Osprey Keyboard Lets The NRF52840 Spread Its Wings

While most people don’t care whether they use one finger or ten, some people want to better themselves by learning how to touch-type. And honestly, there’s no easier way to do that than by getting into the ergo keyboard game. Even if you consider yourself a touch-typist already, an ortholinear or column-staggered keyboard may teach you otherwise, as you find yourself trying to type ‘c’ with your index finger (for example) and failing miserably.

[ebastler] chose the best of all routes and decided to build his own perfect keyboard, called the Osprey. It’s a wireless, column-staggered 40% that runs on ZMK firmware, which of course is open-source, as is the PCB itself and the thick and travel-ready printed enclosure. Although [ebastler] has yet to implement either one of these additional inputs, the Osprey also supports a thumbstick and a track pad.

Brain-wise, it’s a bare nRF52840 chip along with a TI BQ24075 for battery charging. The interesting thing about this implementation is that [ebastler] used and abused Nordic sample schematic #4, which utilizes both DC-DC converter stages of the chip. We can’t wait to see what this trailblazing build will mean for the community!

14 thoughts on “Osprey Keyboard Lets The NRF52840 Spread Its Wings

  1. I am a touch-typist. I’ve been using a keyboard with no keycap labels for years, so I’ve really had to be. (Even now if I stop to think about it, I have a hard time pressing the correct symbol) It’s a standard ANSI, and I certainly use my index finger for the ‘c’ key. I just tried right now to press it with my middle finger, and it is practically impossible for me to do so without removing at least one other finger from the home row.

    I don’t disagree that it is probably more efficient (when permitted by the keyboard) to use the middle finger for the ‘c’ key, but I don’t think that not doing so makes one any less of a touch typist.

    1. In the end, not all hands are made equal, and the end goal is minimal movement of the hands. If typing c with your index is less effort/hand movement for you, it’s the better choice. In fact, on regular row staggers I press c ~75% with index as well. On a column stagger middle finger only. Depends a lot on the board – even different keycaps affect a little which fingers I use for which key.

    2. The “c with middle finger” thing seems like an odd gate to keep in front of the “touch typist” title. After all, if you type via touch only, aren’t you by definition a touch typist?

      Maybe I’m just “touchy” because I, too, seem to use my pointer for “c”, though I only realized it after testing it out. I also use an ANSI keyboard, and it seems to me that in order to use your middle finger you either really have to crank that finger out of plane or cant your left wrist inwards pretty hard. I, personally, prefer not to invite carpal tunnel or tendinitis.

      I’m sure it’s different with a staggered column keyboard, but I’ve never gotten into the ergo keyboard scene (though I’ve been tempted at times).

      1. I’m a pretty fast touch typist. I write a ton of technical documentation so typing is second nature for me. I’m not a record breaker but in typing tests I can easily reach over 130wpm (on qwerty). Not saying this to boost, but to put it into perspective. I had to really test it out to see what finger I’m actually using and I’m using my index finger to type the c key. Trying to use my mindle finger feels wrong. I have to put too much effort into it.

        Regarding the layout, I only want to use ANSI keyboards. There’s a special place in hell for ISO keyboards. I get really frustrated if I have to use a keyboard with an ISO layout and sadly, they are getting quite common in my country. Especially now Logitech has moved over from ANSI to ISO, while still calling the layout US International, with the ISO layout (false advertising imho).

        1. I’ve never used an ISO, but I googled it before writing my comment as I’ve seen the term floating around. I like my left shift where it is, I just have to go down a row with my left pinky. Shoving it off to the side like ISO does would require contortions similar but mirrored to what I’d need to do to use my middle finger for “c”. Really, though, as long as the split shift and return keys in ISO have the ability to be EASILY remapped to their ANSI equivalent, I don’t think I’d mind too much.

          I am vaguely interested in a split with staggered columns like the Osprey. I think that really does have potential to be friendlier than ANSI, though it feels like getting away from the traditional 10-key row and using the thumbs more would be the true endpoint of ergo keyboard design. 3 keys per finger, 4 or 5 per thumb.

    3. I suspect a large proportion of touch typists have some quirk that would bother your old typing teacher. As a matter of fact, I was just looking into this a couple days ago (don’t recall why) and found that I have two: I only use the left shift key (so ‘a’ is pinky finger, but ‘A’ is pinky on shift and ring on ‘a’, weird huh?) and only use my left thumb for space bar.

  2. Very pretty!

    But who uses a 40% keyboard? What do you use it for? Are they just for writing?

    Coding would be a nightmare without symbols, but the lack of numbers cuts out a lot of other tasks. I realise they’re probably on a shift layer, but every shift layer takes you longer to access.

    Even for writing, the lack of arrow keys seems like a massive hit to efficiency

    1. I use a 40% keyboard. The whole keys – ‘%`[]{}_()… are much easier to reach on my keyboard than on a regular keyboard. My numeric keypad is under my right hand when I press x with my left. Otherwise letters are located there.
      Let me introduce you to qmk:

    2. The idea is to use layers (alternative mappings accessible behind a modifier key) to map those symbols and numbers to more comfortable positions.
      It’s quick once you’re used to it and you don’t find yourself reaching for corners of the board (reduces travel).

    3. Depends. For writing they are amazing, for coding… You get used to it. I’m struggling, my SO is coding on 40% exclusively, and faster than me on a 75% (if we both know what we wanna code, e.g. just writing out the code with symbols).

      Where I’m struggling/always resorting back to 75% is CAD and eCAD – one hand on the mouse, other hand must reach everything from shift to backspace, symbols, numbers, letters. I can’t use layers with just one hand and am definitely too lazy to create (and memorize!) one additional macro layer per software I’m working with.

    4. Arrow keys are certainly less efficient than a shift layer and vim-style hjkl movement. Plus you can put other navigation like home, end, page up and down on the same navigation layer. Even more efficiency. I find an intelligent layout can actually be faster.

    5. the number of keys can be deceiving. the firmware running on the keyboard, ZMK, allows different symbol layers, and greater functionality from each key. For example I have home row modifiers on my keyboard. When I hold down my home row keys they turn into a control, alt, shift, or windows key instead of sending multiple keypresses of the letter. If i hold down space, I’m sent to a layer with a numpad under my left hand and a symbol bank under my right hand.

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