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One-handed Keyboards 91

strider5 writes "HandyKey has come up with a one-handed keyboard/mouse alternative for those sick the same old thing! They claim that it will work on *nix and Palms in addition to Windows systems... pretty neat! A variety of similar devices are summarized on a page at Stanford, but aren't quite as nifty. " I think everyone on earth wants a twiddler. If I had 2, I could type twice as fast, right?
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One-handed Keyboards

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    You can get a kernel patch for 2.2.X which enables one hand typing with standard keyboards using the number pad.
    It is usable and stable, but docs and more countries are missing.

    I'm at an early stage of development, if someone
    wants to join and help, is welcome.

  • I think a much more elegant design is the BAT Keyboard []. It's a chord keyboard design that does everything with seven standard pushbutton keys (not twiddly things like the twiddler).

    If someone could take the BAT design, convert it into a high-quality membrane keyboard, and put it on an arm sleeve, that would be a great step forward for wearables.
  • I wouldn't want to give up that much speed on my desktop. On my desktop I can use a full keyboard. If I had a wearable, I couldn't have a real keyboard. Thus a BAT design, modified to be wearable, would be a good thing even if it was slower.
  • They claim that it will work on *nix and Palms in addition to Windows systems... pretty neat!

    I doubt Windows users will buy this. When was the last time you saw one of them use a keyboard?

  • Should go over big with the AOL crowd.
  • I got to try out the Apache headgear at an air show some years back. Was very sweet... zero learning curve... wherever you look, the "pointer" goes. Do we get that neat Apache feature where whatever you click on gets... er... unrecoverably deleted, too?
  • On their website they admit that most people can only reach about 30-50 wpm. I already type 80-90 wpm on a QWERTY keyboard. I'm not sure I want to give up that much speed for the other benefits.
  • Posted by WideEye:

    I've got one of those M$ Sidewinder joysticks, i wonder if you could use one of those as a chord keyboard. (Use the hat and the buttons under the right hand...)

  • Posted by stefandi:

    The author calls the dvorak keyboard slower
    than QWERTY. Does anyone know, what kind of
    studies he refers to?

  • Posted by traevoli:

    Well, I always thought the twiddler was neat. But I don't know if I'd buy one. I have too many questions and concerns.

    I mean, every picture I've seen of someone holding one, has the hand bent back at the wrist. This is the *exact same* position that, when typing or clicking the mouse, is (at least partially) responsible for causing carpal-tunnel, tendonitis, and other repetative stress injuries. I know when I have bad typing posture or rest my hand on the mouse, I notice pain in all sorts of places throughout my hands and arms. But when I correct it, the pain stops. Have there been any testimonials about people who had typing-related injuries, but whose condition improved when they started using the Twiddler? Have there been any reports of people developing typing-related injuries *after* starting the use of the Twiddler? These are things I'd like to know.

    Also, I don't know how it works. What is the keyboard layout like? I don't understand how so few keys are used to emulate a full keyboard. What do users' typing speeds compare to their typing speed on conventional keyboards? And they say it fits comfortably into both right or left hand? But what does that mean? Just 'cause it fits doesn't mean it's just as usable. Does it have a switch to make it symetrical, or does the left hand have to learn it reversed -- I don't see how *that* would be a good thing.

    And what about drivers? That sucks. If I'm gonna buy a portable keyboard, I better be able to carry it with me and plug it into anything. I mean, couldn't they make a box of some sort that converts the Twiddler's usual signal to scancodes for whichever machine-mode (PC, Mac) it's in? And there could be two cords coming out the back -- one for keyborad, one for mouse. That would solve the problem of drivers; you wouldn't need any.

    I'm all for a portable, low-stress input device for computers. But is the Twiddler really it?
  • I've been thinking about DVORAK layouts for a while now, but the problem is that I prefer vi over Emacs, and vi assumes the HJKL keys will be right next to each other. If they aren't anymore, then vi is no longer as fast for me. (I like not having to use the arrow-keys, and I think this helps relieve my hands - my hands don't have to stretch to hit Escape,Meta,Alt,Control,Shift all the time, and I don't ever 'lose' my home-row. This doubles typing speed, but starts to run into the upper limit of comfortable QWERTY speed.)

    I don't really know what the right answer is. Emacs would be okay if the typewriter-cursor keys weren't ^N,^P,^F,^B, which are nowhere near each other on oth QWERTY and DVORAK.

    Emacs wrecked RMS's hands.

  • Left button == left eye blink
    right button == right eye blink
    middle mouse button == pick your nose.

    No, I won't shake your hand, you've been cutting and pasting in X all day! Ewww!

  • Headmounted mice have been tried, but it's not that accurate. What you really want, though, is eye-tracking.
  • Well, on my twiddler which is 4 months old, the buttons are not difficult to press, and I've got it to the point that it is comfortable to hold and use for a while without having to readjust constantly (which was an initial problem. Your hand does require training to find the right spot).

    As for a chording scheme, the one given is logical for writing email or typing letters but is *AWFUL* for anything more geek oriented, like coding, using emacs or negotiating a terminal. I've worked off and on on a better one, but haven't settled on one yet.
  • The twiddler is pretty cool. It has been around for a few years at least. I've had one for 6 months now. It does not replace the keyboard for me, yet, but I use it on my laptop (and keep it in the laptop case) when my wrists start bothering me.

    It is a chording keyboard, which means that most keystrokes are done via a combination of keys, which is more difficult to learn than the single keystroke -> character mapping we all know and love.

    However, the mappings are completely edittable under most drivers. The driver I have (which I keep meaning to hack on to improve) for linux is completely customizable as are the ones for winXX and DOS. There is currently no working mac driver and the palmOS driver leaves a lot to be desired (is not customizable). The palmOS cable also requires a bit of soldering to build.

    The twiddler is worth it if you are looking for a decent alternative, but requires a lot of time to get up to speed and a bunch of hacking to get a decent driver under a unix.
  • The biggest change I've heard is that it is wireless (using RF, not IR), will have a direct to PS/2, not just serial, connector and have the option of coming with a pilot cable.
  • by mholve ( 1101 )
  • Its a pretty cool gadget.. although i highly recomend you get a better layout than the
    original.. there are several floating around
    on the net... unfortunatly its a little bothersome
    for me to use full time because my fingers get sore but for a laptop its quite a bit more convienent than a keyboard sometimes...
  • by ChadG ( 1680 )
    These have been around for a long time!

    "In true sound..." -Agents of Good Root
  • Still, they've always been good about publishing protocol information (5 years ago, way before it was "cool", I asked about it and the president of handykey faxed me the protocol, which eventually led to an X driver...)

    Sweet! What an enlightened guy. Where can we get the driver? Is it one of those XInputExtensions not included with the pre-compiled XFree86 releases? Reply by e-mail if you like, but I bet a lot of other Slashdotters would be interested, too.
    Beer recipe: free! #Source
    Cold pints: $2 #Product

  • The idea would be to type as if on an invisible keyboard floating in the air in front of you, and have the gloves pick up enough information to determine which "virtual key" you are hitting with each stroke.

    Of course, I don't see how this could work unless you were also doing very sophisticated sensing of your position in space (e.g. with sensors on your legs) since you would be in constant motion. I guess you'd need some goggles to see the dang keys of the virtual keyboard, too . . .
    Beer recipe: free! #Source
    Cold pints: $2 #Product

  • This was in February's Linux Journal. The article about wearable computers. Dr. Mann talks about the evolution of the WearComp. You can check out that research and innovation at [] What I want to know is, who uses this? And how easy is it to learn? Joseph Elwell.
  • The twiddler is way old news. It's also quite costly at $199.00. (Well, so are the other hardware based single handed/alternative keyboards).

    The stanford article is funny, considering the fitaly on-screen keyboard for the palm as a one-fingered keyboard. Funny, wouldn't palm's builtin onscreen keyboard count too? And all the other various on screen keyboards? Heck, with
    caps lock a regular keyboard can be done single
    finger with the same functionality, albeit not
    as efficiently.
  • I have used Dvorak for one year and am very happy. My hands no longer feel like they have been pounding rocks.

    Unfortunately, Dvorak makes one handed typing slow since the keys are strategicaly arranged to be alternating sides between keystrokes. Dvorak does not make a good hunt and peck layout.
  • aren't there any cheaper Twiddler-like thingies out there? I'd _love_ to have one, but I don't really feel like shelling out a month's worth of scholarship for it :-)

    the Gods have a sense of humor,
  • by Bookwyrm ( 3535 ) on Wednesday March 24, 1999 @11:05AM (#1964466)
    I have one of these in a box somewhere in storage. I picked one up a few years ago, four or five, actually. The picture they have on the site appears unchanged since then. A few comments on the Twiddler, at least the one I had:
    • The shape of it is a bit awkward. By making it useable by either hand, it doesn't quite fit in either. Depending on the size and shape of your hand, it may be very uncomfortable.
    • The buttons took a very noticeable amount of force to press. This made the awkward shape of it worse, as if it did not fit well within your hand it was hard to hold it steady enough when pressing the buttons. If they have reduced the required force some, it will have been an improvement.
    • Someone should work out a better chording scheme for it. The default one is not that optimized. Yes, you can spend hours trying to work out a new one that you like, but I'd rather have a standard one that makes sense.

    Overall, I thought it very neat, and would like to see it further developed, but it does not look like they have made any improvements in the hardware over the years. A better shape, softer touch buttons, and a built in spot for a battery (as opposed to siphoning power off the keyboard port) would make it potentially very nice.

  • So the wearables page says the Twiddler II won a prize. But it's apparently not for sale yet. How is it different from the Twiddler 1?


  • Hey, I'll wait for that. I hope it won't be long.



  • HandKey has been building the Twiddler for a years, this particular site has been referenced in comments by just about every article on wearables to appear on /. Just where is the "news" here?
  • Yeah, I've been using one for my wearable [] for more than a year now.. The ppl over at MIT [] have used them much longer.. It's a great keyboard, but for a normal PC, I'd reccomend a normal keyboard, unless you for some reason are unable to type with two hands.
  • That's all we need, not only the celphone-talkers not paying attention to where they're going, but the cops as well..

    I can see it now: Officer Dies in High Speed Crash, Distracted by TinySex
  • All my hand problems disappeared when I ditched QWERTY and rolled my own. There were plenty of good Dvorak layouts out there, but I thought it was kinda neat. (Note: I had no *serious* trouble, it was just starting.)

    Of course, I don't type as fast (yet), and the idea *is* a bit crazy, I admit. But with Linux, everything is possible.

    (Sorry for being a bit off-topic here.)

    /* Steinar */
  • The hardest thing about switching keyboard layouts
    is when I run my own keyboard on QWERTY. Normally, I `feel' how the keyboard is, and then (unconsciously) decides which keyboard layout to use.

    I still write faster in QWERTY (517 chars/min on real text), but it's so geeky, I just have to continue ;-)

    /* Steinar */
  • I believe those two things are directly related.
    People who can type well on a qwerty have great trouble learning the DVORAK
  • by ocie ( 6659 )
    I don't know about the rest of you, but just looking at this thing makes my knuckles hurt. I think it would be better if the hands were more open (think drumming your fingers on a table).

  • I did what the company said would be the standard motion for moving the mouse, and I could tell that even ten minutes of such activity would be hellish on the wrists. I'll wait for monocle mice, equivalents of which have been available on the AH-64 Apache since the mid-80s.
  • Actually, RSI is a well known occupational hazard for professional musicians. Add hearing impairments and lousy pay and you wonder why you ever would choose to play music professionally...

  • The evil Bill Gates-ian guy uses one.

    But my real excitement here comes from what this may do for people with RSI (Repetitive Strain Injuries).
  • C'mon, its news to CmdrTaco, so it must be =new= right? Yeah. =) Anywho...
  • Ive had one since December 25th, 1998. It is a very nice tool, my wearable is almost complete now.. just waiting for UPS. Beware the drivers for it though, the drivers on do not compile and the binaries do not work with 2.2.x :( But there is an alternative, newer versions of GPM work with 2.2.x.. but unfortunatly also means it does not support X :( [although, it might be hackable to wrap GPM > X] The default layout for both of them obmit the "/" key though, so you might wanna hack the configuration files as well :) Good luck for anyone that gets one, btw.. I could type 4wpm within the hour of getting one.
  • >Still, they've always been good about publishing
    >protocol information (5 years ago, way before it
    >was "cool", I asked about it and the president of
    >handykey faxed me the protocol, which eventually
    >led to an X driver...)

    Hum, when will it work under 2.2.x then ? :)
  • It comes with a strap :)
  • He's not checked his facts. I was up to 20-25 wpm on a Dvorak the first day, and I don't even type qwerty very well
  • I want a chording keyboard built into a device shaped around the HAND, not the manufacturer's bottom line. Notice the Handy Key page mentions that it doesn't decrease the possibility of CPS, just changes its effects:
    Can be used as an auxiliary keyboard, varying the potential stress from repetitive motions.
    Give me a keyboard built in to a hand-molded joystick and I'll pay the $200. Little mouse-button-action buttons, one or two for each finger, plus 2 or 3 for the thumb, and I'd be in heaven. And chording 3 keys at a time is not a problem, guys...maybe I'll give that Fiddler [] guy an email...
  • Check out l

    John Tokash
    Homestead Technologies

  • I am doing the same thing, only under win98 (DVD support ya know) - I picked up a keyboard called 'VersaPoint' from InterLink Electronics. It is a bit pricey, but uses what they call "Broadband IR" - whatever it is it works great. You can aim the keyboard at the floor, ceiling, or a wall 20 feet away and the receiver still catches every keystroke.

    The keyboard has a builtin touchpad (ick) but the model I got came bundled with a "RemotePoint" remote mouse which works great.

    Both work flawlessly with Linux, no special drivers are required. The IR receiver just has a mouse and keyboard plug.

    Only problem is the keyboard is a bit squished into a smallish form factor - but for surfing it's fine. I wouldn't write a novel on the thing.

  • Keeps one hand free for slappin the salami.

  • But then, what do we do for the middle mouse button :-)
  • I most definitely prefer a smaller number of keys (the BAT), but the twiddler is much nicer to hold, while the BAT is table-bound :(

    make a twiddler-sized BAT ??

  • I posted this article NOT to break any ground...these things have certainly been around for awhile now.

    I do think that there are likely quite a few people that haven't heard of them yet, and seeing as how they (the Twiddler, at least) can be used with palm pilots, i thought some people might find it interesting as an alternative to a stylus :) also pretty groovy for a workstation or laptop :)

    they are quite pricey too, though. But after all, those who can afford $500 for a Palm can almost certainly spare a bill or two for a nice input device ;)

  • Woo, my boss just bought me one.
    My wrists have been bothering me,
    so I'm not just crying wolf, but I thought that
    this might be a way to head of carpal tunnel.
    Im excited. can't wait until it comes.
  • You'd have to modify the drivers or have two drivers running mapped to different com ports. If you want to switch hands, there is a keyboard y-splitter, and I'm sure you could find one for a serial port too. Standard typing speed goes from very slow up to 40-50-60+ wpm for the very fast (and those who have nice macro layouts), but those speeds usually aren't reached until months of usage (or so I've heard).

    Wearables Central [], almost everything you would want to know about wearable/ubiquitous computing (or a link to it).

  • Looking at the picture on the main page (a someone's claw-like hand pressing the keypad against their palm) makes my wrist ache. Using this thing for an extended period of time can't be good for you - although I suppose you might be able to switch it between hands from time to time. Has anyone seen any studies on the ergonomic benefits/costs of these devices?
  • Old or new, it's pretty cool.
    The site says the keying is based on chords. I dunno. I played the cello for a while-- will that give me an advantage in using a left-handed version?
    I don't know how excited traffic cops would be, but how about using this in conjunction with an Empeg system? Type while you drive. Sorta like talking on a cell phone.
  • From the description on the website, and the comments I've read, it seems to me that you'd be more likely to drop the thing trying to get something typed than increase your productivity. A good idea, but maybe they should consider making different models for each hand, and maybe a strap/glove to keep it on your hand so you can relax it every once in a while.
  • It would probably cause you a lot of pain.

    I know that my twiddler is not exactly easy on te wrists!

    Basically, my opinion is that if you're interested in wearable computing the twiddler is the best there is. If not, there's almost certainly something more comfortable and better suited. Even silly "in car" apps could probably find something more comfortable/flexible than a twiddler.


  • I am looking for more of a 'remote control' type device. I'm building a Linux box into my home enertainment center for: MP3's, couch surfing, gameing, ..etc.. I want a cordless, trackball mini-keyboard all in one. The keyboard doesn't need to be designed for speed, there will be very little keyboarding for this application.

    Any one know of such a beast??
  • (Sorry about continuing the off-topic stuff, but the shooting pains in my hands made the previous post stand out.)

    Do you know of any good resources for rolling one's own keymap? The keyboard / terminal HOWTO was less than totally thorough, IMHO. I was especially intrigued by the (patented) half-QWERTY keyboard mentioned in the article. The design sounds easy-to-learn, but how does one make the space bar sticky?

    I'd be happy with an RTFM, as long as it pointed to a good FM.
  • I saw a much cooler handhald keyboard than this in a PC mag once, IIRC it was available for Psions and PCs and it comprised 5 switches in a thing you gripped in your hand, you made the letters using different combinations of buttons. The cool thing was you never had to move your fingers, so touch typing was a no-brainer.

    I will try and dig out a picture or URL or summat.

  • Surely if you treat each button on the device as a binary bit, you get 2^5 combinations.

    This gives 32possible values.

  • Sounds like a variation on the old Microwriter from the '80s. It never really caught on, although its supporters were very enthusiastic and claimed that it was easy to learn how to use.

    Me, I just don't like the idea of using chords to input text. Hmm, thinking about it I suppose using a shift or control key counts as a chord, so I use them already. Oh well, what's that quote about consistency and small minds :^)

  • What I want to know is, who uses this? And how easy is it to learn?

    I tried it, and the main problem that I had was that it was very very awkward to hold and type on. It was exactly the same feeling as trying to play a particularly tricky chord on a guitar. It comes with a wacky strap that you use to tie it to your hand, but it didn't help me much. You feel like you have to balance it in place with your thumb, but you also need that thumb to type with. I'd love to use a keyboard-alternative, but this wasn't it for me...

  • From what I understand, there's a lot of research going on in this field right now, especially with the eye-tracking. I can't wait, personally, but the cost would probably be prohibative.
  • I remember in CGR something like five years ago there was a special on RSI and possible cures. They showed a keyboard with only five keys, positioned ergonomically so that if you were to simply lay your hands down on the device, your fingertips would touch the keys. Any keypress could be simulated by a combination of these five keys. Though though to learn, apparently with practice one could type without any speed loss. Anyone else have recent info on this thing?
  • If I recall, the Twiddler made its first public appearance at Comdex in 1991 (maybe 1992). I rember seeing it in Byte magazine around then. It doesn't seem to have changed at all over the years.
  • The article seems to say that the goal is to be able to use the mouse while typing. I want to know why? I can't think of any application where it would be beneficial to type (note: that doesn't mean use the keyboard, it means type) and use the mouse simultaneously. For things like Quake, sure you want to use the mouse and the keyboard at the same time, but you're not really typing. Also, you can remap the keys so it's really not an issue of moving your hand from the keyboard to the mouse and back ('sides, you'd get fragged to pieces). I can understand the desire to get rid of issues like having to (while typing) use the mouse to activate a window or something, but why not replace the mouse instead of the keyboard?
  • I heard a rumor a full year ago that Handykey was working on a new version of the twiddler optimized for PDA's such as PalmPilot. Currently, I believe that there are power supply issues, and the "mouse" functionality is not especially useful. The current model is also somewhat bigger than it needs to be - taking a centimeter off of length would be significant for PDA users. Has anyone heard more about such rumors?
  • Dundar Thelnept wrote:

    > vi assumes the HJKL keys will be right next to each other. If they aren't anymore, then vi is no longer as fast for me.

    I always found that reprogramming the keyboard was harder than remapping functions in an editor. And if you are using vile, vim, or another open/free software clone of vi, you can easily hardwire different keystrokes.

    The biggest problem with remapping keyboards in my opinion is that you end up with something non-standard. That's ok if you always use your own computer, but not fine if you have to use other peoples keyboards as well. I already get annoyed if I go from a type5 keyboard to a PC one; let alone have to go from a personalized layout back to QWERTY.

    -- Abigail
  • The link to the one-handed qwerty 'boards on the Stanford page (forget which one) looked pretty nifty, nifty enough that I decided to play around with xmodmap and see if I couldn't piece together a simulacrum of it. It's still a preliminary version at the moment, there are still lots of bugs to be ironed out, but it's up right now at what will eventually be my homepage [] once again. I'll work on the right-handed version when I get the left ironed out.

Suggest you just sit there and wait till life gets easier.