Great News! Ablenet has open-sourced the IntelliKeys drivers!
Thousands of people use the IntelliKeys programmable USB keyboards to access their computers, communicate, and even speak with text-to-speech. Recently Ablenet (who now owns the IntelliTools products) decided not to continue producing them.
Thankfully, they have chosen to Open Source the drivers. This is a huge decision, and we want to do everything we can to make that decision a winning one. So, we’re looking for some Makers to help port the drivers to Windows 10 & the latest OS/X and perhaps rework the firmware to make the devices more flexible and cross-platform
Live Teardown of IntelliKeys
To that end, Micah Elizabeth Scott (aka “@scanlime” on Twitter & YouTube) and Bill Binko from ATMakers tore into two keyboards and the source code to see where we stand in terms of hardware, software and approach. You can watch along here:
Where we stand now
After the teardown, we’ve learned a few important things:
- The device uses a Cypress 8051-based microcontroller with 8K of non-volatile memory. This means we probably have enough room to store true HID-keyboard code plus overlay data directly on the device
- The hardware is simple and sturdy with a grid-based membrane that is polled using a some very retro Flip-Flop chips (very old-school). This approach can be used going forward.
- The device does advertise itself as an HID-compliant keyboard, but in reality it does not actually send HID keystrokes. It send proprietary commands that the Windows driver then maps to keystrokes using the overlay data. This is a simplistic approach that can be improved upon.
- The current drivers can probably be tweaked to run on Windows 10 & the latest OS/X, and we will make that effort.
- We will also attempt a re-write of the firmware and overlay management code to work in a cross-platform, standards-compliant way.
Where to learn more
To learn more about the IntelliKeys Open Source initiative, please check out:
- The ATMakers Facebook Group, where there are regular discussion about this topic
- The GitHub Repository for the open source driver code (and any future improvements)
- Eliza Wern’s Survey tracking how people are using these devices
We’re very happy to be moving this project forward. If you’d like to help technically, please let us know.