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OrbiTouch Keyless Keyboard Review 347

Posted by michael
from the forsaking-qwerty dept.
robyn217 writes "When I last looked at strange, new keyboards (here's the previous thread here on slashdot), I thought I'd seen it all... not even close! I just reviewed a new keyless keyboard, called the OrbiTouch, and gave it a run for its money. It's literally made up of two humps--it reminds me of holding onto my knees rather a keyboard. To type or mouse, you need to move the humps around in a synchronized manner. It's twisted--but it's better for you to decide for yourself--here's the article, OrbiTouch Review: A Keyless Keyboard with lots of pictures. Think you'll give it a test drive? Will it survive the year?"
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OrbiTouch Keyless Keyboard Review

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  • Touchless (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Stormcrow309 (590240)
    It would be great if it works as advertise. I am a Laptop user myself and it would help. I don't know if I could get use to the no feel response.
  • price (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Wakkow (52585) * on Friday May 30, 2003 @02:22PM (#6078953) Homepage
    According to the last page of the review, it costs $695. Interesting concept but .... need I say more?
    • Re:price (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Fancy78 (471787) on Friday May 30, 2003 @02:30PM (#6079068)
      Because some of us have RSI and simply can not type with out pain. It would be a bargain if it would let me continue my career.
      • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 30, 2003 @02:33PM (#6079097)
        How did you post that message?

        Are you really willing to go through the pain of typing with RSI just to be heard on slashdot?
      • Number of people with RSI willing to pay vs. cost of keeping company alive . . .?

        i agree, for that price, cool concept or not, how long can it last . . .

        • Re:price (Score:4, Interesting)

          by interiot (50685) on Friday May 30, 2003 @02:36PM (#6079130) Homepage
          Especially because it can seemingly be replaced with two cheap 8-way joysticks. That's all it is, two joysticks with fancy boob coverings.
          • Re:price (Score:2, Insightful)

            by vmfedor (586158)
            That's not the point. The whole idea behind this fancy contraption is to make sure that wrist/finger movement is kept to a minimum. Joysticks require a lot of wrist movement.

            • Re:price (Score:5, Funny)

              by interiot (50685) on Friday May 30, 2003 @02:52PM (#6079313) Homepage
              So glue some of these [fredericks.com] (not necessarily work safe, depending on your employer's opinion on synthetics) to two 8-way joysticks. It's still far cheaper.
              • Give this man the $10,000! I think we've found our winner.

            • I can see it now... combine the Orbi with the Real Doll [realdoll.com].... A USB adapter coming out of her side....

              No really, I need this for work...
          • An alternative to 8-way joysticks might just be two optical mice. Software can easily determine the 8 different directions of movement for each independent mouse and combine the different combinations into a single key-click equivalent. With mice you would have the added benefit that they can be placed anywhere in front you rather than the fixed distance between the pads on this device. Even better an escape sequence could be added so one or both mice toggle between character entry and mouse pointing.
      • Re:price (Score:5, Interesting)

        by hpavc (129350) on Friday May 30, 2003 @03:13PM (#6079496)
        the problem i have is that this style of input is that it transfers the labour of input motion from the wrists and lower arms to the lower arms and shoulder. especially with the dual input and fast small mtions.

        if you suffer like i do, the referred pains after using this are terrible. now you feel pain arms shoulder and neck.

        in my opinion its all about this product ...

        http://www.fingerworks.com/touchstream_products. ht ml ... but its got its own price problem and it does take a while to use. but its unix friendly and the emacs movements are a real nice way of showing it off
    • Re:price (Score:5, Funny)

      by errxn (108621) on Friday May 30, 2003 @03:32PM (#6079697) Homepage Journal
      The article says: Just reach down with both hands and grab your knees...

      $695? I think that I'll just go ahead and grab my ankles...

  • and you've got it made. Sorta like what divers have to use. my biggest complaint about keyboards is their limited motion.... I can relearn to type (tho it would be rather hard, I admit)... just give me a keyboard I can use with 1 hand and rest it wherever I need to (no jokes about a keyboard in your lap, etc ;P)

    Besides, that many keystrokes combined with a good mouse might make sims such as Americas Army quite a bit more interesting ;-)
  • $695 YOW! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Bold Marauder (673130) <boldmarauder&gmail,com> on Friday May 30, 2003 @02:24PM (#6078978) Homepage
    I think I can wait until I see it at wal-mart for $99, thanks.
  • ugh. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Quasar1999 (520073) on Friday May 30, 2003 @02:25PM (#6078985) Journal
    This is one of the few peices of computer technology that needs to have a better upgrade path... I mean, I get a new video card every year or two... and a complete new system at least once every 4 years... the damn keyboard hasn't changed much in at least the last 10... The MS Natural keyboard was the last 'major' update to the keyboard design, and it wasn't much more than simply splitting it in two... Barely qualifing as an evolution on the design

    When are we going to have some real changes? I want something that allows me to enter data as fast as I can think... Why can't we come up with a better general input device??? Keyboards SUCK!
    • Re:ugh. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by vadim_t (324782) on Friday May 30, 2003 @02:33PM (#6079102) Homepage
      Well, I think that this means that the keyboard practically reached perfection.

      CPUs can be improved a lot, but the keyboard has been doing its job just fine for a long time. If we're still using the same design as 10 years ago then it means that simply no improvement is needed.

      Other fancy replacements didn't gain any noticeable market share. Voice recognition is still far from perfect and is noticeably slower. I suppose a direct interface to the computer might finally replace the keyboard, but I doubt that will become available any time soon.
    • Re:ugh. (Score:4, Informative)

      by Angry White Guy (521337) <CaptainBurly[AT]goodbadmovies.com> on Friday May 30, 2003 @02:37PM (#6079154)
      MS did not create, nor implement the first natural keyboard. Check out the PCD--Maltron keyboard [teleprint.com].
    • I want something that allows me to enter data as fast as I can think...

      So, you'd like a jack in the back of your head like that in The Matrix?

    • Major Difference (Score:2, Insightful)

      by jared_hanson (514797)
      User interface is the major issue here. When I upgrade a video card or CPU, I don't have to learn anything new. I just stick it in and my computer performs better.

      Most users want what they are comfortable with. Relearning how to type every two to three years would be a nightmare. This is why applications generally keep the same interface over consecutive versions. Under the hood, they are better, but to the user they appear mostly the same.

      Things are done this way because they work.
    • I disagree (Score:5, Interesting)

      by ebuck (585470) on Friday May 30, 2003 @03:00PM (#6079381)
      All keyboards just need to report their keycodes to the machine (where the keyboard driver/definition translates them into the actual text encoding) The techonology has been around for years, and is quite flexible allowing multiple language specific keyboards to be attached to the same hardware.

      What is needed is really a user upgrade. People have invested a lot of time in learing exactly where the letters are located on their particular keyboard. (I know this as I recently had to "relean" the locations of various keys on a Spanish keyboard). Imagine asking someone to memorize (to the point of not thinking about it) the various dual-joystick combinations to type out a typical email. Or if not this device, the various mouse gestures (mouse based keyboard), hand wriggling (joystick based keyboard), eye-control (for eye-tracking keyboard), or other method of input.

      Certainly there will be adopters, but there will be a rough cost-benifit analysis by the masses. Most that will conclude it's more expensive to learn new keyboard type when the new keyboard only offers the same functionality of inputting text into a computer.
    • Re:ugh. (Score:3, Interesting)

      by tramm (16077)
      Quasar wrote:

      This is one of the few peices of computer technology that needs to have a better upgrade path... I mean, I get a new video card every year or two... and a complete new system at least once every 4 years... the damn keyboard hasn't changed much in at least the last 10...

      In fact, I haven't upgraded my keyboard in 10 years. I love my Model M [modelm.org] IBM keyboard. It has outlasted eight computers so far. It seems that many other people [google.com] like the Model M enough to write fan-sites about them [3m3718.com].

    • Well, if you looked over the article and especially the keyboard pictures, the movements are basically "Street Fighter 2" style moves. For example, to do a fireball with Ryu, one simply need to do a "down,down-forward,forward "

      On the same token to type a 'd', you need to do "back,forward". I credit the creator of the device for taking moves that are used in fighting games and using them in unique ways(like this keyboard).

      In fighting games, you have endless number of moves, which I've seen many people(no
  • Not just for RSI (Score:5, Interesting)

    by fastdecade (179638) on Friday May 30, 2003 @02:27PM (#6079013)
    From the article:

    why would anyone design a keyboard like this? In one simple word, comfort.

    There are also other reasons why keyboard alternatives like this are cool. Disabled users, obviously. Also for typing where you can't be very accurate, e.g. while riding a bike.

    Hmmm wonder if you could type with your feet while surfing during lunch ...
    • Also for typing where you can't be very accurate, e.g. while riding a bike.

      I hope your life insurance provider doesn't see this.

    • I think I've misread you, but . . .

      Typing while /riding a bike?/

      I don't know about you, but when I'm riding my bike, I'm paying attention to the BIG-ASS FORD BIGGER-THAN-FUCK-ALL EXCURSIONS flying past me at fifty miles per hour. Typing is the least of my concerns when there are inattentive soccer moms fighting with their spoiled honkey kids sitting in the back of their suburban combat vehicles.
      • Which is why we need to do design something that lets you think/move/talk/see as if you were not inputing anything, but while "reading your thoughts" as to what you want to happen on any wearable screen you can think of.

        Then again I doubt I would like my boss to recieve an e-mail going something like " ... and I expect our revenues to be OH **** THAT **** SUBERBAN JUST ALMOST *** ME UP. I HATE THOSE ... up for the quarter ... "

      • "...when I'm riding my bike, I'm paying attention to the BIG-[@#$] FORD BIGGER-THAN-[#$&%]-ALL EXCURSIONS flying past me at fifty miles per hour."

        Dude! I know exactly what you mean! Has there ever been a vehicle more suitable for bicycle drafting??!! Semis go way too slow, but these things have nearly the same cross-section, and their little bitty drivers drive 'em like speed bikes. Since they have no concept of their size, they actually pass close enough to the bike to gimme an extra 5mph!
  • Knees, eh? (Score:5, Funny)

    by rice_burners_suck (243660) on Friday May 30, 2003 @02:27PM (#6079016)
    Hmmm... If it's like holding onto some hot girl's knees...
  • Luv it!! (Score:3, Funny)

    by eclectic_echidna (586735) on Friday May 30, 2003 @02:27PM (#6079023)
    I just grabbed my knees, and boy is that comfortable!
  • Hey! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Bob McCown (8411) on Friday May 30, 2003 @02:28PM (#6079028)
    Hey, a breast-shaped keyboard. Just what a geek needs to surf pr0n!
    • Exactly what kind of boobs are YOU people looking at, anyhow!? This thing looks like a pair of mirrored Logitech mice stuck onto a keyboard, and I'm pretty sure the *last* thing I'd mistake them for is *breasts*.
    • by t0qer (230538)
      Might as well keep the 8008 jokes on the same thread :P

      How long before this is integrated into the [fu-fme.com]
      fufme unit?
    • Re:Hey! (Score:2, Funny)

      by crux6rind (609204)
      if it made of squishable latex and came with light brown color option, im sold
  • by Numeric (22250) * on Friday May 30, 2003 @02:28PM (#6079031) Homepage Journal
    i think a victoria secret bra might be a decent keyboard cover.
    • The article says that people have an innate idea that they need twisted. This could be the reason right here, their subconcious likens them to brests!

      At least they don't feel they have to lick whip cream off of them... I hate sticky keyboards :P

  • Ooooooo.... (Score:3, Funny)

    by GeneralEmergency (240687) on Friday May 30, 2003 @02:28PM (#6079032) Journal

    ....I can see the market now for anatomically correct, er, grip enhancements for this baby!

  • by revscat (35618) on Friday May 30, 2003 @02:29PM (#6079043) Journal

    From the article:

    Despite--or maybe because of--the OrbitTouch's similarity to the female anatomy, it's very comfortable to use. Your hands rest very naturally on the twin domes.

    So, instead of clacking away on a keyboard all day I can basically feel up boobies while I work?

    Is there a downside to this?

  • Ahem.... (Score:3, Funny)

    by Hilleh (561336) <hilleh.email@com> on Friday May 30, 2003 @02:29PM (#6079048) Homepage
    There's a VERY good reason that I like to be able to have one hand free when I surf the web....

    Drinking soda, of course.
  • by stuckatwork (622157) on Friday May 30, 2003 @02:30PM (#6079060)
    The Datahand system, reviewed here [extremetech.com] has a price of $1,295 USD.

    Wow. 'Taint cheap, eh?
  • by reyalsnogard (595701) on Friday May 30, 2003 @02:30PM (#6079063)
    I can imagine it now -- a geek-wife request: Pretend I'm an OrbiTouch and type something provocative to me, honey!

    Brings to meaning to the term 'hands on.'
  • From the article:
    The standard equation for typing has always been,
    Typing Equation:
    Wrist movement + Finger pressing = Keystroke
    Even the entrants in the first round of keyboards we reviewed rarely dared to rework this basic equation. It's as simple and accepted as,
    Yellow + Blue = Green


    I would say that's not universally true. In my mind, Yellow + Blue = White. I call shennanigans on your analogy.
    • If you were talking about light,
      Yellow light + Blue light = white light
      You are correct.

      They were probably refering to mixing paint, so they should say:
      Yellow + Cyan = green

      IMHO, I doubt any non-geek or non-artist type will know what cyan is.
    • I knew people were going to respond to this by pointing out that sometimes Yellow + Blue = Green, and sometimes it equals White. But my point was that the author was using this equation as an example of a never-questioned axiom of keyboard design. This is a bad analogy.
  • Get A Grip! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by PRES_00 (657776)
    The learning curve on this device is way too high!
    You might as well use two mice with specialized software to have the same effect. At such a high price, I won't even glance at it. Who will carry such monstrosity to work and home?
    • It's a specialist, niche device. Hence the high $$$ - economies of scale and all that.

      In the world of RSI keyboards, it's not an uncompetitive price, and whilst the learning curve is high, if it enables you to work then surely it'll pay for itself in no time?

      I don't think the transportation is an issue. Who carries a keyboard around with them anyway? (not withstanding the foldable palm types).
  • by kajoob (62237) on Friday May 30, 2003 @02:31PM (#6079073)
    this will never work as most geeks have little to no experience cupping their hands around two large mounds - the learning curve is just way too steep
  • by dspyder (563303) on Friday May 30, 2003 @02:32PM (#6079088)
    Really, the only way any of these options will catch on is if people can standardize. Switching between ABCDEFG keyboards (like on my 2way pager and a lot of games) and QWERTY is hard enough. If you have to have a different keyboard at work, home, the library, internet terminal, etc. nobody will ever learn these odd (though likely better) keyboards.

    --D
    • Eh.

      I'd say there /is/ a fairly standard (note: I said FAIRLY) keyboard arrangement, and it's called QWERTY. Why do I say this? In the hundreds of millions of computers and typewriters out there in the world that most people interface with, the vast majority of those are QWERTY.

      Some use Dvorak, and others still use more obscure setups, but the established standard, if you want to call it one, is QWERTY. Walk into ChumpUSA, Wally World, Worst Buy, Circuit Shitty, or any other major retalier, and all of the
  • DVORAK (Score:3, Insightful)

    by gerf (532474) <edtgerf@gmail.com> on Friday May 30, 2003 @02:33PM (#6079099) Journal

    Really, instead of some huge leap, i suggest switching away from QWERTY first. Qwerty was made to slow typing, by making you reach for keys. The reason for this being that the original typewriters would jam if you typed too fast. Obviously, this leads to carpal tunnel, and all that good stuff. DVORAK and some other keyboard formats are made to make it easier, faster, and easier to accurately type. I'm not switching yet, but i'm thinking about it. One of my friends did, and he loves it.

    New keyboards are neat and all, but they're still first designs, first revisions. If i'm to try something new (new to me), i'll wait for a year, and see if it's really beneficial. If it is, then i'll look at the cost, and if it's worth it. At this time, this product seems to be more eye candy and "if i have more toys, i win" than actually worthwile. Point: if my g/f wants to use my computer, do i have to switch keyboards? Really, i don't see the $600 benefit in that. not yet at least.

    • Make the switch to Dvorak, and as long as you are not forced to use any other keymap by work circumstances and whatnot, you will never look back. I can't vouch for trying to use both keymaps alternatively, I switched over outright about two years ago now. Things I have noticed about this:

      1. I have no idea whether it is really faster or not, although the world record was apparently set on a keyboard like this. However, it has improved my typing speed very much, for the simple reason that looking at the k
    • Re:DVORAK (Score:2, Informative)

      by asherh (149627)
      QWERTY wasn't designed to slow typing, it was designed to move the hammers for letters that would frequently be typed in sequence further apart. The further apart two hammers are, the faster they can be used in sequence since each hammer has to fall back less far before it is out of jamming range of the next hammer.

      The utility of new layouts like Dvorak is dubious at best, giving only a small improvement after a lot of training, and causing problems when one has to switch between different machines with d

    • QWERTY was not made to slow down typing. It was made to reduce jamming on old typewriters. This was not necessarily done by slowing down the typists. This was done by placing the keys in such a configuration, such that no two successive keys were right beside eachother. This was the way it reduced jamming, not by slowing the typist down. This is one of the most misunderstood things about the keyboard
  • I'd have to say I am not the only one to immediately think of a pair of "surrugate" breasts when looking at this thing... interesting design decision.
  • It's been around for a few years now.

    I remember seeing them quite some time ago when I was looking for alternate input methods for wearable computing.

  • This would have been great last year when I had 2 broken wrists due to a snowboarding accident, except for the cost. I looked into a couple of alternatives like the Twiddler [handykey.com], a one-handed keyboard alternative, but even for $220 couldn't the cost for a 4 - 6 week typing replacement. For someone with a more permanent condition, this looks like a fascinating alternative.

    This just in: NabiSCO to sue SCO for trademark violation
  • >Despite--or maybe because of--the OrbitTouch's >similarity to the female anatomy, it's very >comfortable to use. Your hands rest very >naturally on the twin domes.

    Good Lord, what has he done.

    The jokes are endless.
  • by drdale (677421) on Friday May 30, 2003 @02:38PM (#6079155)
    Maybe the "female anatomy" should come with the same warning label.
  • Nipples (Score:5, Funny)

    by CaptCanuk (245649) on Friday May 30, 2003 @02:38PM (#6079157) Journal
    Millions in research and they left out the nipples. Didn't the QA department notice this minor glitch. Oh, you mean it's actually a keyboard? nm.

    • They could add a those thinkpad mouse track nubs to the top as nipples and then you could control your mouse too, although it would probably get difficult if they got excited :)
  • . . . and all I can say is, "Are those tits?"
  • by GeneralEmergency (240687) on Friday May 30, 2003 @02:41PM (#6079183) Journal


    OrbitTouch?? Sucky Name. You guys shoulda gone with the more obvious "BoobieBoard" .

  • Remember Karate Champ (1984 Coin-op)?

    Looks like basically the same interface, but without the flying flowerpots and of course the bull!

  • 120+ wpm (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Strike (220532) on Friday May 30, 2003 @02:44PM (#6079217)
    What I wonder is what the response time is in like one of these things ... is it even technically possible to achieve speeds of 120+ wpm on it? (i.e., is the signaling rate of the "orbs" good enough to handle 8 chars per second) Not only that, how fast would a person's wrists have to move on average to move the N millimeters that it takes to do an average "keystroke"?

    Also, though I haven't looked at it in comparison to letter frequency, their schema for keystrokes seemed suboptimal, but still pretty good. For example, transitioning from "t" to "h" (arguably one of the most common two-letter combinations in all of typing) requires going from up,right to right,left instead of just leaving one dome the same and moving the other. Same thing with going from "i" to "n" (also very common), you have to go from up,down to down,lower-left. It's a minor thing, but it seems that attention to these things could have a significant impact upon the ease of use (less motion required, which is supposed to be one of their big selling points), and the speed at which people can type on it (if you don't have to move as far, you key faster - kinda like how Dvorak is more optimal than QWERTY).
  • notepad? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Quill_28 (553921) on Friday May 30, 2003 @02:44PM (#6079220) Journal
    >I have the chord Control-Alt-Z set up to launch the trusty ol' Notepad (no better application for writing HTML).

    Ahhhh, 2nd year CS students could write a better editor.

    vi, my friend, vi

    even emacs is better :-)

    No wonder he worried about CTS
  • they say (Score:5, Funny)

    by zephc (225327) on Friday May 30, 2003 @02:50PM (#6079287)
    that the only intuitive interface is the nipple, and that everything after that is learned. Therefore, I suggest someone come up with a computer interface device that is a nipple one puts in one's mouth, and sucks and bites in various ways. Uh, yeah, thats it.
  • by Sebastopol (189276) on Friday May 30, 2003 @02:54PM (#6079330) Homepage
    If it was flesh colored with a clit and an umbelical cord, it would look like Cronenbergs VR devices from Existenz.

    Oh wait, if I had to grab a pair of breasts every time I needed to get some work done...

  • Negative! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by FreeLinux (555387) on Friday May 30, 2003 @02:54PM (#6079334)
    Having looked at the how it works [keybowl.com] section it becomes apparent that this is not the answer. Individual letters are "typed" by chord like movements of both hands. Some what akin to using two joysticks to type. This is neither easy nor intuitive. And that is the biggest sticking point.

    Input devices such as keyboards and mice need to be intuitive and easy to use. Keyboards are very intuitive, a panel full of labeled buttons is presented. Pressing one of the buttons prints the label on the screen. Even very young children have no problem figuring out how to use a keyboard. Indeed the only thing you need to "learn" about using a keyboard is the actual key placement as a QWERTY is not intuitive key placement for the uninitiated. Just watch a five year old at the keyboard and you will know what I mean. Then imagine th same five year old trying to figure out the OrbiTouch.

    I'm afraid to say that we cannot expect further advancement beyond the regular keyboard. It has been advanced to the fullest useful level possible. To get to the next level a totally different input device will be required, not a keyboard at all. The last such step that we have seen in input devices was the mouse, now >30 years old. The next step in input devices will be either voice recognition or some form of direct mind-to-pc interface. Right now, voice recognition seems to be the closest to reallity but, given its imaturity, it is still a few years off.
  • Yep (Score:3, Funny)

    by heli0 (659560) on Friday May 30, 2003 @03:12PM (#6079490)
    "Will it survive the year?"

    Considering that it came out before Christmas of 2000 [google.com] (hint: ~2.4 years ago), I'd say there is a pretty good chance.
  • by teamhasnoi (554944) <teamhasnoi&yahoo,com> on Friday May 30, 2003 @03:16PM (#6079525) Homepage Journal
    1ts gerate!?! i Lub tHoe ease ayt wich i can tiping@@@

    I sugarest erybondy get ron too$!!

  • Uh, FPS? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by cyberElvis (309765)
    How i am supposed to frag terrorists in CS with this thing! According to the article it is either in mouse mode or keyboard mode at one time. QWERTY makes FPS fans happy.
  • WPM? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Tony.Tang (164961) <slashdot@@@sleek...hn...org> on Friday May 30, 2003 @03:25PM (#6079620) Homepage Journal
    I didn't read the review too carefully, but I don't think a fundamental question was addressed. In my opinion, the thing that will make or break this product for me is the answer to the following question:

    How fast can you type with this thing?!

    The reviewer should consider using the thing for a month (exclusively), and tell us whether he learned how to do use it in the end. Furthermore, he should tell us what his WPM is with a regular keyboard, and what his WPM is with this thing is (in a month's time).

    The assumption with giving him a month's time is that the novelty (for me) would last about a month. If most people wouldn't be up to keyboard speed in a month, I can't imagine many people sticking to it.

  • by porky_pig_jr (129948) on Friday May 30, 2003 @03:26PM (#6079628)
    a joystick in between ...

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