Fancy a quick way to do things on your computer? Elgato has a novel approach with a few tiny LCD screens for your desk.
The computer keyboard has been around for long enough as it is, and we’re all quite familiar with the excellence of QWERTY, but not all of us have keys designed solely for us.
Take those function keys that are beginning to disappear on the top row of the keyboard. Labeled F1 through to F12, these are for extra functions, and in some applications you can even customise what they do.
But those keys won’t always be around, and so finding ways of making quick key shortcuts usually has to come from multiple keyboard combinations, and if you’re inside of an app already, those combinations may not even work.
Gamers who broadcast their sessions online know this issue quite well, and so a company known for its video capture devices that gamers can use has developed something designed to act as this middle ground, providing shortcuts in a small gadget.
Called the Stream Deck, it’s Elgato’s first keyboard-like device, and while it has buttons on a small pad, that’s about all it has in common with a keyboard.
Different from your conventional typing pad, the Stream Deck relies on 15 keys with small LCD screens behind each, allowing you to not only map shortcuts to the keys, but customise the look of these with different images.
Think of it as a small set of 15 customisable function keys that you can make look pretty and built to your liking.
While there are only 15 keys, these can essentially be grouped into folders, allowing you to jump into various sections and run actions specific to those folders.
For instance, if you’re a gamer and you’re keen to let everyone know what’s going on in the Twittersphere while you’re in a video game, you could press into a folder made for Twitter and map phrases to the various icons, letting someone know you did something without leaving the app.
Starting a recording? Stopping a recording? Adjusting audio? The idea with the Elgato Stream Deck is that you can do all of those things while staying in the app, as the buttons act as a shortcut to the app which does the work for you.
“We revolutionised gameplay sharing with Game Capture HD and now we’re taking live content creation to the next level with Stream Deck,” said Elgato’s Julian Fest. “It provides streamers with a level of control that used to be exclusive to mainstream entertainment broadcasters.”
Compatible with both Windows and Mac and operating over USB 2.0, it’s a product that could do a great deal more than just give gamers that ability to control their broadcasts like a TV studio, and you can see other use-case scenarios really getting the customisation they’re after.
Building a small radio station? Map the buttons to various sound effects, promos, and more.
Doing a lot of photo or video editing? If Adobe’s Photoshop or Premiere is supported, functions could be mapped to the keys here.
That’s the theory anyway, because Elgato’s Stream Deck does require the use of Elgato’s software, and it’s unknown yet whether Elgato will be allowing you to map features from other programs not related to games, a question we’ve asked.
One point is how far this technology has come, because as cool as the Stream Deck is, Elgato is not the first company to have thought it up.
Rather, it bears a striking resemblance in concept to a project that came out of Russia’s Art Lebedev studios in 2008 in the Optimus Aux, which itself was similar to the Optimus Mini Three Keyboard in 2007 and the original Optimus keyboard concept in 2005 that used individual displays behind every keyboard key with each ready for customisation.
As cool as they were, Art Lebedev’s creations were often concepts and very costly when produced, as seen in the company’s current full-keyboard version in the $1500USD Optimus Popularis, and that’s something Elgato is looking to move past with its Stream Deck, offering a US price of $149.95, though no local Aussie price at this time.
Our best bet is it’ll arrive below $300, and likely around $200 to $250, though we’ll wait for Elgato’s local folks to tell us what that’ll be and when you can get your fingers all over one. We know we’re intrigued to have a play.