LAS VEGAS, CES 2012 – Texting on the iPhone’s 3.5-inch touchscreen is about as good as you can expect, but wouldn’t it be great if there was a way to fit a full-size keyboard in there for good measure?
Celluon thinks there’s a way to do just that with the Prodigy, a Juice Pack-style battery case for the iPhone 4 and iPhone 4s with one interesting trick up its sleeve: it can project an interactive infrared keyboard onto any flat surface.
In theory, this means effortless typing as long as you can prop your iPhone up on a table or desk. The reality, though? Stick to texting.
We stopped by the Celluon booth in the iLounge pavilion to get a quick hands-on with the Prodigy, their latest prototype, which they hope to start shipping in the next three months. It’s good that they have time, because the whole shebang is not ready for prime time.
We noticed both conceptual and functional problems with Prodigy in our brief time with it. For one thing, while the case is as svelte as other battery cases, it’s a great deal longer thanks to the infrared projecting beam and attached camera, which tries to extrapolate where your finger is when it cuts through the beam and what key you meant to hit.
The problem is the Prodigy isn’t very good at telling what key you’re trying to type. It’s a frustrating experience, which reps from Celluon tried to just hand-wave away as a learning experience, but even they seemed scarcely much better at typing anything of length on their product.
And the issue isn’t just one of it being a prototype, because Celluon has another product already on the market called the Magic Cube that does the same thing for iPad and scarcely functions any better.
So what do we have here? As a concept, the Prodigy is intriguing, but the actuality sort of stinks. Given that Celluon thinks the Prodigy will cost $189.95 when it is finally released — which is at least $110 more than most battery cases — it’s hard to imagine this being the next step into the future of smartphone typing.