If you’re what one might call unlucky, there comes a point in your life when you need to switch to a keyboard that’s more ergonomic than your average rectangle. A little prevention goes a long way, though, and there’s no time like the present to go ergo. Why not? You have everything to gain, from long-lasting comfort to satisfying key presses.
The only problem is that most severely ergonomic keyboards just aren’t portable. At this point, we all know how much I love my Kinesis Advantage, and how I wouldn’t be able to write the Keebin’ column or even a grocery list without it. I have two now, and I take the ugly, yellowed, sticker-bombed one with me out into the world. But as much as I love it, I would really dig a a slimmed-down version that’s just as comfortable, perhaps more so. Well, move over, Kinesis, because you’ve got stiff competition in the form of a flexible little two-piece called the Glove80.
You may recall that there was a Kickstarter for this keyboard about a year ago. I was pumped about it then, and I still am. Here’s why:
Ding, dong; the office is dead. The real office is in your head.
This is what I tell myself when working from home gets too weird, too stale, too impossible. By now, many of you know some version what I’m talking about. Our circumstances may vary wildly, but the outcome is the same: working from home is pretty awesome, but, some small, secret part of us longs for the office. Why is that?
The answer will be different for everyone. Maybe you’re a social butterfly who misses face-time and the din of familiar voices. Maybe you just appreciate the physical separation between work and home life. If you’re lucky, the choice to go to the office is yours at this point, and if not, well, we have to wonder if you’re looking for new work. It’s 2022, we’re still in a pandemic, and of course there’s this, that, and the other multi-national Dumpster fire you haven’t heard about yet. Isn’t it time we prioritized work output over office attendance when it comes to our livelihoods?
[Rob Cole] had an ambitious side project: to build an improved version of the Valve Index VR controllers. His effort, named Project Caliper, aims for optimal ergonomics and modularity for the handheld devices. [Rob] originally had plans to develop it as a consumer product by forming a small startup company, but after taking a hard look at the realities of manufacturing delays, semiconductor shortages, and the high costs of developing hardware, decided that the idea just didn’t seem justified at the time.
However, the project was still to take shape. [Rob] is a self-learner, and highly passionate about the value of human-centric design. He started by building a basic controller that could be tracked in SteamVR, then a lot of work prototyping the finer points of controller design, and finally moving on to developing Project Caliper, his concept for a fully-adjustable, modular VR controller. The article he’s written takes you on a journey through the development of the project, and it is chock-full of prototype pictures for those of you who want to see just how much work can go into developing the actual physical realities of a handheld device. Some of his discoveries are pretty interesting; for example, he put a small vibration motor on a dorsal strap of one of his prototypes, thinking it would be a good place for feedback since the back of the hand is quite sensitive. It turned out that vibration applied to the back of the hand was powerfully felt as though it were inside the hand.
While its future as a consumer product isn’t certain, [Rob] is still working on the Project Caliper design and shares progress and photos on Twitter. Developing VR hardware isn’t easy, but at least there’s a much more robust framework for it nowadays, and thankfully no longer any need to roll your own tracking from scratch.
So it seems that Microsoft has a patent in process for a folding mouse. It looks a whole lot like their Arc mouse, which is quite thin and already goes from curved to flat. But that’s apparently not good enough for Microsoft, who says mice in general are bulky and cumbersome to travel with. On the bright side, they do acknowledge the total lack of ergonomics in those tiny travel mice.
Microsoft filed this patent in March of 2021 and it was published in early November. The patent describes the use of an expandable shell on the top with these kerf cuts in the long sides like those used to bend wood — this is where the flexibility comes in. The patent also mentions a motion tracker, haptic feedback, and a wireless charging coil. Now remember, there’s no guarantee of this ever actually happening, and there was no comment from Microsoft about whether it will become a real rodent someday.
And now, the rant. Microsoft considers this mouse, which again is essentially an updated Arc that folds in half, to be ergonomic. Full disclosure: I’ve never used an Arc mouse. But I respectfully disagree with this assessment and believe that people should not prioritize portability when it comes to peripherals, especially those that are so small to begin with. Like, what’s the use? And by the way, isn’t anyone this concerned with portability just using the touch pad or steering stick on their laptop anyway?
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.
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.
Tired of a boring, single piece keyboard? Thinking about a change but don’t know what all your options are? Well prospective-keyboard-shopper, today is your lucky day. We at the Hackaday are here to facilitate the habit with two excellent resources for the eager keyboard shopper; [pvinis]’s awesome-split-keyboards and [jhelvy]’s splitkbcompare.
As indicated by its title, awesome-split-keyboards is an awesome list of split keyboards 50 examples strong. Every split we’ve come across seems to be represented here, many with at least an image or two along with links to more information about how to build or buy the model in question. If that’s not enough, the bottom of the page has a wealth of background information about building or buying your own.
But before making such an important decision it’s important to make sure the keyboard in question will be a good fit in the hands. This is where splitkbcompare comes in, providing a visualization of many popular split layouts. If we hadn’t just found awesome-split-keyboards this filterable list and wide selection would have been the highlight here. But what does stand out is the ability to generate 1:1 scale printouts of the layouts in question, even stacking them for comparison, allowing a prospective buyer get a hands on feel for what they’re considering.
No matter how much geek cred your old vintage keyboard pulls, it’s not worth suffering through wrist pain or any other discomfort while using it. Especially now, when there are so many points of entry into the rabbit hole world of DIY mechanical keebs.
Once the wrist pain started, [Ben Congdon] switched from a big old Apple keeb to a Kinesis Freestyle — it’s basically a regular keyboard, but in two halves that can be placed far enough apart that [Ben]’s wrists are straight while typing. Comfortable as that split rectangle may be, it’s just not that cool looking, and he was ready to build something new, as long as it had enough keys.
[Ben] settled on building a Keebio Sinc, a new board which comes mostly soldered already and supports a handful of layouts. In the spirit of leaving doors open, [Ben] soldered in hot-swap sockets instead of permanently attaching the key switches to the PCB. This way, those Gateron reds can be easily switched out for something else, for instance should [Ben] want to try a little tactility down the road.
We think the Sinc is a cool offering precisely because it is such a full keyboard. Not everyone is ready to jump into 60% layouts or thumb clusters, and it’s nice to have options. This is entry-level ergo and DIY all at once. What’s not to like? Even if you want to go for something small and ortholinear, there are options. Here’s a build we saw recently that starts with a breakaway PCB that lets you choose between small and smaller.