GDC 11: Razer’s Switchblade Handheld Up Close

Protected under glass, Razer’s prototype Switchblade handheld was an extremely intriguing piece of hardware. Its main selling point is its innovative keyboard — a set of transparent keys are arrayed over an LCD screen, meaning that the image displayed on each key can change depending on what function the device is being used for. The keys, and therefore the images, can be personalized and customized. The monitor itself is a touchscreen, eliminating the need for a mouse.

Playing a movie? The top row of keys switches to the traditional array of controls (“Play,” “Stop,” “Pause,” etc.) Turn on a game, however, and the keyboard displays icons that correspond to that game’s control set. Most arresting was the prospect of playing World of Wacraft on the device  — the game’s profusion of icons can be mapped directly onto the keyboard — you don’t even have to bother to remember what your customized Mind Blast shortcut is. The potential applications for this seem limitless — could the Switchblade enable typers to move effortlessly between languages with different alphabets? Only time will tell.

Larger than the 3DS, but smaller than your average netbook, the Switchblade is still in the very early stages. Thanks to a relationship with Intel, who are working with Razer to develop the device, it will run the chip manufacturer’s Atom architecture, but that was all the information I could glean about what was under the hood. The Switchblade will ship with WiFi, 3G, and bluetooth, as well as USB 3.0. Regardless of its specifications, it was one of the most exciting and innovative pieces of hardware I saw at GDC.

Check out some up-close footage, in addition to an interview with a Razer team member, in the video below. (Coming Soon!)

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