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

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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  • That must hurt (Score:5, Interesting)

    by El_Muerte_TDS ( 592157 ) on Wednesday January 23, 2013 @03:00PM (#42672181) Homepage

    It really doesn't look comfortable to use. Must be awesome to develop RSI with.
    With a little bit of practice you can easily use a normal keyboard without looking at it all the time.

    • 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.

      • 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.
        • I don't think it is a big deal. I mean most of us write rather quickly on a QWERTY keyboard, which by design was to slow people down... However once they got use to it they type just as fast as with any other layout. For myself the speed of my typing isn't about my hands knowing the letters but figuring out how to spell the words. Although I do have a learning disability in writing, that slows me down more then most. but still with modern typist the speed of typing is nearly as fast as you can think the

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

            by uniquename72 ( 1169497 ) on Wednesday January 23, 2013 @05:48PM (#42673837)

            ... QWERTY keyboard, which by design was to slow people down...

            This is a common myth, [] and totally fabricated.

            • Ok, so I've read that article twice, and I don't see where it disproves the 'myth' that the original QWERTY keyboard was laid out in a way to prevent the keys from sticking on the 1st gen typewriters. It talks about disproving that Dvorak keyboard layout is better, but didn't see anything about the jamming keys myth busted.

              I'm nursing a coffee from a night of no sleep, so maybe its just me, but if you could point me to the relevant text that its been proven to be a myth?

              • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

                by Anonymous Coward

                The myth isn't about jamming keys. That did happen, and the layout was designed to reduce jams. The myth is actually that it achieves this by slowing typing down. The qwerty layout moves characters that are often typed in sequence to be as far away from each other across the arc of swing arms on a typewriter. This allows faster typing, because the heads are in range to crash for a shorter time.

                • Slowing down typing was, in fact, one possible method of preventing the typebars from colliding. The other was, of course, laying the keys out in such a way that the ones most commonly struck back-to-back are as far away from each other as possible. Wouldn't it actually be faster to hit two keys that are nearby (ie. H and U) in quick succession than if those keys were, for example, the QWERTY layout's Q and N keys? I think so. Back when QWERTY was invented, there was no such thing as touch typing... hun

                  • Back when QWERTY was invented, there was no such thing as touch typing... hunt and pecking with a couple of fingers was the most people could do. That doesn't mean there were no talented people who could type fast, though.
                    That is not correct.
                    Blind typing was invented as early as the typewriter was.

                    • Do you have the same definition of touch typing that I do?

                      Resting four fingers of each hand on the proper home keys in the home row, moving them as needed to hit other keys, and returning them back to their home positions? That is the proper method of touch typing.

                      Or is "blind typing" typing using *any* method with your eyes closed?

                      QWERTY: Patent filed 1867. Patent sold to Remington in 1873. Became popular with the success of the Remington No. 2 of 1878.

                      Touch typing: "Frank Edward McGurrin, a court stenogr

                    • I did not say that QWERTY was invented for touch typing. I said touch typing was "invented", if you want to call it like that, around the same time. And you proved that ... or is a mere 10 years difference not "around the same time"?

                      Also I doubt that "Frank Edward McGurrin" was the first and only one "inventing" touch typing. I guess others simply made no fuss about it.

                    • Fair enough... a decade or maybe a decade and a half later, depending on time you go by. From what you said:

                      "Blind typing was invented as early as the typewriter was."

                      That sounded as if you meant "at the same time." Same time period, yeah, but at least a decade later. Either way, that's a decent amount of time, but after a couple of centuries I guess it doesn't seem like much.

            • Linking to a fancy written article makes your claim not right ;D
              OFC your parent is right.

              Did you ever write on an original type writer? If you had, you had no doubts.

  • by Russ1642 ( 1087959 ) on Wednesday January 23, 2013 @03:00PM (#42672183)
    Why go into business to make a product that targets like 0.0001% of the market? In my office there are only like three people who can type without looking at their keyboard.
    • 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.

      • Hundreds of people in my office.
      • by __aaqvdr516 ( 975138 ) on Wednesday January 23, 2013 @05:45PM (#42673811)

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

        Yeah. All those people who can't type are such morons. They're just as bad as the people who don't compile their own stuff from source. It's just so easy and useful in everyday life.

    • Is that you Bruce?
    • by Anonymous Coward

      The market is smartphones, whether they realize it or not. Put the key sensors on the back of the phone so that you can type text much more quickly. I've been wondering for the last 5 years why nobody has done this.

    • Do you work at the DMV?

    • 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.

  • by blind biker ( 1066130 ) on Wednesday January 23, 2013 @03:03PM (#42672213) Journal

    Man, that thing looks like it was sent directly from Hell by Satan himself.

    As such, it would become the mandatory input device for Windows 8.. and Unity.

    • by Megane ( 129182 )
      Holy crap. I was expecting something that looked somewhat like a steno keyboard, not a freaking Bop It game. It looks painfully ergo-not-ic. Also, expect Google Chrome to require it soon after Windows 8, followed by Firefox chasing right behind.
    • Wow. It's like Gnome 3 for keyboards. On the bright side, it will now be possible to drop your keyboard in the toilet.

      • On the bright side, it will now be possible to drop your keyboard in the toilet.

        Possible? More like mandatory.

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

    • by vlm ( 69642 )

      good one-handed data entry. Nothing has stuck.

      What? Classic 10key. Only works for numbers and arithmetic. I suppose if you switch to octal input...

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Hold Nexus 7 up to mouth (with one hand).
        Then speak "what is the distance to the moon"

        • by Megane ( 129182 )
          Why stop there? I just had a vision of a kiss-based interface... after all, if five fingers are easier than ten fingers, two lips have to be even easier yet! Hooray for the KISS principle! And just think of where the porn industry could go from there!
        • by vlm ( 69642 )

          Unfortunately my experience with "alternative" user interfaces such as my phone's shitty voice recognition, xbox shitty voice recognition, my cell phone's little postage stamp size touch keyboard vs my ring bologna finger tips means a bit error rate close to 10e-1 and everything takes 10 times as long as a keyboard. This post would probably take about an hour to input vs about a minute at 75 wpm or whatever typing.

          So "what is the distance to the moon" is far more likely to start playing pink floyds dark si

    • Nobody had got the design right because it is a bad idea - high learning cure for proficiency, slow data input speed (even for proficient users), poor ergonomics, etc etc.

      Is there really the demand? I ask because I developed a potential solution to this problem as a part of my masters with a "natural" in-air cursive writing system - sadly limitations of what I could do with a few hundred quid of funding and a packet of polymorph meant that my hardware only just about worked but was an interesting "proof of

  • 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.
  • The fact that neither the pitchman nor the hands on the monitor were actually demonstrating the keyboard in a meaningful capacity...

    Or the suggestion that installing the thing on a steering wheel could improve driving safety. Seriously, what? A distraction is a distraction, and if you're texting away in traffic, you're fucking distracted.

  • by vlm ( 69642 ) on Wednesday January 23, 2013 @03:19PM (#42672411)

    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.

    OK I'll bite how does that work? I know the braille system is 2x3 grid aka 6 bits ... and you claim there is a one handed keyboard, so I'm optimistically giving you 4 fingers and a thumb. In between I wonder how the protocol encoding works. It would be a heck of a lot simple if we had 7 or so fingers on each hand, or braille was just merely morse code. If I were inventing my own system I'd totally use two hands and one bit for pointer, middle, and ring fingers on each finger and probably either thumb as "clock signal". Or maybe rather than momentary keys the keys are little J/K toggle flipflops or S/R flipflops. Maybe two fingers pointer/middle in a three cycle mode where hitting the thumb advances?

    • Not sure how a braille keyboard works but even if it required 2 or 3 keystrokes to do each braille character, it still wouldn't be that difficult to surpass the speed of a lot of people who can't be bothered to learn how to touch type properly. You could design such a system where pressing a key without the thumb depressed puts dots (controlled by the three middle fingers) in the first column of the letter, and with the thumb depressed puts the dots for the second character. Then use the little finger to a
      • by vlm ( 69642 )

        Very interesting I was finally motivated to google around and it turns out there's just 6 keys on a Perkins brailer, one key per bit/dot and you have to smash them and the "clock" signal to store is simultaneously releasing them all keys at once. I donno the encoding structure for braille but its entirely possible its a 5-of-6 encoding much like FDDI is a 8-of-10 etc etc, or I guess if its all 6 you just smash your fist on all the keys at once. And there also exists a spacebar, so I guess its technically

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Well, if there are 6 dots which can be raised or flat then you need 2^6 = 64 input combinations to represent them. These keyboards seem to have two keys (A and B) per finger (and thumb) allowing for three states, A-down, B-down, and neither-down for a total of 3^5 = 243 combinations. Even 3^4 = 81 combinations should be enough for the basics with some room left over for function keys and so on. Need more (e.g. for 8-dot braille)? Add a third key, perhaps just for the thumb.

      The point is, a braille keyboa

  • Major downside is that he doesn't have proof that I will be able to type faster or more effectively. Changing keyboard layouts to such a degree can take a lot out of my productivity.

    Upsides is that he isn't married to any one shape for his input platform. Having the wraparound for the game controller could be handy. Same with the steering wheel option. I do hope that he offers some better design options for the handheld, as I'm not keen on pushing a little box up to my chest in order to type quickly.

  • by jandrese ( 485 ) <> 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.
  • The most common one handed input device is The Twiddler; you can hold it and type at the same time.

    Another one-handed input method is Half-Qwerty; it's been stuck in patent limbo for a couple of decades, and the inventor basically killed off the mobile market for the device, but the patent is expiring.

    Easy2Key seems exceptionally badly designed from an ergonomic point of view. Also, spending months getting good at a patented input method is stupid, because if he stops making the device, you're in trouble.

  • At $69 for the usb model I would have purchased one 5 months ago when I broke my arm. The chording keyboards I found were quite pricey (so I didn't want to take the risk) and half qwerty on my mechanical keyboard barely go me up to what this guy claims he can do on his chorded keyboard (and took a lot of practice). I'm curious about learning curve on this.

    On the negative side, the hardware looks amateurish (ghetto decals that look like they'd peel off in a week, buttons with very little movement that you
  • Meh... (Score:4, Informative)

    by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Wednesday January 23, 2013 @03:33PM (#42672561) Homepage

    Handeykey's product destroys this one hard. []

    Keyboard and mouse in one... leaves the other hand completely free for......

  • by cruff ( 171569 ) on Wednesday January 23, 2013 @03:33PM (#42672565) Homepage
    I've always thought a piano-style chording keyboard for the desk would be nice, having musical training. In the past, I've not seen any that caught my fancy. I do have an older Twiddler, but that version didn't appear to be quite usable for me due to a restriction on the modifier keys that could be generated.
  • Does anyone actually use chording keyboards? We've been messing with chording keyboards since the 1980s with the Microwriter and the Frogpad today and yet I've never actually seen anyone really using one beyond as a tech demo.
    • by seebs ( 15766 )

      Some people do, and speak highly of them. I used to use a DataHand, and it's not really chording, though closer than most -- and honestly, if they'd make a slightly modernized one with native standard USB that didn't require a special high-amperage USB to PS/2 adapter, and was a bit easier to clean, I might well still be using it. It was a very pleasant typing experience.

      • That's neither chording nor is it close to chording. Every single key is mapped to a physical button with no more modifiers than you'd find on a normal keyboard. Putting the keys closer together doesn't make it any more like chording than a standard QWERTY keyboard.
    • by noldrin ( 635339 )
      Not so much for alphanumeric applications, but chording keyboards are the standard for stenotype shorthand where they reach up to 300 words per minute. It's used in court rooms and live closed captioning. A few thousand of them are sold each year and can cost you upwards of $5,000. You can play around with such a system with the open source Plover: []
  • Anyone else think of the ID10T interface?
  • Summary is off by at least a century. Chorded keyboards [] have been around since at least 1868. Chorded braille keyboards have been around since 1892. Coincidentally, these were each apparently brought to the computer a century after their analogue versions were made.

  • "The idea has been around (at least) since 1968." Try 1913 or earlier, with the development of the stenotype machine, the chorded keyboard device which is used to transcribe courtroom testimony at about 200 WPM.

  • Egads, why? That thing looks horrible to use, and expects people to learn crazy combinations, when most users still hunt-and-peck keyboards and spend half their time looking down at them to type.

    There simply isn't a problem that exists that needs fewer buttons and large complexity to type.

  • ... you couldn't type either of those on it.


  • and I have been using vi for 15 years.
  • Suggested this to Andy Rubin a couple of years ago.
    Wonder if anyone has tried it.

  • Be that as it may, we wish Wayne Rasanen all the luck in the world as he brings his invention to market.
    Well, your slashvertisement is sure to help. How much did he pay you?
  • 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.

    Subby, does his patent claim all implementations of chording keyboards, and in fact, the very concept of a chording keyboard? Or does it claim his one implementation? Because his implementation is novel and original - have you ever seen such an uncomfortable looking device? - and as long as he's not trying to claim ownership of the entire concept of chording, his patent could well be narrow enough to be valid. So, how about rather than injecting your FUD, you either link to the patent or stop whining about

  • Why, this could be bigger than the Dvorak keyboard!

  • Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha

    Oh. He's serious.

  • The guy says that it's silly to be using keyboards because they're so old and that we need new technology. He demonstrates this by making a video. Film was invented a long damn time ago, moving pictures were possible over one hundred years ago, and digital video has been around for more than three decades. Shoes and pants are even older than that but I see that he's wearing clothes. I guess this guy thinks that it's only a bad idea to use old things if he's selling a product to replace one of them.
  • This in10did device might actually ship, which beats vaporware hands down.

    That's a pity, because a far better design was announced on Slashdot over a decade ago ( which still looks much more comfortable for heavy use (

I've finally learned what "upward compatible" means. It means we get to keep all our old mistakes. -- Dennie van Tassel