Projection Keyboards: A Complete Overview

Keyboards are an important input device not just with computers and laptops but also with mobile phones and tablets. Among the wide variety of keyboards available, the Projection Keyboard definitely stands out.

Projection Keyboard uses a projector to create an image of a keyboard on a flat surface. However, it has the full functionality of a regular keyboard. It is more commonly used with a smartphone or a tablet. But it can also be used with a laptop or a desktop computer.

The concept of a projection keyboard was first conceived in the early nineties by IBM. They made and patented the first optical keyboard. Today, we have several different projection keyboards in the market. Each has its own unique design. However, working and basic concepts remain similar. Here is all you need to know about this super-portable keyboard.

Photo by Daniel Taka on Flickr
Photo by Daniel Taka on Flickr

How Does a Projection Keyboard Work?

A projector. Photo by unmatched value on Flickr.
A projector. Photo by unmatched value on Flickr.

The projection keyboard works in three distinct operations. Projection module, Sensor module, and Illumination module make up the assembly. It can use a projection element, a diffractive optical element, a red laser diode, a sensor, and an infrared laser diode. The projector of the keyboard connects with the device through Bluetooth or USB.

The keyboard assembly typically consists of a laser beam projector. When the user moves their fingers and touches the virtual keys, a sensor or camera in the projector picks up these movements. Software translates these activities into keyboard strokes. The light from the projector is invisible to the user. The user can only see the keyboard image. The image is like a hologram on a plane surface.

Most devices use infrared light for projection. When the fingers touch the keys, the infrared beam is interrupted. The reflected beam passes through an infrared filter. The camera or the sensor detects the angle of the reflected beam to identify which key was touched. It also determines the point at which the infrared beam was broken. The software accurately registers the keystroke.

Advantages of a Projection Keyboard

A Projection keyboard has several benefits over the regular physical keyboard. Below are the top advantages of a projection keyboard.


Projection keyboards can be used anywhere. All you need is a flat surface. You can project the keyboard on a desk, the floor, a wall, or pretty much anywhere else. They can also be used with laptops, computers, smartphones, and tablets.


The projection device is very small and lightweight. Hence, it can easily be carried in your pocket anywhere you go. It can be used during traveling, on the go, and in remote places, too.

Low Maintenance

Unlike physical keyboards, projection keyboards don’t need extensive maintenance. They are not susceptible to spills. Dust and dirt don’t affect them. And they don’t need any cleaning, too. The projector might get dirty. But it can be quickly wiped. And anyway, it does not hamper the efficiency of the keyboard.

Better Security

Projection keyboards significantly reduce the risks of password theft. Sensitive data and credentials cannot be easily hacked into while using a projection keyboard.


These keyboards make absolutely no sound. These quiet keyboards can hence be used anywhere without disturbance to anyone.

Disadvantages of Projection Keyboards

Projection keyboards might be versatile. But they do come with their own set of limitations. Here are some of the disadvantages of a projection keyboard.

  1. It does not give any tactile feedback while typing.
  2. Depending on the quality of the projector, the accuracy of typing can be compromised.
  3. The typing speed can be lower on a projection keyboard.
  4. Responsiveness is low.
  5. NKRO (N-Key Rollover) is poor. Keys pressed in quick succession are difficult to register.
  6. The keyboard cannot be used for gaming.

Things to Look for in a Projection Keyboard

Photo by Teemu Mäntynen on Flickr
Photo by Teemu Mäntynen on Flickr

A Projection Keyboard can be a tricky buy. A lot depends on the quality of the unit. And it is a little difficult to tell the low-quality products from the good ones. The low-quality products don’t work that well. Or at best, stop working after a few uses. However, if you are looking to buy this innovative product, below are the factors to consider.

Battery Life

Since the device is wireless, the battery capacity is an important consideration. The device needs to be on battery power while in use. At least 800 mAH to 1000 mAH is required.

Compatibility With your Device

The projection keyboard needs to be compatible with the device you are using. Most have Bluetooth connectivity. However, there are a few variants available in USB, too. You need to check if the keyboard is compatible with the device you are planning to pair it with.

Brightness of the Virtual Projection

You need a keyboard projection that is bright enough for you to use. A low brightness will make the image obscure and difficult to use. Ideally, a keyboard with high brightness and adjustable brightness works the best. It will help you get optimum brightness according to the lighting conditions.

Auto Sleep Mode

To save battery, most projection keyboards have an auto-sleep mode. When not in use, the device saves battery by going into a low power mode. It reduces the brightness when the keyboard is not in use. When you touch the keys again, it resumes function. This way, you don’t need to restart the device every time you are back from a break.

Keystroke Detection

An average projection keyboard detects about 400 characters per minute. This is a decent speed. Anything lower than this might mean a keyboard that is too slow for use.

Size of the Keyboard Image

Usually, the size of the projection is standard. It is 295 mm X 95 mm. However, some variants might have a slightly different size. The keyboard is projected 60 mm from the projection device. These are important considerations to see whether the keyboard would be suitable for where you want to use it.

Additional Features

Good projection keyboards are pretty versatile. They can also support a laser mouse pad. Some also have Bluetooth speaker connectivity. There could be other additional features, too. For example, a few of the keyboards let you use a piano keyboard format, too. Also, other layouts are possible.


The Projection Keyboard is a concept that is still evolving. This versatile and portable keyboard has come a long way since its inception in 1992. Today, these keyboards are commercially available easily. However, the future holds more promise for projection keyboards. We can expect more sophisticated projection keyboards in the times to come.

Apart from the Projection Keyboard, there are several other interesting and functional keyboards available. Check out this comprehensive guide on Keyboards.

Eli Civil

A software engineer, entrepreneur, and keyboard enthusiast. I spend my time click-clacking on keyboards. About Eli Civil

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