Today I had the pleasure of asking a few questions to one of the minds at the forefront of the mechanical keyboard industry – László Monda of Ultimate Gadget Laboratories, creator of the new Ultimate Hacking Keyboard. On December 14th, 2015, the UHK crowdfunding project was finished with over $240,000 raised from more than 1,600 backers making it the most successful mechanical keyboard crowdfunded campaign to date!
The Ultimate Hacking Keyboard is a compact mechanical keyboard that can be split apart into two pieces, and has some interesting programmable layers we’ve never seen in a keyboard before. You can read a more detailed preview of the keyboard we did, here.
GMK: Many crowdfunded ventures have run into unforeseen issues, causing massive delays in deliveries. Do you see any possible roadblocks to shipping by July 2016? Is that a best-case scenario, or a conservative estimate?
I consider our timeline a realistic estimate. We’re well aware about the unforseen issues that you mention and I think we’re quite prepared to avoid them.
First of all, the UHK is not an MVP (minimum viable product) but a quite mature prototype, so we don’t have to do many DFM (design for manufacturing) redesigns to make it ready for manufacturing.
Second, Andras, my mechanical engineer colleague will directly supervise the mold making process, the final assembly, and QA here in Hungary. Being the professional perfectionist that he is, this gives me great confidence.
Third, We’ve already have got in touch with literally hundreds of manufacturers, chosen about a dozen of them for the various parts of the
UHK and they’re ready to deliver the parts.
Given the above, I think we’re good to go.
GMK: You’ve raised over 120% of the money you were seeking to fund this project. Now that the money is taken care of, what’s the biggest challenge for your team moving forward?
Our biggest challenge is probably getting the molds made, which are necessary for manufacturing the plastic parts. Putting all the tiny pieces together both regarding hardware / firmware / software will also take a lot of work to live up to our high standards.
GMK: When will the UHK be available for retail?
Certainly after shipping (2016 July) but not sure exactly when.
GMK: As one of the small minority of people who uses a keyboard layout that isn’t QWERTY, I must ask – have you come to a conclusion about offering Dvorak and Colemak keycaps?
We’d love to offer keycap sets beyond US QWERTY and blank, but our keycap manufacturing partner is not very flexible in this respect as we have to order at least 100 keycap sets per type (such as German, Dvorak or Colemak). We’d much rather prefer to buy a CO2 laser later and laser-engrave custom keycap sets that our customers want on a per order basis.
GMK: Have you thought about what’s next for Ultimate Gadget Labs? The name implies you’re interested in more than keyboards. Would you predict your next project to be another keyboard, or something else?
I intentionally gave a general name to our company because who knows what the future holds. But in the foreseeable future we plan to build further truly split keyboards of various physical layouts based on our unique hardware-software architecture. The interesting differentiator is that we don’t merely build a hardware product but a platform – that is hardware, firmware, software, and cloud tightly integrated, resulting in a much higher value proposition and elevated user experience. This will be quite apparent for anyone from the moment of opening the box of the UHK.
GMK: Do you have more ideas for UHK modules that you didn’t get to show off yet?
I don’t have other ideas besides the ones that the community already suggested but I’m excited to see what other folks will come up with.
GMK: Do you see the UHK as your flagship product that you’ll always have for sale, or do you plan on phasing it out eventually as you move onto other projects?
I definitely see the UHK as our flagship product but I’d be cautious to use the word “always”. The world moves incredibly quickly and although as the first modular keyboard we have a significant leverage, who knows how long we can pursue the UHK. In any case, we’ll do our best, and I can see a thousand ways to innovate in this area, so I’m sure we’ll be busy for a while with the UHK.
We’ll keep you updated as to further developments of the Ultimate Hacking Keyboard. As for now, July can’t come soon enough!