A sandbox for ergonomic keyboard makers.

Dactyl Chimera Leaves The Learning Out Of The Curve

Have you been wanting to build your own keyboard, ergonomic or otherwise, but are hesitant to spend all that time and filament on something that may not be a good fit for your hands? Glad as we are that the dactyl is open-source, to get in there and really mess around with it requires intimate knowledge of either OpenSCAD or Clojure.

Well, not anymore. [WolfIcefang]’s dactyl chimera is an ergo sandbox, a test bench for column curvature, stagger, and height that should keep you from having to iterate all day and night. It was designed in FreeCAD and has three parts — the rack, the tenting foot, and the arches. The rack acts like a bottom plate and has slots for holding the columns (arches) in place. Underneath that is the tenting foot, which changes the lateral inclination. Thirdly are the arches, the business part where the switches go.

[WolfIcefang] says it’s sturdy but not portable, and for some reason feels the need to apologize for the looks. We think it’s beautiful, but then again are easily captivated by such practicality. It’s not quite a keyboard yet, as [WolfIcefang] has neither wired it up nor burned in any firmware. This is still in the early stages, and [WolfIcefang] wants to open it up to collaborators. Plans for the future include interchangeable thumb clusters and a complete build guide.

Even if you aren’t that fluent in OpenSCAD, you’ll have fun messing around on the keycap modeling playground.

Via r/ErgoMechKeyboards

Inputs Of Interest: SafeType™ Vertical Keyboard With Mirrors Puts Pain In The Rear-View

Yep, this keyboard is another ebay special. I can’t stay away! This is a SafeType™ V801 from probably the early 2000s, although there is no date on it anywhere. I’m basing my guess on the fact that there are so many media buttons. I’ve been eyeing these weirdo mirrored keebs for a while, and when I saw how cheaply this one was going for, I had to have it. That’s just how it goes. I was really excited to clack on it and I’m only marginally disappointed by it. But I can tell you that if my Kinesis were to suddenly die, I would probably reach for this keyboard until the new one showed up.

Yes, mirrors on a keyboard are weird. But if you can’t touch-type the numerals and F keys, they’re absolutely necessary.

So, why does it look like this? There are varying levels of ergonomics when it comes to keyboards. This one fights strongly against wrist pronation and forces you into a position that helps the shoulders and neck as well. You’d think it would be weird to hold your arms aloft at right angles, but it’s actually not that strange in practice because you’re pressing inward to type, kind of like playing an accordion or something.

The weird part is looking in the rear-view mirrors to accurately hit the numerals and F keys, though I’ll be honest: in my test drives, I found myself using the mirrors mostly to make sure my hands were on the home row. And that’s with three homing protrusions apiece on F and J! More about that later.

So yes, some of the keycap legends are backwards so you can read them in the mirror. If you don’t like using the numeral row, there’s a num pad in the center, along with the Home/End cluster, a quartet of comically large arrow keys, and a boatload of dedicated media and program launch buttons. All the buttons in the middle are fairly awkward to reach because you must either pull your hand down and around the bottom, or else go over the top. Continue reading “Inputs Of Interest: SafeType™ Vertical Keyboard With Mirrors Puts Pain In The Rear-View”

Avoiding Repetitive Stress Injury: Invest In Yourself Now, Or Pay Later

There I was, thirty years after I first sat down at an Apple IIe , and I suddenly found myself wondering if I would ever use a computer again without pain. How could I work if I couldn’t use a computer anymore? I had to seriously ask myself this question. It took a bit of a winding road to figure out what was going on and two EMGs to confirm it, but after all these years, it was clear to the medical community that I had developed a repetitive stress injury (RSI) called cubital tunnel syndrome in my left arm.

Yeah, it’s about like that. Image via Kinesis

Cubital tunnel syndrome is like carpal tunnel, but in your elbow instead of your wrist. What a misnomer! Sometimes my pain went all the way from my armpit to my fingertips and made me want to gnaw my own arm off. I don’t think you can really understand neuropathy unless you’ve felt this weird, annoying type of pain firsthand. I hope you never do.

Can you stop and seriously imagine not being able to use a computer for the rest of your life? Or at least feeling that way because doing so causes incredibly annoying pain? I feel like we’re all vaguely aware of the standard list of anti-RSI precautions, but let’s review:

  • maintain good posture — sit with feet flat on the floor, wrists straight, elbows at 90°
  • put the screen an arm’s length away at eye level
  • take frequent short breaks

Yes, those are all fine and good. But there are other things you can do to avoid computer-related RSIs, like using ergonomic inputs, and building a custom setup that fits you exactly. This isn’t a study kiosk at the university library we’re talking about — this is your battlestation! The problem is that many people are stubborn, and won’t go out of their way to do anything to proactively prevent these injuries. But you don’t have to cross a bridge when you come to it if you have a map that shows you a way around the body of water.

Continue reading “Avoiding Repetitive Stress Injury: Invest In Yourself Now, Or Pay Later”

Redox Redux: Split Keeb Gets A Num Pad

What’s the worst thing about split keyboards? If they have one general fault, it’s that almost none of them have a number pad. If you can fly on that thing, but struggle with using the top row numbers, you will miss the num pad terribly, trust us. So what’s the answer? Design your own keyboard, of course. [ToasterFuel] had enough bread lying around to cook up a little experiment for his first keyboard build, and we think the result is well done, which is kind of rare for first keebs.

This design is based on the Redox, itself a remix of the ErgoDox that aims to address the common complaints about the latter — it’s just too darn big, and the thumb clusters are almost unusable. We love how customized this layout is, with its sprinkling of F keys and Escape in the Caps Lock position. Under those keycaps you’ll find 100% Cherry MX greens, so [ToasterFuel] must have pretty strong fingers to pound those super clackers.

Everything else under the hood is pretty standard, with a pair of Arduino Pro Micros running the show. [ToasterFuel] had to wire up the whole thing by hand because of the num pad, and we’re impressed that he built this entire project in just three weeks. And that includes writing his own firmware!

Already found or built a split you love, but still miss the num pad? Why not build one to match your keyboard?

Spherical Keyboard Build Leaves Hacker Well-Rounded

Often times we as hackers don’t know what we’re doing, and we sally forth and do it anyway. Here at Hackaday, we think that’s one of the best ways to go about a new project, and the absolute fastest way to learn a whole lot as you go. Just ask [Aaron Rasmussen] regarding this spherical, standing 5×6 dactyl manuform keyboard build, which you can see in a three-part short video series embedded after the break.

[Aaron] gets right down to it in the first video. He had to get creative right away, slicing up the dactyl manuform model to fit on a tiny print bed. However, there’s plenty of room inside the sphere for all that wiring and a pair of Elite-C microcontrollers running QMK. Be sure to turn on the sound to hear the accompanying voice-overs.

The second video answers our burning question: how exactly does one angle grind a slippery sphere without sacrificing sheen or shine? We love the solution, which involves swaddling the thing in duct tape and foam.

You may be wondering how [Aaron] is gonna use any kind of mouse while standing there at the pedestal keyboard. While there is space for a mouse to balance on top, this question is answered in the third video, where [Aaron] learns the truth behind the iconic ThinkPad nubbin and applies this knowledge to build a force-feedback joystick/trackpoint mouse. Awesome answer, [Aaron]!

Not ready to go full-tilt, sci-fi prop ergo? Dip your toe in the DIY waters with a handy macropad.

Continue reading “Spherical Keyboard Build Leaves Hacker Well-Rounded”

TypeMatrix EZ-Reach 2030 Is Better Than Your Laptop Keyboard

Maybe you’re not ready to take the leap into a full-on ergonomic split keyboard. That’s okay, that’s cool, that’s understandable. They’re weird! Especially ones like my Kinesis Advantage with the key bowls and such. But maybe your poor pinkies are starting to get tired and you’re ready to start using your thumbs for more than just the space bar. Or you want to be able to type ‘c’ properly, with your middle finger.

In that case, the TypeMatrix could be the keyboard for you. Or maybe for travel you, because it’s designed as a quasi-ergonomic, orthonormal layout travel keyboard to pair with your laptop, and as such it sits directly over a laptop keyboard without blocking the track pad. (How do people use those things, anyway?)

Of course, you could use this as a desktop keyboard as well, although it’s unfortunate that Control and Shift are stuck on the pinkies. More about that later.

First Impressions

When I saw this keyboard on eBay, I was attracted by two things: the layout, and the dedicated Dvorak light. (And, let’s be honest — the price was right.) I’ve always found myself generally turned off by chocolate bar-style ortholinear keebs because they’re so incredibly cramped, but this one seemed a more acceptable because of the slight split.

The first thing I noticed was the fantastic number pad integration. The different colored keycaps are a nice touch, because the gray makes the number pad stand out, and the red Delete is easy to find since Num Lock is squatting in the upper right corner. Why does Delete always feel like an afterthought on compact keebs? I also like the location of the arrows, and it makes me think of the AlphaSmart NEO layout. Unfortunately, it comes at the cost of burying the right hand Enter down in no-man’s land where you can’t exactly hit it blindly with great accuracy right away. If only you could swap Shift and Enter without messing up the number pad!

Continue reading “TypeMatrix EZ-Reach 2030 Is Better Than Your Laptop Keyboard”

chadaustin's sculpt keyboard test pads wired to protonC

Tether Tames Temperamental Typing

[chadaustin] has a favorite keyboard with a great ergonomic shape, key travel distance, and size, but after switching to Windows 10, the wireless connection introduced a terrible delay. Worse yet, the receiver is notoriously susceptible to interference from USB 3.0 hubs. To provide 128-bit AES encryption, the receiver is paired with the keyboard at the factory and cannot be replaced. If you lose that, you gain a highly ergonomic paper-weight. The solution for [chadaustin] was tethering the keyboard and receive several crash-courses in hardware hacking along the way. As evidenced by the responses to this project on ycombinator, many long-time fans of the Microsoft Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard, introduced in 2013, suffer similar issues.

chadaustin's sculpt keyboard USB board layout
KiCad USB controller board layout

We really appreciate that [chadaustin] took an incremental approach, tackling one problem at a time and getting help from others along the way for first attempts at many complex steps. The proof-of-concept involved hand-soldering each lead from the keyboard matrix’s test pads to a QMK Proton C, which worked but couldn’t fit inside the keyboard’s case. For a more permanent and tidy solution, [chadaustin] tried a ribbon-cable breakout board and other microcontrollers, but none of those were compact enough to fit inside the case either. This required a custom PCB, another first for [chadaustin].

After a one-day intro to KiCad, [chadaustin] dug into the datasheets, completed a schematic for the board, and generously shared the process of choosing components and creating the layout. [chadaustin] ordered a board and found the mounting holes’ placement needed to be shifted.

With the full matrix mapped by [johnmilkspill], flashing QMK onto the AT90USB1286 controller went fairly smoothly. [chadaustin] chose to map both sides of the split spacebar back to the space key but did add a feature by repurposing the battery indicator LED to Caps Lock. And the results?

chadaustin's sculpt keyboard USB controller fit into case
USB controller fits into the plastic case, wires added to ISP for bootloader button

According to testing done with Is It Snappy?, the latency dropped from the wireless 78 ms down to 65 ms over USB. More importantly, this latency is now consistent, unaffected by USB hubs, and there is no receiver to lose. Of course, [chadaustin] has ideas for future improvement, including regaining the multimedia function keys, as these kinds of hacks are never really done; they are just in the current revision. No word on the fate of the detached number pad, but that likely needs its own tether and is a project for another day.

Thanks for the tip [Linus Söderlind]