Keys to the Kingdom: The Rise of the Mechanical Gaming Keyboard

Keys to the Kingdom: The Rise of the Mechanical Gaming Keyboard

Why an old technology is getting a new lease on life.

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What's Next? I Need New Input!

Input is still changing. The keyboard and mouse combination has been with us for decades. It's useful and understood by everyone. Touch arose as one new way to interact with games and applications, but when it comes to pure efficiency, the keyboard and mouse still have their place. Each input device has legitimate uses.

Probably not replacing mouse and keyboard.

At the same time, we also have those who are exploring new forms of input. Valve has two projects, the Steam Controller, which combines gamepad and trackpad, and the prototype SteamVR controllers. OculusVR's Rift headset will come standard with an Xbox One controller. but the company is also exploring the unique Oculus Touch controller. Every executive I spoke to was excited about the possibilities that new input devices would bring to the industry.

"I definitely think there's opportunities there. I'm really excited about the VR space," said Logitech director of gaming Vincent Tucker. "There's lot of coverage and when you read it, there's lot of people that are gravitating towards the gamepad as the input device they focus on. On other end, you have these Kickstarter folks who are trying to build the ideal input, from gloves, sticks, or what have you. People are still searching for that. To me, that says that there's definitely an opportunity for Logitech. To be able to look at this new emergent gaming experience and bring some value."

"Overwhelmingly positive for the market," said SteelSeries director of products, Jeff Malhmeister. "As new gaming ecosystems arrive on the scene, I've found that they're only successful if you get content. Game developers need a standard input to make an ecosystem happen. At the start, you need a proprietor. You can't have a standard until someone defines that interaction. Someone needs to push and say 'This is what the human interaction is going to be.' Mice and keyboards have been around for a while, so we're well beyond that proprietary thing, but no one's really figured out yet how to interact on the VR side. I don't think anybody has the right answer yet. As it gets support, it'll start to open up more."

"It's a very exciting area, because it's about the development of gaming. We've played with Oculus development kit and we have a close relationship with Valve. Neither VR nor the Steam controller actually substitute for the mouse and keyboard. They're input methods for other forms of games," explained Razer general manager of peripherals Ruben Mookerjee. He also pointed out that Razer is a partner in the Open-Source Virtual Reality (OSVR) ecosystem, seeking to find a concrete set of standards for VR.

"Razer kicked that off because there needs to be standards out there," he said. "If we were to produce a proprietary controller and give the SDK out to game developers, then that means a gamer could only use the Razer controller. That's not very satisfying for the publisher or Razer. For mouse and keyboards, we have the HID protocol that's built into every computer, so you can natively plug in a mouse and keyboard and it'll just be recognized. We'd like to establish that for OSVR. We need standards to give consumers choices."

The keyboard is here to stay, and at least for gamers, the mechanical keyboard isn't going anywhere. When you get serious about your keyboard, there's a ton of switch options to provide you with the right kind of physical feedback. With a rubberdome keyboard, you get what's in front of you. If you take some steps over to mechanical, there are choices, from the classic Cherry MX Reds, Browns, and Blues, to new switches like the Razer Green, the SteelSeries QS1, or the Logitech Romer-G. Mechanical will probably continue to evolve beyond this, but right now, there's something out there for everyone.

Every word was typed on a mechanical keyboard with Cherry MX Brown switches. I'd also like to thank Ruben Mookerjee, Jeff Malhmeister, and Vincent Tucker for being gracious enough to take some time out and answer my questions.

[Thumbnail Image via Here. Header Image via VR-Zone user Undarken]

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Mike Williams

Reviews Editor

M.H. Williams is new to the journalism game, but he's been a gamer since the NES first graced American shores. Third-person action-adventure games are his personal poison: Uncharted, Infamous, and Assassin's Creed just to name a few. If you see him around a convention, he's not hard to spot: Black guy, glasses, and a tie.

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