Hacker-foiling keyboard generates power, recognizes your keystrokes

This keyboard converts energy, protects your computer from hackers, and -- oh, yah -- cleans itself too.

Michael Franco
Freelancer Michael Franco writes about the serious and silly sides of science and technology for CNET and other pixel and paper pubs. He's kept his fingers on the keyboard while owning a B&B in Amish country, managing an eco-resort in the Caribbean, sweating in Singapore, and rehydrating (with beer, of course) in Prague. E-mail Michael.
Michael Franco
2 min read

Your typing pattern is pretty much as unique as you are, and this keyboard can sense it. American Chemical Society

When you think about it, we modern humans, collectively, are burning through a heck of a lot of calories every day by pounding away on our computer keyboards. Researchers have found a way to convert that mechanical energy into actual power through a new smart keyboard.

The keyboard was developed by a team of researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology, the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the University of California at Riverside. The journal ACS Nano recently published an article on it.

According to the article, the energy conversion is "enabled by contact electrification between human fingers and keys, which converts mechanical stimuli applied to the keyboard into local electronic signals without applying an external power." It goes on to say that this energy conversion could be used to "effectively harness typing motions for electricity to charge commercial electronics at arbitrary typing speeds greater than 100 characters per minute."

So, to charge up your smartphone, you'll need to type pretty fast. (There's an incentive to get your work done faster, eh?)

Yet, energy conversion is only one feature of many for this keyboard. It also can identify you from the way you type and will trigger an alarm through a wireless security system when someone other than you types on your machine. If that wasn't enough, it also records keystrokes, so if someone who's not authorized to use your computer types on it, you can replay what he typed, the paper's abstract says.

According to a report from the American Chemical Society (ACS), study co-author Zhong Lin Wang and colleagues say that as hackers become more advanced in their techniques, passwords are becoming less effective at protecting computers from intruders. Using a keyboard that recognizes the unique way you type -- how fast, how much pressure you apply to the keys and the time between pressing keys -- could offer a different kind of security.

The ACS also says that the keyboard is covered with a special coating that repels grime, so it'll likely remain in spiffy condition no matter how much you type on it.

There's no word on when the keyboard will become commercially available, but I've reached out to the study authors to find out more on this and will update this post once I hear back.