A great part of this job is getting to talk with people from companies developing innovative ideas that cause you to think twice about long-held assumptions and wander into the possibilities of what could be in the future.

A company called VKB last week caused me to do a double take when it introduced a wireless virtual keyboard. The concept of a virtual keyboard--a pocket-sized device that projects a full-sized infrared keyboard on any flat surface--is not new. VKB has offered a wired version for some time, but untethering the technology from the computing device makes its potential impact much more powerful.

For the moment, some of the primary target markets seem to be people whose thumbs are too big for their BlackBerry interface, those wanting to save on desktop space and medical facilities trying to preserve sterile environments--a notion undermined by the presence a traditional keyboard, which frequently turns into a holding bin for all loose dirt particles in an area.

But the possibilities are even greater. Current versions of the company's keyboard only use Bluetooth, but VKB President Jonathan Curtiss says there's no reason that it can't work with other wireless technologies that offer greater range.

Additional range would be of limited value today, because most people like to see a screen that displays what they're typing, so the computing device needs to be near enough to be visible. However, Curtiss acknowledged that a virtual screen could be developed in the not-to-distant future, which would mean the computing device could be as far away as the wireless range would support.

If VKB or someone else can develop even a text-only virtual screen, the impact could be significant to public safety, especially as broadband data networks proliferate. Instead of spending thousands for a customized laptop that can withstand the rigors of the outdoors, a first responder could get similar functionality--at a fraction of the cost--from a couple of clipboards attached to a virtual keyboard/screen device, if the first responder is within range of the computer in his vehicle.

Are we there yet? No. But sometimes it's fun to think about what could be around the corner.

E-mail me at djackson@primediabusiness.com.