It may have the Surface brand in the name, but Microsoft’s Surface Adaptive Kit is an accessory that works for any personal computer. Inside the kit are a number of tactile elements that can be used as required to help guide you around your hardware.
Take a moment to think about how much physical feedback you use with your technology on a day-to-day basis…
Think of the buttons around your smartphone. Manufacturers are doing their best to remove as many as possible but you still have the power key and volume keys in most cases. Keys that you can find by touch whether the smartphone is in your hand or in your pocket. You don’t need to see these keys to find them
The iPhone mute switch and the OnePlus alert slider allow you to change the audio output of your smartphone, and as part of that you can feel the position of the control to confirm what state the audio output is in without looking at your phone.
You even have the absolutely prehistoric raised marks on a standard keyboard that can let you touch a keyboard and locate the home keys so you can start touch typing purely by touch (on a Qwerty you’ll find them on the F and J keys).
The Adaptive Kit allows you to create more of these moments on your laptop, desktop, or keyboard, at a personal level that works for you.
The personalisation is key here. Everyone has their own areas where the Adaptive Kit will be useful and Microsoft has clearly put some thought into covering the bases.
Four sheets of accessories are inside the kit. The first offers four different raised icons (dot, circle, plus, and minus) in four different colours. They can be used for any area, but the plus and minus could easily help locate volume buttons, the circle could guide you to the power button, and so on.
You then have a sheet geared towards your I/O ports. You have a pair of stickers with differently raised patterns; a small sticker to place above the I/O port and a longer strip that can wrap around the cable destined for the port.
I’d expect these last two to be fixed around the chassis. The third sheet are for sticking on your keycaps, with twelve different symbols and orientation of lines to use as you will. A small applicator is also included so you can tack a tiny amount of the keycap sticker to the top of a key before sliding the applicator away and the sticker covers the whole keycap.
Finally, you have the opening support, which offers a hefty tab, primarily for a laptop, to help you get a better grip and make opening the laptop easier than trying to find the millimetre or two of overhang that some modern designs believe is enough.
This versatility makes the Surface Adaptive Kit easy to review because I can see where each of these elements can make a difference, even if i don’t know precisely what it will be. It’s currently priced at £15 here in the UK (and $15 in the US) and it’s hard to complain about that either.
The Surface Adaptive Kit is either a curiosity or a much-needed accessory. Only the latter is the target audience, and everything is here to deliver an improved UI to those who want it.