Haptotype – Keyboard for the Cyber Age

Haptotype (tactile, haptic typing) is a computer input device with three prominent advantages. First, it is operated with the fingers of one-hand, where touch, but not vision, guides the motions. Second, Haptotype should not be confused with the chording one-hand keyboard, where a single symbol is invoked with coordinated simultaneous actions of more than one fingers. Instead, Haptotype is a single action encoder, where a single swift and short-range motion of a finger encodes one out of eight symbols assigned to the finger’s keypad. Single action makes writing with Haptotype a lot faster and easier than using a chording device. Third, Haptotype has both the keypads and a pointing device located within the reach of the flexing finger, essentially merging the functions of typing and pointing. That combination guarantees higher speed of typing, ease of learning, and comfort of use. It makes the device superbly suited for working with displays that are hard to reach or having a form of the image providing smart-glasses. Haptotype is small, compact and robust, which makes it also uniquely suited for fully autonomous, mobile use. Its portability will invite inclusion of additional functions and utilities. Haptotype may be expected to absorb many functions of phone and computer. Today people consume and exchange information at an unprecedented high rate, and the growing tendency is to communicate with everything, and from anywhere. Haptotype will make it instinctively easy.

Haptotype is not a niche product, like other alternative keyboards.  Haptotype will not only replace the keyboard, but will also expand to new areas of use.

For now, Haptotype is a work in progress. There exist only several prototype devices. Although Haptotype has been proven genuinely useful and is simpler and less expensive to build than any keyboard, there are still hurdles to overcome before getting to the production stage. Any advice, assistance or proposal in achieving that goal would be welcome. Contact email:      jwr@haptotype.com

Advantages of Haptotype become apparent when the broad scope of its possible applications is contemplated.

From the most trivial use, such as:

— controlling the house appliances, a television, house and car locks, lights, security, the internet browsing, word processing, note-taking, sending and receiving text messages, writing reports and essays, making phone calls, contacting friends, inquiring about hotel reservations,

to the most serious jobs:

— furnishing an unfalsifiable personal ID, remembering and invoking complex passwords, providing a secure depository for important personal and business documents, allowing to remotely run business matters, processing payments and other transactions…

… all that, and more can be done easily and securely, from the office or off a park bench.

Hand placement needs no sight, ever. The fences installed around each of the four keypads help to tactilely identify the keypads, to correctly place fingers over the keypads, and to keep fingers in correct position. The fence ‘helps a finger to know’, reliably and without probing, where each of the keys is to be found. A character is invoked with a low force glancing swipe over a key. On the contrary, on a keyboard the keys are spread over a large area, and tapping fingers use stronger force.

Security is paramount.  Generic Haptotype may be used by anybody, like any keyboard. Nevertheless, such device will not impress anyone with its performance. To make it secure and use it efficiently, the device has to be personalized. Haptotype-specific security attribute — and its major asset — is that it is fitted and assigned to one, and only one, user. Haptotype is to be customized in terms of its physical characteristics, e.g. being fitted to the owner’s hand shape and size but is also customized operationally. Operating Haptotype requires continued, close contact between user’s hand and the device, allowing for numerous bio-metric measures to be collected. Besides fingerprints, and the palm print, such measures include the size, shape of hand, and its grip pattern, but importantly, also the unique manner the user’s fingers move when operating the keypads, the user’s ‘behavioral fingerprint’. Such measurements are user-specific and remain stable over time, providing unfalsifiable proof of user’s identity. When grasping the device, the owner’ hand is recognized, and the owner is granted unrestrained access to its resources, while anyone else is most reliably rejected. Because of this, the device may hold the most sensitive documents and data, without fear that it will fall into the wrong hands. The device may encrypt all data transmissions using complex algorithms. It may also provide any number of sophisticated passwords, none of which the user has to remember.

Expansion is unavoidable. In its simplest embodiment, as of today, Haptotype works just like a typical computer keyboard. Notably though, it is a keyboard with enormous potential for expansion of the utility and functions. One possible extension would involve absorbing the resources of a smart-phone. Both the Haptotype and smart phone are complementary in function, and compatible in terms of size or the manner of operation. Fusion between Haptotype and smartphone will result in a pocket-size communication device integrating text, voice, and screen operation. Such fusion will produce a mobile personal hub for all forms of digital activities.

The clip below shows Haptotype in use. It shows that hapto-typing has potential to be easy, fast and precise. Typing speed depends on the user’s dexterity and experience, while it can be further improved with hardware refinements, and with implementation of various software “enhancements”, not unlike those used for typing on smartphones.

Due to its portability, Haptotype is expected to supplement, or to substitute for the voice communications. Processing the text-based data does not involve any of the complexity, or costs of the voice recognition. Additionally, fingers operating Haptotype may be easily moved between the keypads and the on-board touchpad, fusing typing and pointing capabilities. Haptotype will alleviate inconveniences associated with the touch screen and voice operations.

Haptotype offers discretion, imperviousness to noise, and unmatched security. It is a perfect tool for writing, but notably, it will also excel as a universal controller for the internet-of-things. Quick strokes of fingers may generate myriad of easily remembered text-based controlling commands. Such commands, being generated and delivered as text, are readily interpreted by the receiving devices. Texted commands are discrete and unambiguous (unlike voice), also they may be easily made impervious to interception or tampering. Text will work where voice fails. Haptotype offers respite from the annoying touch and voice technologies. Haptotype will revive the keyboard technology.

The image below shows the Haptotype device along a generic keyboard. The red rectangle at the bottom is the palm rest, and red elements on top are four key-pads, one for each finger.  Each of the keypads is surrounded by a ‘fence’, which is made of soft, pliable fabric. The grey area between the palm rest and keypads is a screen navigation device, in this case a touch pad.

Haptotype, being lighter, smaller and easier to use, advantageously replaces keyboard in the office. Haptotype is a perfect addition to any wearable computer. Illustrated below is Haptotype, again marked as red, being fastened onto the fanny pack, in blue. Nevertheless, the device may be placed anywhere within the hand’s reach, it may be even operated from a pocket. Due to its small size, the device on the illustration is entirely covered by hand, with only parts of the keypads visible.

Haptotype connects to other devices remotely.  The operator is no more tethered to the “desktoped” device, but is free to assume any desirable, relaxed position, whether in the office, or on the street. Haptotype may be reliably operated while walking or even riding a bike.

Haptotype will make a perfect companion to the face-mounted display (smart-glasses, v-reality goggles), favorably substituting text for awkward touches or spoken commands. Even the most serious computer job can be done on the go using Haptotype paired with a wearable personal display.

Unlike keyboards, Haptotype doesn’t have to be looked at when used, instead the location of keypads and the keys is — felt. Haptotype may be used when held horizontally, vertically, or upside down, and may be operated from a pocket, used in total darkness, or in bed. Actually, some of the writing and the drawings presented here were hapto-typed from bed, with the monitor placed overhead — an arrangement providing respite from ‘tech-neck’ pain.

One advantage of the legacy keyboard is that anyone can use it, notwithstanding the skill. That advantage is shared by Haptotype. In fact, with the fences (parts marked red) detached, a person with no familiarity with the device may operate it while viewing the alphanumeric indices displayed around the keys. Such mode of operation would be greatly beneficial to any first-time user. That feature would allow a novice user to gradually develop familiarity with the device, helping in later transition from the sight-assisted to the sightless operation. That way the Haptotype users will readily discover that tactile typing is easy and fun.

Likewise, Haptotype may be operated by flicking onto the keys displayed on the screen in a manner similar to the smart-phone finger-tapping, as showed on the photo below.

Haptotype may be operated with either left or right hand. The handedness switching is made easy by the fact that the keys’ assignments for one hand mirror the assignments for the other. Moreover, it has been established, that training just one hand in the skill of hapto-typing, gets the other hand ‘trained automatically’. Because typing fingers move over shorter distances and use only a fraction of force of the keyboard tapping, and because the fatigued hand may be at any time replaced by the rested one, using the device would benefit a great many of keyboard operators.

In view of all the above, it seems needless to dwell about Haptotype’s benefits for the people that are sight or hearing impaired, or those who lost use of one of their hands.

Contact email:      jwr@haptotype.com