An Update on the Sonder Keyboard

This article is prompted by the fact that the Sonder keyboard, developed by Sonder Design Pty. Ltd. (Eveleigh, NSW, Australia), was prominently featured in the news during this past week. More specifically, it was widely reported that Tim Cook of Apple met with the CEO of Sonder to discuss Apple’s acquisition of Sonder or other avenues leading to the use of Sonder’s dynamic keyboard in future Apple products. Part of what makes this topic noteworthy is that the meeting was denied in many other, equally credible, reports. With the facts uncertain at this time, this article will not speculate on possible business dealings between Sonder and Apple but, rather, discuss the Sonder keyboard itself.

At the start, it is interesting to note that the word sonder (pronounced SAHN-der) is noun meaning: the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own.

Now, to the keyboard. Each key in the Sonder keyboard is backed by an individually addressable E Ink display. A close up of a section of the keyboard is illustrated in the figure below.

The Sonder keyboard can be customized such that each key can having its’ own individual icon. The purpose of this capability is to ensure that the user knows what the function enabled by pressing the keys at all times. Many examples of customized keyboards have been proposed several of which are illustrated in the figures below.

Sonder 1

Other examples of possible customized keyboards includes QWERTY or DVORAK and in any desired language. The keyboard could be set up as a terminal for Bloomberg, audio editing or the like. It is also possible to create hotkeys, assign macros or emoticons to a key with the key having its own custom icon. The bottom line is that the user can create keys to perform whatever command is desired and assign an icon to each such key.

A short video showing the Sonder keyboard in operation is available at the end of this article.

All keyboard settings are set up to be saved automatically to the so-called Sonder cloud.

The latest version of the Sonder keyboard is claimed to have an improved mechanical mechanism beneath each key that serves to provide increased stability. In addition, the keyboard is reported to have achieved a more optimized key travel and to have a lower profile. The mechanical dimensions of the key board are height 0.16-0.43” x width 10.98” x depth 4.52”. The weight of the keyboard is 0.51 pounds.

Other features of the keyboard include:

  • A fiber optic waveguide that illuminates the keyboard from the front allowing the keyboard to be used in the dark.
  • A built-in rechargeable battery that can power the keyboard for about a month before a recharge is needed.
  • A Bluetooth wireless connection that allows the Sonder keyboard to pair to a Mac or PC, tablet or smart phone. By this means and after following a few simple steps, it becomes possible to move and use the keyboard anywhere within range.

The Sonder keyboard is expected to become available during the fourth quarter of 2016. Pre-orders are now being accepted on the Sonder website at a price of $199. -Arthur Berman

Sonder Design, +61-2-9209-4444, [email protected]

Analyst Comment

This kind of configurable keyboard has been a target for some time, with a number of companies working on keyboards based on OLEDs or LCDs. There have been rumours that Apple may be using a touch-enabled OLED keypad to replace function keys on its keyboards. That would have advantage of very shallow depth compared to a traditional keyboard. (BR)