Makers of popular Beats headphones and Nike Running gadgets aims for world-beating lightweight add-on for tablets or phones

The company behind the wireless Beats headphones and Nike Running gadget has unveiled the world’s thinnest keyboard, with a flexible, wireless touchscreen just half a millimetre thick.

Cambridge-based CSR, which specialises in wireless technology, showcased a prototype of the product at the IFA consumer electronics event in Berlin, but it will be 12 months before it will be available to buy.

Paul Williamson, CSR’s director of low power wireless products, said the final form factor depended on how manufacturers bring the keyboard to market, although its primary use is likely to be as a lightweight, complementary external keyboard for tablet devices. “This is a working prototype and a glimpse forward rather than something people will be buying this year,” he said.

“We might see lots of shapes and sizes, some as small as iPad Mini or a larger, more rigid form for a desktop PC, which could be curved, in any colour way, transparent or fitted with a leather folio.” Developed in partnership with Cambridge Inkjet Technology, the interface for the product is printed out and can be customised. That could mean printing bespoke keyboards in different languages with ease, or customised keyboards for functions such as video editing and for customers who would like personalised patterns or messages on their own keyboard.

The keyboard’s touchscreen could also be used under a piece of paper to transcribe notes made with a pen and sync them to a computer.

CSR’s research has led to wireless products that enable music streaming in the popular Beats headphones, the performance-tracking tool the Nike+ SportWatch and the Jambox speaker.

Founded in 1999, CSR is one of a cluster of successful, research-focused tech companies clustered around Cambridge and “Silicon Fen” who have recently discussed introducing a “Made in Cambridge” badge to promote their products.

“The audio experience you’re getting from Beats headphones exists because we developed it, put it out there and now it is used on a global scale,” said Mr. Williamson.

“People don’t recognise that that kind of innovation is developed by a small number of very bright people here, and the pool of engineering talent and expertise here deserves a bit more credit than the app economy drive in the periphery of London.”

— © Guardian News & Media 2013