Before we all ended up with smartphones consisting of nothing more than a giant touchscreen, we had dumb phones with just a sufficient number of physical keys to make a phone call. Yet, we were able to quickly type out text messages — often without even looking at the screen. That was thanks to the tactility of the keys, and input technologies like T9 that made it possible to type the full alphabet using just a 3×4 keyboard. The rise of smartphones has been beneficial in most ways, but it has made it difficult to type one-handed. Dougie Mann’s TypeCase is a chord-based gestural keyboard that is bringing back that possibility.
This isn’t just a matter of convenience for those of us who want to text without walking into a telephone pole. TypeCase also provides accessibility for those who only have use of one hand, or who don’t have good eyesight. That’s because it allows you to type using chords, similar to how stenotype machines are operated by stenographers. With this case, you can use one hand to type on your smartphone’s keyboard using tactile buttons without even looking at your screen, and all you have to do is learn the chords. Theoretically, it can speed up text input and reduce repetitive stress injuries.
TypeCase is designed to resemble a conventional smartphone case — though it is a bit thicker. It connects to your phone via Bluetooth, so it should work with any phone model. The prototype TypeCase was created using an Adafruit Feather board with Bluetooth LE (Low Energy) built-in. Also inside of the case are a battery and five tactile buttons arranged around the edges. Specific letters are input by pushing one or more of those buttons in the correct pattern. There is an integrated IMU (Inertial Measurement Unit) that can be used to detect gestures as well, like waving the phone to erase a message. This is just a prototype for now, but certainly has the potential to become a commercial product.
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Author: Cameron Coward