Tired of thumbing in text messages on your mobile phone or struggling with the stylus on your handheld PC? Siemens and VKB say they have the solution: a 'virtual' keyboard.

The small device, developed in Israel by USA-based VKB, can project a nearly full-sized keyboard on to any flat surface and uses an infrared system to sense what the user types.

Siemens announced the virtual keyboard on Monday and says it is looking at building the technology into mobile phones and devices.

"This is very useful for people who travel a lot and use a PDA or a mobile phone on the road — or for typing in a long text while on a plane or train," said Siemens spokeswoman Monika Winkler.

Siemens first demonstrated the virtual keyboard at the CeBit tradeshow in Hanover, Germany, earlier this year. It will be the world’s first virtual keyboard distributor, Winkler said.

First deliveries to retailers in Germany and the rest of Europe are planned for the second half of the year. Depending on the level of interest, if may later be sold worldwide, Winkler said. The street price of a virtual keyboard should be between €90 and €150 (around £60-£100), she said.