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Chordite's 30 seconds

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Published on Oct 13, 2008

This is a 30 second blurb for the 2008 Google 10^100 contest. It's about a new kind of one-hand keyer + mouse that provides full desktop usability on highly mobile computers. See chordite.com for instructions on how to build one for yourself.

If your mobile device(s) can't do everything --- the whole enchilada --- as well as your office desktop computer then you cannot escape the desk, the office, the daily commute, etc. Weak data input technology is the main reason we generally don't attempt heavy duty tasks on highly mobile devices. No one wants to edit documents all day with their thumbs. Nor with a stylus. Speech recognition? It's not good enough for general text entry on battery-powered devices in noisy places. Dictation is not private and it would certainly annoy bystanders.

A wearable computer should be usable like a cell phone is: casually, by pedestrians. You shouldn't have to sit down if you don't want to. You should be able to slouch against a wall or hang upside down from the playground monkey bars. A wearable keyboard should only occupy one hand and should allow touch typing. Touch typing is important because anyone moving outside the protective walls of the office cubicle needs to be looking around his environment (e.g., soldiers).

One-hand chording keyboards have been perceived as difficult to learn and use, partly due to the poor ergonomics of some designs. The Chordite configuration uses 2 keys per finger and places them so near their respective fingers that they can't get lost. That is important: learning to touch type on a Chordite is much easier than on a qwerty precisely because the fingers don't travel. The keys are mounted on a frame that fits the hand in a natural, relaxed position and (importantly) leaves the fingers free to type without gripping --- the frame is locked to the palm by the thumb. Fit is important so most prototypes to date have been either adjustable or custom tailored.

A more developed device like this (e.g., one that folds as necessary to fit in a pocket) could help a lot of people spend more time in places they'd rather be. That's the motivation to learn the new way to type. Lacking any experience with chording, many (but not all) people expect it to be difficult to learn but it simply isn't. It's a natural human talent very comparable to riding a bike. If you had never seen or heard of bicycles and I described one to you, you might well be skeptical about their difficulty and stability. In reality, both bike and keyboard are easy and mobility is your reward for learning.

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