Wooting has been championing the concept of analog keys for the past few years, beginning with the Wooting One keyboard that was successfully funded on Kickstarter in 2016. It's also now taking preorders for its second-generation Wooting Two, but it's the development of a new key switch that could really help analog keyboards gain traction.
Analog key switches differ from regular key switches by detecting levels of pressure. Standard key switches, be they membrane, scissor, optical, or mechanical (as typically found on the best gaming keyboards), simply register an 'on' signal at the actuation point, and an 'off' signal when depressed. It's an all or nothing affair.
In contrast, analog switches are pressure sensitive, allowing for gamepad-like control. For example, you could make your character sprint at full speed by mashing the W key all the way down, or creep slowly across the battlefield with a lighter press of the key.
The Wooting One and Wooting Two both use Flaretech switches. At the time of the Wooting One's conception, it was a "one of a kind [switch] with analog input potential," but Wooting says something more is now needed.
"After extensive R&D with the Flaretech manufacturer (Adomax), we hit a limitation. The analog range was only possible from 1.5mm to 3.6mm of the total 4mm switch travel," Wooting explains in a blog post.
The lengthy blog post goes on to explain that Wooting started exploring alternatives in 2018, and has now decided to build a "hall-effect switch with full analog range" called Lekker.
There's a separate blog post that goes into the nuts and bolts of a what constitutes a hall-effect switch, but the short version is it uses a magnet that emits an electromagnetic force to displace electrons. That's the magic behind the new Lekker switch. In this case, there's a proximity sensor underneath, and the closer the key gets to it (when pressed), the stronger the signal. Here's an animation Wooting made of the Lekker switch in action:
Lekker, by the way, is a Dutch word that means delicious, tasty, or luscious, according to Wooting (I don't speak Dutch, so I'll take Wooting's word for it). Apparently it can also be used sarcastically.
"We decided that it was better to separate the switch name from the Wooting brand, so that we can shape the meaning, feeling and strategy behind Lekker to become its own thing," Wooting said.
Wooting has not dabbled in its own key switches until now, though obviously it has a vested interest in analog keyboards. More importantly, focusing development on an actual switch means Wooting will be in position to sell these keys to third parties and direct to users. It should be noted that Cooler Master launched a pressure-sensitive keyboard earlier this year, so there's definitely interest in this sort of thing among keyboard makers.
It's not clear how close to release this new switch is, only that "it's still a new development." Wooting says it's putting an emphasis on quality and performance, and doesn't want to rush development for the sake of getting this in the wild. The company promises to share more information in the coming weeks.