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Will metal keyboards be replaced by touchscreens?

Update Time:06-24-2013

Public self-service systems demand vandal proof and highly resistant components. In the last few years, these systems have become more and more diversified. The reasons are obvious: every application has its own requirements and every manufacturer tries to achieve a unique position by individualising their products. And as the different self-service solutions diversify, so must the touchscreens, the keyboards, and the other essential components in such systems. This development poses a challenge for the makers of user interface components. This challenge is not so much related to the technical realisation of creative ideas, it is much more a question of the costs involved.

It would seem that touchscreens have become the most widely accepted solution for interacting with kiosks. The system integration of touchscreens is simple; usually they are pre-installed on the display. But the most important advantage seems to be the free configuration of the user interface. This is exclusively a question of software. All sorts of items can be show on display using simple HTML scripting. Without question, touchscreens are a flexible solution.

So what, if any, advantages does a ‘physical’ keyboard have over a touchscreen? A European study of operating preferences offers an answer to this question. This study revealed that the majority of users prefer the output and input components to be divided. That suggests that the synthesis of display (an output element) and keyboard (an input element) is not a user-orientated solution by any means. Combined output and input solutions are not popular; they are just widely accepted because often nothing else is provided. The second significant finding of the study was that people respond in a positive way to haptic technology; that is, tactile feedback technology that takes advantage of a user's sense of touch by applying forces to the user. Keyboards can certainly perform this function.

So there is certainly still a place for keyboards in self-service systems (made from vandal-proof metal of course) but this does not mean keyboards do not need to evolve. Manufacturers have to take into account the requirements of the integrators and POI system builders: flexibility, cost-effectiveness and technical creativity. It is no longer sufficient to provide a standard range of keyboards off the shelf. State-of-the-art modifications, such as different country layouts, different dimensions or different mounting options, should be readily available, without incurring large additional costs.

Manufacturers of self-service kiosk systems should respect users’ preferences to keep output and input components separate. Of course, a touchscreen should be kept as a complementary data input, but the main alphanumeric data input should be provided by a keyboard. Inflexible and non cost-effective customisations of stainless steel keyboards should be a thing of the past. With the right manufacturing partner, you can discover the true flexibility of stainless steel keyboards.

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