Cherry goes downmarket with its new Viola mechanical keyboard switches

Cherry has long been the de facto standard for mechanical keyboard switches. Since mechanical keyboards are, almost by default, significantly more expensive than membrane or dome-switch keyboards, that has kept the company out a large part of the market. Now, on the last day of CES 2020, the company is launching its new Viola switch, the company’s first fully mechanical switch for the value market, meant for keyboards that will cost somewhere between $ 50 and $ 100.

As the Cherry team told me ahead of today’s announcement, its engineers spent well over a year on designing this new switch, which only has a handful of parts and which moves some of the complexity into the circuit board on the keyboard itself. A lot of the work went into the design new self-cleaning contact system (which the company quickly patented) and to ensure that the switches’ materials would be able to handle regular use despite the simplicity of the design.

Because of this new design, the new Viola switches are now hot-swappable, so if one ever goes bad, swapping in a new one shouldn’t take more than a few seconds. And because the company stuck with the same industry-standard cross-stem design for attaching keycaps, keyboard manufacturers can reuse their existing designs, too.

Like most new switches, the Cherry Viola supports LED lighting, which in the case of this new design, can be mounted right on the circuit board of the keyboard.

If you’re a keyboard aficionado, you won’t confuse the new Viola switch with any of Cherry’s high-end MX switches. For a lot of users who want a mechanical keyboard at a value price, this looks like it’ll be a great option.

I didn’t get a chance to spend a lot of time with the new switches, but as best as I could tell, the current version resembles a quiet MX Brown switch. Cherry itself discourages any comparison’s, though. Even the name is clearly meant to remove any confusion that this switch is part of the MX series and while Cherry has plans to offer similar switch variants as the MX Black, Brown, Blue, Red, it won’t recycle those colors for those switches either. While the company tells me it isn’t all that worried about the new switches cannibalizing the MX market, it’s not leaving that to chance either.

One major difference with the Viola switches is that Cherry isn’t giving any guarantee for how many keystrokes they will withstand — at least not yet. The company tells me it may give some guidance at a later point.

Like all other Cherry switches, the Viola switches are built in the company’s factory in Germany and all of its suppliers, too, are building their products in the country as well.

For the MX switches, though, the company is now raising its guarantee from 50 million keystrokes (which was already a lot) to 100 million. Some pro-gamers actually reach those numbers (and the switches usually continue to function well beyond that), but for everybody else, it’s just an assurance that the company stands behind its products. To achieve this, the team made some minor adjustments to switches and especially the guide rails on the inside of the switch housing. That won’t change the actual typing experience, though.

The first keyboards with the 100-million MX switches are already available and the first Viola keyboards will become available soon.

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Bosch’s new ‘ear’ for the Space Station’s Astrobee robot will let it ‘hear’ potential mechanical issues

Bosch is set to launch a new AI-based sensor system to the International Space Station that could change the way astronauts and ground crew monitor the ISS’s continued healthy operation. The so-called “SoundSee” module will be roughly the size of a lunch box, and will make its way to the ISS via Northrop Grumman’s forthcoming CRS-12 resupply mission, which is currently set for a November 2 launch.

The SoundSee module combines microphones with machine learning to perform analysis of sounds it picks up from the station, which it can use to effectively establish a healthy baseline, and then continually use new audio data to compare in order to get advance notice of potential mechanical issues via changes that could signal problems.

SoundSee will be mobile via installation on Astrobee, an autonomous floating cube-shaped robot that took its first totally self-guided flight in reduced gravity in June this year. Astrobee’s roving role is a perfect way for Bosch’s SoundSee tech, which it developed in partnership with Astrobotic and NASA, to work on and develop its autonomous sensing tech, which it will eventually use to provide info about how systems are currently performing on the ISS, and when specific systems might need maintenance or repairs — ideally before it becomes an issue.

The first autonomous flight of Astrobee took place in June, 2019 on the ISS

As with other things that Astrobee is designed to help with, SoundSee’s ultimate aim is to automate things that the astronaut crew of the ISS currently have to do manually. Already, SoundSee has been undergoing extensive ground testing here on Earth in a simulated environment similar to what it will experience on the ISS, but once in space, it’ll face the real test of its intended use scenario.

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Ducky’s new limited-edition mechanical keyboard pays tribute to Taiwan’s Paiwan community

Ducky, known for its popular mechanical keyboards, is based in Taiwan and today at Computex it showed off its tribute to the country’s culture: the limited-edition “Year of the Pig” 65 percent keyboard. The latest of Ducky’s yearly Zodiac releases, the keyboard was created in collaboration with metalwork artist Kulele Ruladen, the keyboard pays tribute to the Paiwan, one of Taiwan’s indigenous tribes.

Symbols inspired by Paiwan culture on Ducky's limited edition Year of the Pig mechanical keyboard

Ruladen’s design draws on several aspects of Paiwan culture, including a metal cut-out at the front of the keyboard inspired by a wild boar, a symbol of bravery for Paiwan people, and a golden backplate with images of Paiwan warriors battling the boars.

The keycaps are bronze red, a reference to the importance of bronze as a medium in Paiwan art. Instead of the alphabet, each key has a pictogram that draws on other symbols that are meaningful for the Paiwan community. For example, the space bar has a hawk feather representing “the aristocracy of men and women.” There are also four keys inspired by Paiwan glass beads that represent different values: agility (kaluazung), courage (mananigai), nobility (mulimulitan-maca) and kurakurau-liling (love).

Details from Ducky Keyboard's Year of the Pig limited edition mechanical keyboard

The Year of the Pig keyboard is limited to 2019 pieces, in reference to the year, and designed to last. Each one has adopted aluminum casing with nano coating, a zinc alloy keyobard stand and dye-subliminated keycaps, as well as a Type-C USB port and RGB backlighting.

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Jaquet Droz is shipping its mechanical signing machine

Watchmaker Jaquet Droz announced its Signing Machine — a mechanical device that will sign your name for you using a series of miniature gears and springs — in 2014. Four years later, the company is ready to ship their miraculous contraption just in time for you to ink the deal you’ve made with Cybereus, lord of the digital underworld.

This exquisitely baroque gadget is essentially a little cartridge full of clockwork. You wind it up, stick a pencil in its tiny retractable claw, and let it go. The gears and levers recreate your signature with a series of flowing strokes generated by the movement of the gears.

Droz, an 18th century watchmaker and automaton manufacturer, was famous for his miraculous contraptions, including a Draughtsman and Writer, two human-shaped robots that could draw and write, along with his beautiful singing birds that used tiny pipes and bellows to recreate birdsong.

The Signing Machine is activated after you enter your four-digit code into the the device, and each unit is individually decorated for the owner.

How much does this bit of titanium jimcrackery cost? It starts at $ 367,500 and goes up depending on your signature. Too much? Just remember: Making deals with the cryptodemons of the digital underworld isn’t cheap. You’ll need something like this oddly tactical piece of metal to truly widen their hooded, red-shining eyes.

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Cherry’s new low-profile switches may help bring mechanical keyboards to more laptops

 You may not think much about the switches that sit underneath the keycaps of your keyboard, but there are many enthusiasts who really, really care. The trend is clearly going toward slim keyboards — and that’s not lost on Cherry. At CES this week, the company introduced a new line of keyboard switches that may just be small enough to bring mechanical keyboards to more laptops. Read More

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