#TransformationTuesday: How Will Technology Continue to Change the Concept of Putting Pen to Paper?

Leading up to our second annual Tech World event in June, we’re posting a series of #TransformationTuesday blog posts. Each post offers an inside look at some of Lenovo’s most exciting innovations and how they’ve “transformed” into what that are today, with a hint at what’s in store for Tech World 2016.

When I look back at the many ways I’ve been challenged in my role as a Lenovo Distinguished Designer, one element I’m especially fixated on is how users interact with their device to create content. Why this fixation? Because the way we interact is constantly evolving, starting with the physical keyboard. The computer keyboard transformed the saying, “putting pen to paper” by serving as the digital “pen” to express our thoughts or communicate with anyone virtually. Since then, we’ve broken ground in our methods of digital communications where keyboards are now touch-friendly and virtual. In some unique instances, they’re eliminated altogether, introducing a bevy of new ways to maintain digital dialogue like voice-controlled typing or gesture control features. Some may say we’re obsessive over how we design new methods of virtual communication. They’re right. We’ve always taken extreme measures to perfect every design aspect from the curvature and chiclet size of every keyboard key to how fast camera sensors react to typing on a virtual keyboard. As I reflect on what we’ve accomplished in this space, I wanted to share some of the significant contributions where Lenovo has evolved the way we virtually communicate over the years:

Back to Basics: The Physical Keyboard

Before Lenovo acquired IBM's PC division, ThinkPad engineers pioneered out-of-the-box keyboard innovation even from the early years of mobile computing back in 1995. With the introduction of the ThinkPad 701c, early laptop adopters found the keyboard to be cutting edge yet still practical. In a closed clamshell, the keyboard fits snug inside its iconic Bento box-inspired ThinkPad form. Open up the clamshell, and the keyboard “spreads its wings,” modeled after the way jetfighter wings expand when in full flight. This type of inspiration influenced our forward-thinking approach to design for all aspects of what makes up a great mobile computing device. 

Breaking Digital Barriers with Your Senses: Introducing Gesture Control and Voice Control to the Device

The introduction of Microsoft’s Windows 8 OS was a game changer for our mobile-driven attitudes. This was the first time touchscreens were widely available in personal computers, and the possibilities to communicate virtually became limitless. With new features like voice control and gesture control, touch-enabled devices became even more intuitive and user-friendly. In 2012, we debuted a family of multimode products with motion control technology that made it easy to flip through photos or browsing websites through a simple flick of the hand. Multitasking became a cinch, which you can see in the photo below, where we brought in Michelin-starred chef Anthony Sasso to demo how easy it is to cook by flipping through a recipe with a single hand gesture on a YOGA PC.

When Digital Writing Gets Truly Personal: Digital Transcription with Any Writing Tool You Can Imagine

In 2014, we introduced WRITEit and shortly thereafter Lenovo’s AnyPen Technology, completely eliminating the need for a keyboard on compact mobile products and laptops with touchscreen capabilities. Today with more portable, smaller devices, you might want to use a tablet rather than a laptop or desktop when on-the-go or during travel. WRITEit allows you to write text directly into virtually any field that accepts typed input. We designed this software specifically for touchscreen devices, where physically writing on the tablet or laptop screen is easier than entering text – especially in moments where all you want to do is jot down a quick idea. For tablet users with smaller screens, WRITEit is especially convenient versus typing on a compact virtual keyboard. When you pair it with AnyPen technology, you can use any conducive point – even a fork – or a pen as a stylus for the tablet. Creating AnyPen technology solved the everyday tablet user’s common issue of losing a stylus or digitizer pen. Ultra-mobile users saw this alternative to the keyboard perfect for instances in small spaces or when sketching out a thought that allowed more free-form creative expression.

A Keyboard for Virtually Anywhere – Literally: Casting Keyboards with an Infrared Light

Last year at Tech World, we introduced the Lenovo Smart Cast concept smartphone. Labeled the world’s first projection phone with gesture interaction, it reimagines the idea of true mobility. To use the keyboard, you simply rotate the Pico projector module at the top of the device to trigger the front-facing infrared camera sensors on the phone and track interactive movements in the infrared light. We also created special software algorithms to analyze the height of your typing, the distance between typing, the frame rate of the projector and the letter placement of the keys. You can turn any tabletop into a 10-inch virtual touchpad – no more limited screen real-estate problem. This is a significant step forward for more mobile productivity and creativity. Check out here how world-renowned pianist Lang Lang demoed Lenovo Smart Cast at Tech World 2015.

What’s next for the future of how we virtually communicate? Perhaps laptops will become self-typing devices generated by sensory from the human brain, or maybe we’ll crack the universal pain of pesky crumbs trapped between the keys with the world’s first self-cleaning keyboard. Ever since the beginning of the PC with a standard keyboard, we’ve challenged the way people communicate through technology, and we’ll continue to find new solutions to interact with a device. Stay tuned and find out at Lenovo Tech World in June. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter @Lenovo for more updates.