Thursday, November 28, 2013

Cellulon EPIC, the Virtual Keyboard. Or, The Little Laser That Could, Sort of...

If you need an immediate reason not to buy this (and what to buy instead), click here!

Cellulon Epic
The Cellulon Epic is a small device that shoots out a laser keyboard on flat surfaces. It is meant to eliminate the need for a real keyboard. The aim of the Epic is more for mobile devices since a laptop or home computer would undoubtedly already have a keyboard.

I first found out about the Cellulon Epic while I was in our new mall. Someone handed me a flyer, which I would normally ignore, but I was in good spirits so I took it. The only item of interest was the first item on the flyer, the Cellulon Epic.

I later went back to the store the flyer was from and asked to see the item, but it was not stocked at this store. I had to wait until the following weekend when I was at a different mall where another store from the same chain was selling the device.

The box was small, definitely meant for portable needs. It claimed to work on all devices, including computers. It was also the last (or maybe only) one they had left. For $100, I could test it. I intended to give it to my father as a gift anyways.

The Gumption!
Now, for those of you saying, "open someone else's gift? How rude!" Where I am located, you have two days to check the purchase, or you need to deal with the manufacturer. So, it is best to check than be out a C-note!

Anyways, I got home a few hours later and immediately began testing. I first tried it on my self-built PC with my small USB Bluetooth dongle that works perfectly with Microsoft's Bluetooth Stack. My results were far from satisfying.

The PC would recognize the Epic and want to connect. However, instead of just pairing as the device is meant to, my PC would continue to ask for a pairing code. I did a lot of research and the only time a pairing code is needed is for the iPad. I tried several different methods, but it was a no-go.

I then tried it on one of my Android devices. There were no issues and it paired flawlessly, not asking for a pairing code once. It worked like a charm!

I then tried on my Alienware laptop since it has Bluetooth built-in. It too paired without a problem and worked.

There are two places for support, Korea (where the device seems to originate), and the US (which I can only assume is where they focus most of their marketing). I don't speak Korean, so I called up the US line.

There was a sweet young girl who stepped through scripted questions, like what version of Windows I was using. (This works on Windows XP or later, but not on a Windows phone at all.) None of the answers she gave helped solve or aid my situation for my PC.

She asked me if I wanted to leave a note as the support team was all out to lunch and they could get in contact with me to provide a solution sometime later. I did and as we were about to hang up I asked if she would like my email because she had not asked for a means to get a hold of me. She took my email address and I waited...

I ended up calling back two more times. The girl remembered me and stated she would pass along the message again. The second time was about a week later, and there was still no help.

Needless to reiterate, the support is horrible. The girl is nice, but seems to be more of a front. I don't believe she is to blame, but the company sorely lacks the attention to customers necessary to be successful. A smart company makes a good product, a genius company makes a good product with excellent support. Cellulon falls into the former category.

The Dirty
The Cellulon Epic is a great device, for novelty purposes only. In addition to the issue of support - or rather the lacking of - there are a couple other issues they need to really address.

New & NOT Improved
The first is that this is not old technology. There is nothing technologically impressive about the product. They are not the first to utilize this technology, maybe just the best known. That being said, it still has some kinks to be worked out. It is not quite accurate as far as touch, it does not use a full keyboard, and it can have trouble with surfaces that a second try may suddenly fix.

I would be willing to overlook this if they didn't already have a previous product called the Magic Cube, which is essentially the same product, just older. As a company, I would be hesitant to release a successor product with these flaws, as these problems seemed to have existed in the Magic Cube as well.

Bluetooth Incompatibility
As evident from my situation above, the device is not compatible with all Bluetooth devices. One could argue that my Bluetooth device is to blame, and in a way it is (despite running my Wii and PS3 controllers perfectly).

But Cellulon is responsible for compatibility, not the Bluetooth dongle. It would be like buying a car cover meant to work on all sedans, but after buying it you realize it doesn't fit your sedan. Would you blame your sedan, or the company who made the cover?

The Stupidest Feature
This is harsh, and it's meant to be. Stupidity is not something excusable in a product, especially when it is so blatant!

The creators obviously wanted the user to be able to have some sort of confirmation when a button was "pressed". One intelligent way to go about this would be to have the LED quickly flash. Instead, the device makes a loud, annoying beep every time a button is "pressed"!

Why would that matter? Because this device is meant to be portable! If I go to a coffee shop, a restaurant, an airport, etc., and decide I want to use this device, how many "presses" do I have before I get kicked out? It is truly an annoying feature with no rational thought behind it. It defeats the whole purpose of buying this. If there was a way to turn off the sound, then it would be fine (except for the accuracy aspect).

Don't Waste Money
Don't bother buying this, it is just a waste of money. You'd be better off buying a small flexible keyboard that connects by USB and rolls up to save space. They're extremely cheap and much more accurate.