In mid-2016, a new company started up overnight and launched a Kickstarter campaign that seemed both incredulous and impossible – build, ship, and sell a fully analogue keyboard to customers wanting to add an extra dimension to their typing experience. Wooting, the company behind the new design, has now started mass production of their first product, aptly named the Wooting One analogue keyboard. The product’s launch was scheduled for November 2016, but production issues delayed the launch to April 2017. Hit the jump for more.
Early on in the mass production stage, an issue was found where nearly every keyboard that came off the line into the testing phase had the same number of keys that weren’t registering the full analogue range of the switch. While it’s arguable that not every key needs complete X-axis input for it to function properly, Wooting wanted everything off the production line to be working correctly, and considering that this keyboard will cost a whopping €159.99 at retail (approximately R2,200¹), it would be a major blow to the brand if some keys didn’t work properly.
In a video log for their Kickstarter backers, Wooting owners Calder and Jeroen show off a bit of their production line at the factory, and show the problem in action at the testing line. Not detailing what fixes they’ll be implementing for the completed product does grate me, but I’m still impressed that an analogue switch exists at all. Once the product launches in April, with Kickstarter backers receiving their shipment first, the keyboard will go on sale worldwide with international shipping.
For those of you discovering this unicorn of a keyboard for the first time, here’s a quick run-down: the switches in the Wooting One are using optical sensors to measure how depressed the key is. Regular keyboards are binary in nature, either being engaged or unengaged. This lends itself to a couple of unusual use-cases that regular keyboards aren’t capable of, like emulating a Xbox 360 controller using the Xinput API in Windows, or allowing for special contexts depending on whether you depress the key slightly or all the way through, like the Force Touch feature on Apple’s iPhone 7 and current line of Macbooks shipping with a Force Touch trackpad
While you won’t necessarily be using this with every game that’s out there, the option to use your keyboard as an actual controller intrigues me. There’s also a switch on the underside of the keyboard to turn off analogue mode and make it into a regular mechanical keyboard with Cherry MX-like Blue or Red switches. What’s also great about the Wooting One is that the key caps and the switches are modular. You can mix and match whichever ones you want, and you can even keep the same basic frame with the firmware controller updated, and move from Red switches to black switches on the game buttons for higher resistance and Brown switches for the rest of the keyboard to improve the typing experience.