Single hand keyboard for tablets

To us it makes a lot of sense to hold the tablet in one hand and type with the other. That’s exactly how [Adam Kumpf] has implemented this one-handed typing interface which was originally conceived by [Doug Engelbart].

As you can see, there’s a large contextual area for each finger on your right hand. Letters and navigational keystrokes are input through this interface based on single touches, or combinations up to and including all five digits. This offers up 32 possible combinations (including all on and all off) which is enough to cover the modern English alphabet.

[Adam’s] demo page works for most tablets so give it a whirl. Yes, it works with iDevices too which is a surprise as we would have thought this was using Flash. If you’re not near a touch-sensitive device you can get the gist of the operation from the demo video embedded after the break.

Now, who’s going to be the first to make this into a replacement keyboard on iOS 5?

26 thoughts on “Single hand keyboard for tablets

  1. “Now, who’s going to be the first to make this into a replacement keyboard on iOS 5?”

    Can you replace the keyboard on a non-jailbroken iPad? Android tablets allow for this but I didn’t think Apple would ever be so open.

  2. Wish this was appropriate for my problem- my tablet device (Windows) only has resistive touch screen. Same with my old Palm TX. But great work Adam. I can see how this would be of value moving the Teagueduino environment to the iPad or Android devices in the future. Just yesterday there was the post about Adafruits nifty little iPad app. I’m still holding out for the next Windows tablet offering(s), waiting for prices to come down, and the interfaces to mature. I’d particularly like to see PCB CAD made possible/easier on touch screen devices.

    P.S. Thanks for the boards ADAM

  3. I briefly read through the website and watched the video, but I don’t have a tablet to test it out, so this question might seem ridiculous, but…

    What about numbers? Punctuation? Would there be some sort of keyboard “switch”, as is currently prevalent in handheld devices’ keyboards? It doesn’t seem like it’s a part of the demo right now.

    Anyway, great idea, I hope this can be improved and seriously considered as an input device for tablets.

  4. Your hand is still covering the screen, you still aren’t getting any tactile feedback, and now you have to remember 32 different chords to input text in a slower way than the traditional two-thumb hunt and peck.

    What problem does this solve exactly?

    1. I have to agree with this one – i don’t see it solving a problem. It’s a nice idea though.

      the only keyboard system i’ve found that’s better than the standard ones are the swipe types like swyp and slideIT/touchpal.

  5. i have a playbook, its a great smaller tablet,. Its size lets me thumb type quite effectively but for the larger tablets, I can see this working out quite well. kinda reminds me of the danzeff keyboard for psp homebrews…

  6. Arthur C Clarke in “Songs of a Distant Earth” made mention of a one handed 7 button device for input, I always wanted to try to make one.

  7. This could be very handy (get it?) for people with large thumbs, as for using it on cheap resistive tablets it could implement a “sticky” feature in the interface, the keyboard senses the first touch, waits a second for a second touch, if it gets it, it assumes thats the second part of the chord, waits for a third, if yes thats the chord, if no the second is the cord and if no second touch after a second the one touch is the chord, inconvient and slower I know, but those are the limits of a resistive screen.

  8. I never was that great a typist, but when I lost a good deal of function in my left hand I look into one hand typing options. Chording keyboard aren’t nothing new,Although this is exactly a chording keyboard. Dvorak also designed keyboard layouts to be used with one hand or the other. The draw back to those options, and this one they at least require that special software be installed. I want to be able to walk up to any keyboard , and use it.I have found PC software that will train you to type using one hand, using a standard keyboard. This is one windows application http://www.mayer-johnson.com/five-finger-typist/ Demo available at http://www.typeonehand.com/demo.html . A DOS typing game tutor at http://www.esmerel.com/thelion.html

    1. It’s not really apple related either – it’s a keyboard design, the platform is, in reality, irrelevant.

      If it’s not an elephant it’s irrelephant ;)

  9. @Andrew, indeed. It made me think about the Microwriter too, a brilliant concept and design. It’s interesting how ideas reappear.

    There’s a half-decent entry on Microwriter on Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Microwriter , but a better one on Old Computers: http://www.old-computers.com/museum/computer.asp?c=558&st=1

    With its 1802 8-bit CPU and 8Kb of RAM it was a great illustration of how you don’t need 32-bit multi-core ARMs to deliver a usable, portable, text entry system.

    But I wonder if Cy Enfield, its inventor, had heard of Doug Englebart’s demo (December 1968), because Cy first had his idea in 1969 when directing the film Zulu Dawn (yep, he was a movie director too!).

    And it’s not quite true that all constrained keyboards are failures; standard phone keypads are far less efficient than either a Microwriter or even FIGnition’s FIGgyPAD, but they have been a massive success for billions of texts for at least a decade.

    1. Julian, did you watch the video?

      The first 10 seconds is an acknowledgement of Englebart’s 1968 demo, and specifically says that this is an implementation of that on a touch screen device.

      So, yes, he has heard of Englebart’s demo.

  10. Interesting design. Unless it became more intuitive, the learning curve would be pretty steep, though. There’s also some interesting potential optimizations to be applied by combining linguistics and Karnaugh maps (or equivalent techniques). You’d get a seemingly arbitrary layout, but that’s true of QWERTY and DVORAK keyboards as well. If this were integrated into KDE’s Plasma Active, it would be pretty neat.

    1. I have tried learning different keyboard layouts. It is not as hard as it seems, with one caveat. You have to devote practice ONLY to that layout, and you have to do it as touch typing (committing the layout to memory).
      Of course, if the layout is not designed for touch typing, then this is not really possible.

      I have (and still use) an Alphagrip (rebranded as the “iGrip”). alphagrip.com
      Took about 2 weeks to get back up to speed (>30wpm) with it, but having an integrated mouse and keyboard in your hand was worth the learning curve.

      You do have to WANT to learn a new layout though, it doesn’t just happen, but neither does touch typing on a QWERTY layout.

  11. I have been typing with the BAT keyboard for 19 years. In fact I started working for Infogrip, the manufacturer, 19 years ago while in collage and am still here. I type about 50wpm with a left handed BAT. I also have an iPad that I wish I had a BAT on it. At 50wpm it would make my iPad a lot more useful. Unfortunately the BAT never caught on to the masses however we still produce it and sell it. Mostly because we believe in the technology and use it. As a company we can not justify the cost of developing a iOS or Droid product so if anyone has any great ideas we are all ears.

    1. Why not implement it as a standard bluetooth keyboard interface? Should be doable with off the shelf parts, and it would work on anything that supports a bluetooth keyboard with no additional drivers / software to worry about.

      1. Right now the BAT is USB and the natural progression would be Bluetooth. We would love to move in that direction however financially the development is a big junk to bite off. It would be nice to find a student that wanted to do it as a project.

  12. You say “Now, who’s going to be the first to make this into a replacement keyboard on iOS 5?”
    Well, I’ve done it for IOS6/7 . I call is SiWriter http://siwriter.co.uk/ and its on the App Store now in a left hand configurable version with variable finger pad spacing. https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/siwriter-pro-vr-1.0.1.6/id811435990?mt=8
    There is a free version, a low price and the left handed version with all the bells and whistles id £5.49 / $7.99. It’s taken me a year to get this far… Enjoy !

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