This Negative Reinforcement Keyboard May Shock You

We wouldn’t be where we are today without Mrs. Coldiron’s middle school typing class. Even though she may have wanted to, she never did use negative reinforcement to improve our typing speed or technique. We unruly teenagers might have learned to type a lot faster if those IBM Selectrics had been wired up for discipline like [3DPrintedLife]’s terrifying, tingle-inducing typist trainer keyboard (YouTube, embedded below).

This keyboard uses capsense modules and a neural network to detect whether the user is touch-typing or just hunting and pecking. If you’re doing it wrong, you’ll get a shock from the guts of a prank shock pen every time you peck the T or Y keys. Oh, and just for fun, there’s a 20 V LED bar across the top that is supposed to deter you from looking down at your hands with randomized and blindingly bright strobing light.

Twenty-four of the keys are connected in groups of three by finger usage — for example Q, A, and Z are wired to the same capsense module. These are all wired up to a Raspberry Pi Zero along with the light bar. [3DPrintedLife] was getting a lot of cross-talk between capsense modules, so they solved the problem in software by training a TensorFlow model with a ton of both proper and improper typing data.

We love the little meter on the touchscreen that shows at a glance how you’re doing in the touch typing department. As the meter inches leftward, you know you’re in for a shock. [3DPrintedLife] even built in some games that use pain to promote faster and more accurate typing. Check out the build video after the break, but don’t say we didn’t warn you about the strobing lights.

The secret to the shock pen is a tiny flyback transformer like the kind used in CRT televisions. Find a full-sized flyback transformer and you can build yourself a handheld high-voltage power supply.

21 thoughts on “This Negative Reinforcement Keyboard May Shock You

    1. There’s nothing special about the touch typing technique. It’s mainly a holdover from typewriter days, and designed more for the purpose of standardizing typing education rather than optimizing typing speed – because there was a need to train millions of typists for office work without having each and every one of the learn their own technique the hard way.

      1. I’m not sure if this is entirely true. The regular touch typing technique does mostly optimize for finger-to-key distance (with very few exceptions), and it also allows you to use a split keyboard, knowing that the keys will be positioned such that you can actually hit them.

        1. Any system will have good points and bad points to it.

          For example, if a person who hasn’t learned the official way to touch-type puts their fingers down on the keyboard with their index fingers on F and J , they will do so over an arc that spans the top two rows and covers approximately the keys AWEF JIOP, which contains 4/5 out of the English vowels that appear in most words. For the great majority of people, your fingertips make a natural arc that reaches these letters on a QWERTY keyboard in a relaxed resting position.

          The “proper” touch typing method instead forces you to place your fingers on the home row which contains only the vowel A. Why? No reason, someone back in the day just thought this was “better”.

          1. Or even better, if you move your right index finger on the letter H, you get AIEOU and Y is just one key away.

            Though trying to type like that makes me trip on my own fingers because I then want to move my left hand one key further left. It would take a whole lot of un-learning to make use of it. This is part of the reason why people who are taught a specific style of typing feel that it’s naturally the best – anything else feels weird and cumbersome.

          2. You are sorta right, returning fingers to home row after every press is silly. But practicing this technique allows you to learn where the keys are so it just becomes muscle memory. Eventually, you no longer will need to return fingers to the home row as you will know how to move from key to key directly, with all fingers. I don’t think there’s any way you’re gonna break 70 WPM by using just index fingers, unless you are insanely talented. On the other hand, 70 WPM by touch-typing is still difficult but way more achievable.

          3. Sure, eight fingers beats two, but that wasn’t the point. The “informal” touch typing techniques that people learn are not fundamentally worse than the official version – it’s just the illusion of having a “right” way that makes everything else “wrong”.

            People rationalize that because something is taught, it must be the better way.

    1. Printed key caps can be rubbed off especially with greasy fingrers. So some polishing wheel on apower tool and mtel polish could do that.

      I got a MS keyboard from a thift shop previously owned by a stereotypical gamer. Lets say certain keys wore off and also found junk food residue under the caps. The only reason why I picked it was a no refund policy for another wireless keyboard that didn’t work well and that I was more curious on the finger print scanner.

      My 20 years old keyboards are in much better shape and I clean them often.

  1. This is an idea whose time has come. I hope it becomes a commercial product soon …. and gets applied to other areas where a skill needs to be directly communicated to the, do I mean autonomic system? rather than being filtered through all those boring evaluation routines in our forebrains.

    Pain is a good teacher, think of how we solder so well after we’ve developed the knack.

    And, just so I can be the first to reference it, this was an idea that I first read about in a science fiction book in the 70s I think, “Bill the Galactic Here” to teach the main protagonist to sort edible fish correctly.

  2. It seems a useful hack.

    A cheaper alternative, used in schools in the times of yore, was a kind of wood box that would fit over the keyboard, with enough space for the hands inside it , but working to avoid cheating eyes .
    They were cheap, worked well, and did not require modifying the existing hardware, that was not that cheap like nowadays.

    1. Another classic HaD mistake, where the author assumes that they know what they are talking about when they in fact do not know.Happens all the time. They really need better proofreading.

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