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Cyclic Letter Keys

Fewer rows of keys
  (+5, -2)
(+5, -2)
  [vote for,

This Idea will necessarily incorporate some things that have already been posted here at the HalfBakery. For example, some keys on this keyboard need to be able to display and yield different characters, and that indeed is old-hat here.

Now consider the "Home Row" of keys, where a touch-typist places the fingers in preparation for getting down to work. This Idea doesn't require you to be using QWERTY or Dvorak or any other particular layout; you just need to know your layout well. On the other hand, it may be that a brand-new layout will prove to be the most efficient for this Idea.

What this keyboard does have, at first glance, is only one row of letters. But since the keys can display different letters, this row CYCLES between displays of the usual three rows of letters. You can set the cyclic rate to suit yourself, of course. With practice, you learn to time your home-row-only keystrokes to the appearance of desired letters, AS IF you had moved a finger off the home row on an ordinary keyboard.

With smarts (and with that brand-new efficient designed-for-cycling key-layout), the keyboard has a dictionary built into it, so that as you type a word, it can display the most-likely-next letters in the Home Row.

The net effect is that Repetitive Stress Injuries become minimized, since now you only leave the Home Row of keys to get at the numerals or the various special-function keys (and they are in closer reach!).

Vernon, Jun 14 2005

Belkin Nostromo SpeedPads http://catalog.belk...=&Product_Id=107727
Even cheaper on ebay [Soterios, Jun 14 2005]


       Seems doable. The three phases could be (1) ETAOINSH, (2) RDLUPC and the other middle-frequency letters; and (3) QXZJK and other rarities. The exposure times could be 9:3:1, respectively (so you'd have to wait 9x longer for a "Z" to pop up than an "E").   

       Perhaps tapping an "impossible" key sequence, such as "RRR" or "OOO" would insert some sort of punctuation.   

       Would this really prevent repetitive stress? Your fingers are moving even less now than before, so it seems more repetitive.
phundug, Jun 14 2005

       [phundug], actually I suspect SOME (not hardly all) RSI is caused by simply spending too much time typing too fast. If nothing else this notion would slow the typist down at least a little, due to the delay of waiting for a needed less-common key. Also, the "reaching" of the fingers to keys distant from the Home Row is thought to be another significant RSI factor, and THAT is the one being addressed by this Idea.   

       Next, while I also thought about repeating the letter groups not-quite-in-perfect-sequence, I don't think that 9:3:1 is the right ratio. Or are we talking about two different things? You may be suggesting DURATIONS of each display there, which of course would be handy when multiple letters need be typed on the same Row. I'm thinking that an efficient cycling layout might have to have some letters like E or T in more than one display-group, and that more than three groupings of letters would be cycled. I'm especially interested in what the layouts would be if that dictionary and smarts were included!   

       Regarding punctuation, those characters, like the numerals, would be regular fixed keys. That is, the Home Row has the cycling letter keys, the row above it has the fixed numerals, and the row below the Home Row has symbols like [ and = and ; as well as the QWERTY-normal .
Vernon, Jun 14 2005

       Why not split the space bar, and let one thumb provide spaces when needed, and the other cycles when needed. Instead of anticipating a cycle, you precipitate it on demand.
Soterios, Jun 14 2005

       I agree with [Soterios] on the objection to having to synchronize your typing and that a manual cycling method might be good. How effective could a rhythm method be?   

       Instead of cycling, make that split space bar have "row selector" keys? Then again, you will have just invented the chord keyboard...again.
half, Jun 14 2005

       I was suggesting duration, just to simplify the job for the typist. "Smarts" would increase the probability that a needed letter would be instantly available, but it would add to the delay in typing it because the typist would need to constantly scan all 8 keys to see if the letter is there.   

       If key letters like "E", "T", "S" always occur in a particular place when they do occur, that might mitigate some of this challenge.
phundug, Jun 14 2005

       [half], regarding "how effective could a rhythm method be", heh, nice pun, but rhythms are Natural and learnable. AND, remember, I specified that the cycling rate is user-selectable. Of course there will be a Learning Curve here. And one reason this Idea is Half-Baked is because we won't really know the answer to that question until somebody invests the time to try it.   

       [phundug], the "particular place" thing is what I had in mind. And if the smarts can be personalized, then I suspect the typist will be able to trust that the correct next key is under the finger that expects to type it. This could INCLUDE pauses (like on a piano), when you know that the just-presented letters do not include what you want to type, and you have to wait for the next group. It's perhaps possible that those same smarts, upon detecting no-keystroke within the usual time of touch-typing-speed, would more-quickly present that next group of letters. (But that may have a side-effect regarding learning to type sync'd to the overall cycling of letters, hmmmmmm...)
Vernon, Jun 14 2005

       "won't really know the answer to that question until somebody invests the time to try it"   

       Write a keyboard device driver and an application to display the cycle at the bottom of the screen instead of on the keycaps. No real hardware development required, at least for prototyping. I'd hate to have to look down at the keyboard all the time to get in sync.   

       Being the sterotypical white guy, I have no rhythm. I'm doomed to failure with this keyboard.
half, Jun 14 2005

       If you do cycling, you could increase cycle speed by tying a dictionary to your input which could predict which letter you 'meant' if your timing is a little off by checking the word you're typing (so far) against the letter you just typed.   

       If the sequence isn't right, it could check all the other letters the key can generate to see if it fits the word you're typing, and choose the right one instead.   

       If you wanted to prototype, I think belkin's nostromo gamepads would be perfect for playing around with this concept. You could get 2 n50's to have a completely programmable 20 key keyboard (use just the ones you need).   

       That's another thing with this idea ... I don't think it's that much of a stretch to assign two rows of keys to each hand, four on each row.
Soterios, Jun 14 2005

       This would be horrible for a touch-typist. How fast are these letters changing? I type at about 60-70 wpm, which is over five characters every second. Now, I have to pay attention to the cyclic changes as well? No thanks.
Freefall, Jun 14 2005

       [Freefall], in theory you would set the cyclic rate to match your typing speed. Remember, you SEE at 24 frames per second, so detecting letters changing at 5 times per second IS possible. And yes, it would of course take practice to become mentally sync'd with the cycle. I'm a touch-typist too, and remember this IS the HalfBakery, heh heh.
Vernon, Jun 14 2005

       [homer simpson using this keyboard]:
"D'oh! D'oh! D'oh! D'oh! D'oh! Woohoo! D'oh! D'oh! D'oh! D'oh! D'oh! D'oh! D'oh! D'oh! D'oh! Woohoo! D'oh! [/hsutk]
phundug, Jun 14 2005

       All these years of Simpson's and I never realized there was an anti-d'oh.
Soterios, Jun 14 2005

       If you are like me, you like when things look good. These keyboard would look pretty gross, hah. Some new porn could develop with this long, rectangular keyboard. 'Hot xxx, woman rewrites war and peace using on her....' Well, you see where I am coming from.   

       The wrist positioning I think would be a bit awkward at first.   

       Whoa, cool idea coming on here....   

       : )
Night, Jun 14 2005

       Vernon: sure, you can see at 24 frames per second. Some can distinguish significantly more than that. But can you react that fast, without trying to time each keypress to "catch" the key you're trying to hit?   

       Hey, it's an interesting idea. But if someone tried to give me one absolutely free, I'd probably turn it down. If they paid me to take it, it might make a nice bookend or paperweight.
Freefall, Jun 14 2005

       Don't cycle it manually or automatically. Work it all out by context. My new cell phone has this input mode for text input on a number keypad called T9Word that can recognize all the possible words that the first few keystrokes can possibly create when added to, and displays the most common one with each new letter, changing it until you stop typing, and the word you want is usually the one that's there. I bet this concept could be altered to make home row keys do all the work without any cycling at all. Part of it would be a big dictionary to start with, and automatic dictionary learning. Might be kind of stumbly as you first type in an unknown word, but the next time it won't.
oxen crossing, Jun 15 2005

       Or just two keys, and do morse.
Soterios, Jun 15 2005

       [Freefall], consider an alternative cyclic thing for a moment. When you go to a gas station for a few bucks worth, do you always pay in advance, where you know the pump will shut off automatically, or do you watch the spinning digits and manually shut it off at just the right dollar-amount? Compare the rate at which the cents-amount changes, with the accuracy of your cut-off choice. I dare say the cents-amount changes a LOT faster than 5 times a second, and I still manage to stop at the precise whole-dollar amount fairly often. What about you? Do you think such a timing-skill could translate to hitting the correct cycling letter-key at the right moment? I dare say so!   

       [oxen crossing], you are forgetting that at the START of each new word you want to type, you need access to the entire alphabet. If the keyboard only has one row of letter-keys, then the letters must be cycked through those keys, to allow you to access the first letter of your next word.
Vernon, Jun 15 2005

       Why do you need the whole alphabet at the start? The word may appear wrong for the first few letters, but by the end, it'll be right.   

       I'll prove it. Type your response using only the home row keys, as if you shifted your left pinky finger from A to Q or Z, but don't move your fingers. Only use the home row, like this: Lhlh jsd ghd hljd fls, lkkd ghks: I'll translate yours for you, if you do it correctly (be careful with T-Y and B-N).   

       If I can translate it, then so can a program. (T9word does it all the time; the first letter is sometimes wrong, but the program changes it as needed to create the next most likely word as each additional letter is typed)
oxen crossing, Jun 15 2005

       [oxen crossing], OK, you are talking about more smarts than I was talking about; I never heard of T9word before. Still, it seems to me that there should be a fair list of (probably mostly short) words that could confuse even T9word (unless it has grammar smarts, too). Offhand I can see that sew and sex or leg and let or run and fun or hun and nun or gun and bun (and here's a triple: hic, hid, hie) are examples of confuse-able words, if typed on a QWERTY keyboard and the fingers are kept on the Home Row.   

       One other point, though, is that in the annos here -- see the first one! -- there has been a tendency to think of using only 8 Home Row keys for all the letters, and not the usual 10. And that means at least 4 groupings of letters have to be cycled through them, instead of 3. Which should lead to even greater numbers of confusable words.
Vernon, Jun 15 2005

       OK, so you have some confusion, but all you need is a 'next' key to cycle through the possibilities if you don't want the most common one. Granted this would be more suitable for a smaller portable keyboard where smaller size is better than ease of typing, rather than a replacement for a full sized qwerty keyboard.
oxen crossing, Jun 15 2005

       I do see that a "next" key in conjuction with T9word would very likely be superior to a Backspace key.   

       Next, in thinking more about the 8-home-keys thing, there is the possibility that if the Spacebar was split, then the half under the left thumb could become a cyclic letterkey, while the right half remains the Space (I can't recall actually ever using my left thumb much for spaces). So, that would be 9 cycling keys, and that would allow 3 groupings of letters to cover the alphabet.   

       Finally, the notion about using a number of different groupings, with some letters repeated in several groups is just an alternative idea, to the preceding most-simple cycle-of-three-groups. Select mode with switch on keyboard, perhaps.
Vernon, Jun 15 2005


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