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One Button Keyboard

Only one key - press differently.
  (+13, -5)(+13, -5)
(+13, -5)
  [vote for,

This is in this category because it could feasibly be suitable for both a phone keyboard/keypad, or a computer keyboard.

A phone has only a handful of keys, notably a 'ten separate digits' area. What if you could minimise that area to one key? To differentiate between the semantics of 0 to 9, you press harder. I wonder if it's possible to quickly learn to press with differing pressures within ten windows of discrimination of input pressure?

In true halfbakery style, I'm certainly not about to do any research to find out - I'm merely assuming it might be the case and proceeding in that assumption.

That being the case, I wonder if it's possible to easily learn to press one key with about a hundred different pressures? That'd replace the entire qwerty keyboard with one button. This inherently would also solve the problem of how to avoid crumbs and grot falling between the keys.

Ian Tindale, Jan 06 2005

Dasher project link http://www.inferenc...y.cam.ac.uk/dasher/
Information efficient text-input - see anno below. [Anchovy, Jan 07 2005]

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       isn't this a joystick?
ato_de, Jan 06 2005

Ian Tindale, Jan 06 2005

       This could be facilitated by seeing the candidate characters being displayed (A then B then C then D, etc.) as one presses harder and harder until releasing pressure.
FarmerJohn, Jan 06 2005

       It's extremely difficult to apply a specific amount of pressure, without relying on a separate feedback mechanism. Maybe if you had stops, or if the device clicked, you could get five or six levels. You could have a meter on screen showing pressure applied, and what input it corresponds to, but it would be a real trial to use. Without another button, you would need some fiddly mechanism to determine when a letter was selected.   

       You could, however, have a morse input button - I think this was done in "Cryptonomicon"
tiromancer, Jan 06 2005

       By mixing durations with pressures you could get more easily discernible statuses. E.g. soft-short = A, soft-long = B, hard-short = C, hard-long = D, etc.   

       Like a pressure-sensitive Morse code. Yeah!
phundug, Jan 06 2005

       Aw, I was hoping this was going to be the must-have accessory for Zen Buddhist computers. Instead I find it has meaning. Disappointed. More noise, please, less signal! On the subject of minimizing keys, have you heard of 'chord keyboards'? Since you didn't do any research, I'm not gonna bother looking for the link either :-) - they're kind of interesting though, take my word for it.
moomintroll, Jan 07 2005

       The Zen keyboard only has one button, and on it is written, "Unask the Question".   

       That should cover most things, I think...
moomintroll, Jan 07 2005

       You'd think that it'd be difficult to tap with varying pressures with any precision, but perhaps this isn't the case. When I had my Korg S3 drum machine (beautiful sounding, lovely hardware button user-surface, utterly unusable user-interface software-wise), I used to use it as a one-octave (8 notes) keyboard - it was basically a row of eight very delicious velocity sensitive buttons. I reckon it would have easily been possible to discriminate about ten repeatable levels. However, I was assisted by a top-quality sound system.
Ian Tindale, Jan 07 2005

       This technology could be combined with - I don't know what you call it - "letter bigram frequency analysis" where the vowels all have quite different pressures so you never type an "a" for an "e", and the computer corrects obvious mispellings - like "eqery" is obviously supposed to be "every".   

       Like some cell phones do when you write text messages.
phundug, Jan 07 2005

       think of the keyboards that transcriptionists use in courts isnt there different forces used on those keys?
rmtmaine, Jan 07 2005

       You'd need the skill of, say, Vladimir Horowitz to get any accuracy I think.
bristolz, Jan 07 2005

       Are there tigers involved?
blissmiss, Jan 07 2005

       It made me think of a trapped pen type interface, similar to the single key except that there are more directions of action:
The pen is non-moving, and uses force sensors in each direction. As the user tries to write, the pen registers the force, but does not move.
This could be used on the lap, desk, paper, anywhere that a small base could be held in position.
Letters could be drawn in a fashion similar to the Palm interface, but I think it could be more sophisticated since pressure in the up and down direction could be important.
Also, the display wouldn't wear out.
Ling, Jan 07 2005

       So if your cellphone had this feature and you sat on it just the right way, what messages might you be sending?
lintkeeper2, Jan 07 2005

       As [Tiromancer] points out, this wouldn't work. Shame really, as it's a neat idea.
wagster, Jan 07 2005

       It's not that it wouldn't work; it would just be difficult to use. As a numerical input it would be awkward, and as a keyboard it would be agonizing.   

       I'm sure that sounds harsh, but you have to take it in context. There are precious few cellphones or PDAs that I wouldn't describe in exactly the same way.   

       Plenty of ways to make this workable have been suggested above. A combination of visual feedback, as mentioned by [FarmerJohn], and aural feedback, as mentioned by [Ian Tindale], combined with the potential for more compact and ergonomic devices, might make this preferable to the usual 14 key layout.   

       Giving the button some travel, or vibrating it with a varying frequency, would also help.   

       You could try this out on the computer with currently existing parts and software. Personally, I'd do it with a 2 axis controller -- one direction for numbers, one for functions and punctuation, two for letters -- but that might actually make it harder to use.
tiromancer, Jan 07 2005

       This is possible - by 'steering' your input in a binomial way (ie. key press or not). The Dasher project (an information efficient text input project) at Cambridge, is a fantastic input device simply relying on mouse direction - link above. Would only need a few tweaks for a single key operation.[+]
Anchovy, Jan 07 2005

       In the light of [tiromancer]'s anno, I am revising my opinion. The laptop I am using has a nipple <butthead> huh..huh..</butthead> to control the pointer. It would be fairly simple to scroll up and down a line of letters and click the one you want, in fact I do just that when I log on to my bank account. Imagine the nipple was on the phone and down the left side of the screen was a vertical column of letters from A to F. The centre letter is highlighted and the nipple scrolls the alphabet up and down, a click down selecting the letter. You easily write a text like that. Vote changed.
wagster, Jan 07 2005

       Pity when that one button breaks from over use.   

       BTW: yes, this would be Morse Code.
sophocles, Jan 08 2005

       When the first Vikings came to Britain to trade saying, "I vant dis, dis, dat, dat, dat, dis, dat ...", were they using Norse Code?
FarmerJohn, Jan 08 2005

       They can't even make buttons that work. I've had my sony ericsson replaced twice due to button failure.   

       For something that is used as often as a key on a keyboard or number pad or volume key on a phone, it fails over time.   

       Now concentrate all of your keystrokes on this one button.   

       Can't possibly last.
Giblet, Jan 08 2005

       We're not really talking about the same kind of buttons here. Think Playstation 2.   

       Actually, it could also be a slider, say on the side of the phone. That's getting further and further from the idea though.
tiromancer, Jan 08 2005

       A series of bumps in the braile format of a single charatcer under your finger, so as you press you can feel the character under your finger change until you select it. You'll learn braile, and have your one button feasibly working.
Giblet, Jan 08 2005

       This could work like that old arcade game Tempest, where the cursor would move around the outer edge of a circular keyboard representation and pressure on the button would click each letter or icon.

On a side note I could swear that I've read the moniker Ian Tindale before today, is this a re-newed account? Just curious.

       //On a side note...// Heh. How short their memories. Mr. Tindale is the stuff of legends in these parts, as well as being a published author of technical texts on Flash XML, Photoshop 7 and Illustrator 10. [blissmiss] offered you a clue above. If that's not good enough, think "Illustrated Man".
jurist, Jan 08 2005

       Ah, why thank you.   

       In order for the user to distinguish between 10 different types of pressure on the one-key interface, you would need to have 10 different levels of force feedback. The force-feedback is increased as the key moves through it's full range of travel. It is increased in discrete steps, rather than gradually, so the user can feel the sudden changes.   

       On the underside of the key, there could be a plunger, that would penetrate 10 different layers of material, each with increasing density. For example, the first layer would be air (no resistance), then the second layer could be hollandaise sauce, the third layer could be egg yolk, the fourth layer egg white, the fifth layer mozzerella, and so on down to the sausage, english muffin, and paper plate. Each layer would be about 5mm thick, for a total travel of the key = 5 centimeters. The device would use a cereal interface of course.   

       To give the user even more feedback, different sound effects would be heard as each successive layer is attained in the keypress.
robinism, Jan 12 2005

       Sound effects like "A", "B" etc?

P.S. in what seems to be the HB running in-joke, I would have expected you to suggest custard in one of your layers.
Ling, Jan 12 2005

       A more elegant solution would be a keyboard with 10 keys. The layout would be such that you could place both your hands over the keys. You would access individual letters/symbols by holding down the correct combination. This would allow for a combination of 1024 letters and symbols. While I was originally thinking 8 keys to allow 256 combinations, the ten key solution seems more... human friendly.
proto13, Jan 12 2005

       ...and is only a few keys short of conventional mobile phones in their current state.
Ian Tindale, Jan 12 2005

       Isn't proto13's suggestion known as a "chord" keyboard?
half, Jan 12 2005

       Apply this idea to a workstation. Just one big button, made of soft rubber. You sit on it. Flexing your glutes, your weight shifts from one bun to the other and a screen pointer moves up and down the alphabet. Select by tapping your foot on a special foot mouse.

It works your ass off.
ldischler, Jan 12 2005

       Don't forget a forehead-powered version for those days when nothing ever seems to go right...
prufrax, Jan 12 2005

Worldgineer, Jan 12 2005


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