unit price is determined by volume, the more units we can sell, our manufacturer can decrease the unit cost on items like the EPD (which are rather expensive at low volumes). However, beyond the price we’d love whatever feedback you may have, particularly in regards to how you would love to use the product and what applications and layouts you want included in the library. Many thanks!

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    • Rob LaRosa

      Yup. There’s a sucker born every minute.

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  7. Justin Haugen

    I’m so tired of kickstarter and constantly reading about products that never make it to market. I think saving $100 is not worth the risk of losing $200. I’d rather wait and see this actualized and purchase it from a store front. Pretty cool concept though.

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    • Francisco Serra-Martins

      G’day Justin, I’m one of the engineers on the project. I think that’s the most wise choice, however we do invite you to be involved, provide your feedback in regards to the design. When we established the site it was for our grant application in Sydney , we didn’t intend for cult of Mac to publish us, and then several other publications too. But it’s a good problem to have, we can refine our product before we ship. Please say hi on Twitter or shoot me an email if you have any thoughts at Francisco@sonderdesign.come

      Cheers mate, talk soon

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    • Thomas Horton

      Kickstarters do have a risk. And like any investment, one should not risk money they can’t afford.

      But if you really believe in the product and want to help it come to production, I think Kickstarters are a great way to invest in technology.

      There are some kickstarter scammers out there. Unfortunately, that’s human nature. But I would not paint kickstarters with too broad of a brush.

      Just make sure you investigate the people and only invest what you can afford to lose.

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    • Stephen Jennings

      I like the idea, and I don’t see why it wouldn’t make it to market as it seems fairly straight forward. There is one thing I’d like to see Francisco .. that’s adding the little symbols onto other keys (option and shift for instance). For as long as I’ve been using PS and AI I still mess up which key is which symbol. I’d buy the Photoshop version for sure.

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    • Stephen Jennings

      Oh wait.. I take that back, $299 or 199 for a keyboard is crazy ahahha ..

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