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CES: Another Chording Keyboard Hits the Market (Video) 101

Posted by Roblimo
from the we-love-all-inventors-no-matter-what dept.
Wayne Rasanen's Decatxt chording keyboard may be new and exciting to him, and he says has a patent on it so apparently the USPTO found it novel and original, but it's not the first chording keyboard by many long shots. The idea has been around (at least) since 1968. And let's not forget Braille chording keyboards, as described in a 1992 IEEE paper. And if you have an iPhone and want to experiment with a virtual Braille chording keyboard, there's an app for that. Maybe we're just jaded. Or maybe we've known a lot of blind people who used one-handed Braille chording keyboards to type as fast with one hand as a sighted person using a QWERTY keyboard and two hands. So it's hard for us to get excited about a chording keyboard. Be that as it may, we wish Wayne Rasanen all the luck in the world as he brings his invention to market.

Timothy Lord: Wayne Rasanen is not an engineer nor an interface designer, at least he didn’t use to be. But when he was sick of being an awkward typer, he did what anyone would do really and he invented his own chording keyboard, even before he knew what a chording keyboard was. Now he has got a patent on his own design and he got a few different versions of it. He gave me a small tour of his keyboard which has 10 keys so he calls it the Decatxt.

Wayne Rasanen: Hi, my name is Wayne Rasanen. I am the inventor of the in10did Decatxt.

Timothy Lord: Okay. And what is that?

Wayne Rasanen: This is a keyboard. This replaces the entire QWERTY keyboard. It replaces over 100 key strokes with one hand.

Timothy Lord: Okay. Now how does it do that, give some examples?

Wayne Rasanen: Well, basically it’s a simple press, hold one button and press another and you’ve got 100 combinations with 10 keys. So very short simple chords.

Timothy Lord: So, you can do this with one hand?

Wayne Rasanen: Yes, basically hold it against yourself and I’ll just go through the alphabet real quick.

Timothy Lord: Sure.

Wayne Rasanen: So it’s just ABCDEFGHIJ, hold one thumb; read through the red letters KLMNOPQR; move to the blue, STUVWXYZ.

Timothy Lord: How fast can you type on this?

Wayne Rasanen: Basically not being a real coordinator person, I’m 15 to 20 words a minute.

Timothy Lord: Okay. If you could do it per second that will be great.

Wayne Rasanen: Yeah, exactly.

Timothy Lord: All right. Now this is a USB interface?

Wayne Rasanen: USB interface and we’re just rolling out the Bluetooth.

Timothy Lord: About what will it sell for?

Wayne Rasanen: $100 for the Bluetooth and $69 for the USB.

Timothy Lord: And the USB version, that’s already available now, is that right?

Wayne Rasanen: We’ve had the USB out for a little while. We sold some and we pulled it back little bit, because we wanted to get ready for the show and didn’t want to have to worry about too much else, but we’re going to be rolling them both out again.

Timothy Lord: All right. How did you come up with this idea?

Wayne Rasanen: Well, I was not really a very good typer and lacking simple coordination hitting multiple keys. I thought, well wouldn’t it be nice if I could type and I didn’t have to move my hands. And I thought, well, if you’ve got 10 fingers with two opposable thumbs and there is 26 letters in the alphabet, so a single press for the first 10 letters, hold one thumb for 8, hold the other thumb for 8, 8 and 8 is 16 plus 10 is 26, it just worked out perfectly. I thought, well, somebody must have come up with that before, but I looked all over the place and couldn’t find it. So basically put together all the rest of the key strokes and went and filed for a patent application.

Timothy Lord: Now does this take care of all the keys on a conventional PC keyboard then?

Wayne Rasanen: It takes care of every key stroke on a conventional keyboard.

Timothy Lord: Okay. So, the fact that it’s USB means it’s pretty universal, the one that’s out now?

Wayne Rasanen: It plugs in and works immediately with PCs, Mac, Linux. It works with Xbox, works with PlayStation, works with the Wii, anything we plugged it in USB.

Timothy Lord: If you wouldn’t mind, would you mind holding up that other, your player, your controller there?

Wayne Rasanen: Sure. This was a concept that we came with, we call this the Textskin, it was just a wraparound skin that you can put on your Xbox 360 controller and give you the entire keyboard. And we felt that the application for this was to help move MMORPGs on to the consoles.

Timothy Lord: Cool. So, any other products that we should look for from you?

Wayne Rasanen: Well, one of the other applications that we see is really kind of controversial as we put it on the steering wheel. And the idea of having it on the steering wheel is that, with the keys on the wheel you’re never looking at a keyboard. Your fingers are always on the wheel and then you have a heads up display, so your eyes stay on the road. And we feel that’s a much safer way to go and probably the application is more for police, military, fire rescue, people that are already using a laptop but rather than reaching over here or reaching for buttons, keep their hands on the wheel.

Timothy Lord: Great. Anything else I should know about it? Anything else I should know?

Wayne Rasanen: Well, we think that there is lots of different applications for gamers just having the entire keyboard in one hand and a mouse in the other, gives an complete access to every keystroke without having to look to where their fingers have to go. So, we also see it as a sister technology device for people that have had a stroke or ALS where they don’t have the large motor skills but they’ve got some fine motor skills, or blind, people that are in need, we see that as being a definitely a beneficial product for them.

Timothy Lord: Now, you demonstrated for me earlier something that I’d like to see again is, typing with two hands, using a telephone basically as your base?

Wayne Rasanen: Well, that was another thing that we are looking at is, combining it with the back of a phone so that you would be able to type on the back of the phone rather than having to poke at the front. And the neat thing about that is when you do have an error or the predictive text gives you the wrong word, rather than having to backspace over it all, you can just use the cursor keys which are severely lacking on most such screens.

Timothy Lord: Absolutely. All right, thanks very much.

Wayne Rasanen: My pleasure.

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CES: Another Chording Keyboard Hits the Market (Video)

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 23, 2013 @03:04PM (#42672223)

    Wow...no need to be nasty.

    There may have been many chording keyboards on the market over the past decades, but clearly nobody has really gotten the design right. There's plenty of demand in the industrial/commercial/warehouse/field work markets for good one-handed data entry. Nothing has stuck.

    This guy is trying. Maybe he has figured out the magicsauce. He probably hasn't. Either way, there's no need for Slashdot editors to be total dicks about it.

  • Re:target market (Score:5, Insightful)

    by blind biker (1066130) on Wednesday January 23, 2013 @03:05PM (#42672235) Journal

    In my office there are only like three people who can type without looking at their keyboard.

    I really hope that there are only about 5 people in your office, or else it seems like your company is employing morons.

  • Re:That must hurt (Score:5, Insightful)

    by myxiplx (906307) on Wednesday January 23, 2013 @03:15PM (#42672363)

    Yup, that looks about as ergonomic as a medieval rack, and with a simple linear set of letter combinations and no apparent thought gone in to making them easy to use.

    The Agenda micro writer my baby sister had back in the 1990's was light years ahead of this.

  • by timeOday (582209) on Wednesday January 23, 2013 @03:16PM (#42672375)
    ...unless you're going to at least bother to track down the patent in question and link to it, so we can decide for ourselves whether anything in it is interesting. I would guess there is more to it than just the basic idea of chording.
  • by jandrese (485) <kensama@vt.edu> on Wednesday January 23, 2013 @03:25PM (#42672493) Homepage Journal
    Theoretically these chord keyboards would allow someone to work one-handed and use their other hand for something else, but in practice typing takes too much brainpower to really split your attention anyway and these chord keyboards just increase the load on your brain. In the end it seems that most people with a lot of practice can get 50-75% of their normal typing speed with these, which is just sort of annoying when you could just use a regular keyboard and get 100% and then shift both hands over to whatever other task you need to do.

    There might be a few niche markets for these products, but historically they have never been able to sustain a product. It just takes too much training for mediocre results. There's too much compromise inherent in the product.
  • Re:That must hurt (Score:5, Insightful)

    by camperdave (969942) on Wednesday January 23, 2013 @03:40PM (#42672629) Journal
    Exactly. Your most common letters should be on the strongest fingers. For right handed English speakers, that means the right index finger should be E, not A; and the right middle finger should be T, not B.
  • Re:target market (Score:5, Insightful)

    by camperdave (969942) on Wednesday January 23, 2013 @03:42PM (#42672655) Journal
    Your company needs to send folks on a touch typing course, then, because hundreds of people hunt-and-peck typing is wasting all sorts of man-hours of time.
  • Re:target market (Score:4, Insightful)

    by PoolOfThought (1492445) on Wednesday January 23, 2013 @04:59PM (#42673375)

    Why go into business to make a product that targets like 0.0001% of the market?

    That's like asking why the company that made "spinner" rims decided to go into business (or branch out into) with a product that only appealed to a small group of people. Especially when only a small group of them could afford them. The "market" wasn't everyone with a car... it was everyone with a car who wanted to look cool sitting at a stoplight and had money they were willing to allocate toward that purpose. The bonus is that there was very little competition (partially because the market is so small). WAY SMALL MARKET, but still tons of money to be made if the premium / markup is sufficiently high.

    You probably consider "the market" to be "all people that use keyboards at all". But that's not true for him just like the market for spinners isn't everyone that has a car. He likely considers the market to be a very specific subset of computer users, and therefore his product actually targets 100% of "the market" as he's defined it. His pricing also demonstrates that he knows his market is tiny. A keyboard can be had for $10, but his is priced at between $70 and $100 per sale. It's not because it's novel, it's because he had to have that price to actually make any money in the small market he's chosen.

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