Virtual input devices are designed to offer the functionality of their hardware counterparts without the actual use of hardware. The concept applies to any device that requires tactile interaction for the input of data or other information, such as a computer keyboard or piano. Virtual keyboards may be difficult to become accustomed to for anyone used to conventional hardware, but they do offer advantages unique to their design.
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One of the most important advantages of virtual laser keyboard technology is the relative ease by which these devices may accompany smaller hardware. As miniaturization takes over the mobile computing industry, the primary sacrifice is quality data input. Smartphones, PDAs and even some computers are too small for many people to reliably operate. Often, the type of activity on these devices is limited by the size of their keys. Some users eventually get used to the size, but the larger buttons of a regular keyboard will always make certain tasks easier. The virtual laser keyboard is projected by a small device that easily travels with this other technology. When connected, it allows a full-size keyboard to integrate with the device for all data input. While it would be otherwise impractical to transport a separate, conventional hardware keyboard, these virtual devices add this crucial functionality without compromising the small size of this new technology.
While not necessarily a practical consideration, it is important to note the significant role that style plays in the development of portable technology. As noted in the Pittsburgh Business Times in June 2002, the visual appeal of mobile technology is as important in product success as actual functionality. Unlike most forms of technology that have come before them, smartphones and similar devices are enjoying trends similar to that of fashion, and many consumers accessorize their lifestyles with this in mind. Virtual laser keyboards fit well into this mindset because their function often draws much attention. As the ultimate attention-grabbing example of their functionality, some virtual laser keyboards can project the keyboard image into the air to allow control without a flat surface. Rarely are these devices mentioned in the media without reference to their visual appeal.
Unlike conventional hardware keyboards, virtual laser keyboards have no moving parts, and the bulk of their functionality requires no actual contact with the device. Whereas conventional hardware is prone to damage by spills, drops and other malfunctions, virtual laser keyboards are easy to maintain. Manufacturers often market these devices as "damage free," and this is an important advantage in any piece of portable hardware that undergoes extensive use.