Yesterday I did a quick scan of the one-handed keyboards that are available, and figured I’d post a quick summary:
- Type: 16-button chording, straps to hand
- Price: $219
- Interfaces: USB, PS/2
- Words Per Minute (avg): 10 after an hour practice, 30 after 10 hours, top speed in high 60s
- Studies: Three by Kent Lyons at Georgia Tech (novices, experts and learning aids)
- Notes: I like the Twiddler, though I’ve not a lot of experience with other one-handed keyboards. Biggest win for the Twiddler is I can touch-type on it (unlike any of the predictive-text systems like T-9 on a cellphone keypad), it has a good top speed and it attaches to my hand so it’s especially convenient for mobile typing. The Twiddler-2 improved on the older model by replacing the nigh-unusable mouse with a Trackpoint and acting like a real keyboard instead of requiring a serial interface, but unfortunately they removed one of the thumb keys, it requires Win98 to remap keys in batch and you can’t remap all the thumb keys anymore. Personally I like my Twiddler-1 better — I miss being able to do things map “NUM + ALT + any key” to be an arrow key in the appropriate direction.
- Type: literally half a QWERTY keyboard where you hold down a modifier key to type the “mirror-side” keys
- Interfaces: USB, PS/2
- Words Per Minute (avg): between 24-43 wpm after 10 hours practice, top speed around 60 wpm
- Studies: Three by Edgar Matias (Transfer from QWERTY, CHI’94, CHI’96)
- Notes: Never used it myself, though it looks like you can get good speed out of it and it’s quick to learn if you already know QWERTY. Edgar also sells a wearable version that straps to your arm, though unlike the Twiddler that means your other arm is also tied up when you type.
- Type: Similar to Half-QWERTY, but with common letters mapped to the home-row.
- Price: $100 to $196 depending on type
- Interfaces: USB or Bluetooth
- Words Per Minute (avg): Sales lit claims 40 wpm after 10 hours practice
- Studies: Their webpage says studies were conducted at Rice University, but I haven’t found the links yet.
- Type: 9-button Chording based on the Microwriter Agenda’s chord system
- Price: £57 – £90 depending on interface
- Interfaces: Palm IR (IrDA half-duplex) or USB
- Words Per Minute: Sales lit claims 25-50 wpm
- Notes: MegaSharp has a “wearability kit” that attaches your PDA and CyKey to your belt, but based on the picture I wouldn’t want to use it unless I was standing still. I also see that Computer Shopper in the UK dinged the CyKey, not for the typing method so much as the fact that the IR is incompatible with a lot of Palm devices. Caveat emptor.
And of course there’s the plethora of cellphone / PDA keyboards like the one-thumbed “chicklet keyboards” on the Treo-600/650 and Blackberry or using Multitap or T-9 on a standard 12-button cellphone keyboard. I’m not a big fan of Multitap or predictive systems like T-9, but I’ve liked the Treo keyboard even for one-handed typing. I expect I’d have more trouble using it eyes-free than I do with the Twiddler, but then again I don’t have years of experience using the Treo to type SMSs under the table when the teacher isn’t looking either…
A couple non-commercial things of interest:
The Data Egg was an integrated PDA & five-button chording keyboard designed and prototyped back in the early ’90s, but it got black-holed after the inventor lost control of his IP. Never tried one myself, but I’ve always liked the idea as a sort of chording-keyboard sleeve over a PDA.
Something else I like the look of is Chordite, which interests me mostly because of its unique hand-fit. Prototype only, researcher claims about 33 wpm.