Handheld Hi-Speed Text Entry
Will Power True "Anywhere Computing"
AlphaGrip Increases Productivity by 500%
As computing migrates out of the office into the living room in the form of interactive TVs and game consoles and into our pockets in the form of palmtop computers, smart phones, and two-way pagers, the need to enter and edit text quickly and comfortably is obvious, but not adequately addressed. Today, productive text entry requires a desk-bound keyboard and mouse and thoughts continue to take shape primarily at a desk. So, an invention which facilitates quick (50+ wpm), easy, and comfortable data input on a hand-held would fundamentally change where, when, and how we work, play, and communicate - just as the wireless phone revolutionized away-from-the-desk voice communication.
The Current State of Input Technology on
Manufacturers of handheld devices such as PDAs, smart phones, game controllers, TV remotes, web-tablets, and
other information appliances have not successfully duplicated the functionality of the desktop keyboard in miniature
keyboards, predictive telephone keypads, and hand-writing recognition. In fact, these input interfaces do not offer
input speeds much greater than those available hundreds of years ago with pen and ink (10 - 15 wpm). Because of this, the usefulness of these devices is limited mainly to "information management" (updating calendars and address books) and only minimal "information creation" (short text messaging). After all, few people would consider using them for lengthy notes, emails, reports, or other longer strings of text. As a result, meaningful information creation is generally postponed until a desktop computer keyboard can be used to enter text at an average rate of 30 – 60 wpm.
It is clear that a new, faster input interface is needed to replace slow, tedious text entry technologies, or productivity will continue to be sacrificed in favor of portability. An ideal interface must take into consideration the human scale as well as the "killer applications" users want, such as email, text messaging, m-commerce, and gaming with text. Furthermore, many devices with overlapping capabilities are offered to the consumer each with its own unique user interface. Ideally, a single, flexible interface could be learned once and used on all of these devices. In fact, such a common user interface may well lead to device convergence, which would eliminate the need to buy and carry multiple devices with redundant functionality.
While it is true that you can buy a portable keyboard for your handheld computer that can even fold into your pocket for travel (albeit a large pocket), you must convert your handheld to a desk-top to use it. So, if you want to type quickly and comfortably while you are standing, walking around, leaning back in a recliner or sofa, sitting on a floor or on a park bench or on a blanket at the beach, riding in a car or on the subway, or even laying in bed, the foldable keyboard is not a solution. Nevertheless, the robust sales of such peripherals can be viewed as proof that people want to do more than just manage information and slowly generate short text messages on their PDAs.
One-handed typing devices are also available for text entry, but you can't type as quickly with one hand as you can with two, and the chording that is required (depressing two or more keys simultaneously in order to generate one character) is very difficult to learn.
Laptops with Full-Sized Keys and Standard Keyboards Balanced on Your Lap
Both the laptop computer and the standard desktop keyboard are best used on a flat, solid, level, and raised surface. Any variation of that formula (especially when combined with any reduction in the size of the keys) dramatically reduces the productivity and comfort level of the user. Also, away from the desk, it is difficult to find a surface with the proper height and level for productive typing.
A common method of entering text quickly away from a desk is balancing a laptop or a standard keyboard across your lap. But, this is awkward and uncomfortable to do for extended periods of time. And, trying to balance a wireless keyboard on your lap when sitting on a sofa or in a recliner is not fun, nor is leaning over to type on a keyboard resting on a coffee table, floor, or bed.
Voice Recognition (Voice to Text)
Voice recognition is the only solution for many "hands free" applications, but is otherwise most appropriate for short commands -- not for creating long messages or reports. But, even if it were capable of allowing users to quickly and comfortably create long messages and documents at high speeds on handhelds, it requires a steep initial learning curve, it takes a great deal of energy and a new skill set to dictate messages, it is tedious to edit text using your voice (e.g., "Move back three spaces to the "x" and change it to a ‘y.’"), and it requires a large amount of computing power. Voice recognition also has a very high drop rate (exceeding 50%).
Beyond this, there are social objections to voice recognition. First, it compromises your privacy. It can also be annoying to the people around you as evidenced by the recent proliferation of anti-cell phone laws in public places. Voice recognition also works poorly in areas with background noise. And finally, a quiet environment is more conducive to thinking. There is something to be said about the superiority of thinking and quietly typing.
Putting Productivity into Perspective: Desk-bound Thinking
The written word, which began with man putting chisel to stone, has always been an integral part of human relationships. On the personal side, the faster you can write, the more likely you are to write letters to friends and family and the more often you are apt to write. On the educational front, the faster you can enter text, the quicker you can finish news and magazine articles, prepare lectures, speeches, and books to pass knowledge around the globe and from generation to generation. On the business front, the faster you can record and communicate your thoughts, the more productive you can be. In our society we jealously guard our time and pay a premium for any technology which makes us more efficient.
Ever since man first put quill pen to parchment hundreds of years ago he's needed a flat, raised surface upon which to write most effectively. Such a surface, a desk or table, was still required when the type-writer coupled with touch typing was introduced in 1867, increasing "writing" speed by 400% (from 10 wpm with a quill pen to 40 wpm), followed by the electronic typewriter and the computer keyboard, which enabled text entry speeds of 50 wpm and better. Today, little has changed -- if we want to do "real work," we still go to our desks and "assume the position" (the typing position that is) with back straight, arms bent, head cantilevered over the keyboard, and hands and wrists in a praying mantis-like contortion. And, of course, much has been written about how injurious typing on a keyboard for extended periods of time can be.
Nonetheless, with this level of productivity at our fingertips, typing is now an integral part of our thought process. Yet, many of us don't realize how desk-bound our thinking has become. We get an idea. Then we type it into a computer. Then we expand on it, edit it, and communicate it to others by email - doing all of this by thinking and typing.
While the keyboard has remained basically unchanged for over 130 years, advances in computer and communication technologies have progressed at a dizzying pace giving us small and powerful handheld devices. But, in order to "think" whenever and wherever we want we must have the ability to type quickly and comfortably on them. True anywhere computing will only become a reality when people can create meaningful emails and other documents on their handhelds as quickly and easily as they can sitting at their desks.
AlphaGrip Introduces the World's First and Only
Handheld Hi-Speed Text Entry Technology
AlphaGrip, Inc., (alphagrips.com) a northern Virginia-based start-up, has been issued 3 patents and has another 3 pending on a high speed text entry technology for handheld devices which allows users to enter text quickly (50+ wpm), easily, and comfortably on full-sized keys without chording (e.g., one tap per character) -- anywhere -- regardless of the user's body position or the availability of a flat work surface.
AlphaGrip's two-handed touch typing technology is device agnostic and features a vertical hand orientation which allows the fingers to fall naturally and comfortably into position on 8 full-sized, multi-directional buttons located on the back of the device. By requiring only minimal finger movement, users can quickly teach themselves to generate all the letters of the alphabet as well as punctuations. A mode switch button allows users to enjoy the functionality of several (otherwise dedicated) devices (keyboard/mouse, smart phone, PDA, game controller, or TV remote) within one form factor.
Initial Target Markets – Young People and Vertical Markets
AlphaGrip intends to enter the market through the paths of least resistance - young people (ages 8 - 25) and vertical markets.
By merely adding several multi-directional buttons onto the back of a device, the Company’s first prototypes incorporate the AlphaGrip input interface into a game controller, which young people have grown up with and associate with fun. A game controller with a few extra buttons is just the natural evolution of a product which has consistently added buttons and features over time. While adults may be resigned to using a keyboard and reluctant to learn something new, young people aren't and they certainly don't identify with the keyboard. It's not only their great, great grandparents' technology, it has little relevance to their on-the-go, socially motivated, multi-tasking lifestyles.
Learning to type on an AlphaGrip is a game to young people. In fact, the Company intends to bundle a game into the
product to make learning to type on it even more fun. Used as a cradle for a palmtop computer, young people will pull
their AlphaGrips out of their backpacks to take notes quickly and comfortably in class (instantly archived and
searchable) without having to take their eyes off the teacher and blackboard. They'll also be able to instant message
their friends from any location - from the bus to the bed. And they'll be able to use their PDAs as electronic diaries
and turbo-charged Gameboys.
There are also many advantages to having a touch typing game controller. First, when you're playing a game, you won't
have to put down your controller to use a keyboard when you want to send instant messages to your friends or razz your
opponents. Plus, with an AG-enabled game controller and your Web-connected game console, you won't have to buy an
optional keyboard. The game console is also connected to the TV, so AlphaGrip technology will add remote control
functionality to quickly enter search terms to find the movies or shows you want to watch.
In the vertical market space, there are countless applications for professionals in and out of their general office
environment where the ability to take contemporaneous notes, query records, and create detailed messages or reports
would dramatically increase productivity by speeding the flow of information to and from the field. For example,
doctors and nurses could use a handheld device to quickly and confidentially enter notes real-time into a patient's
electronic records as well as access a patient's history, all while standing next to the patient's bed or walking
between rooms, shaving hours off of the workday. Other promising vertical markets include salespeople, reporters,
industrial inspectors, claims adjusters, police, and people looking for healthy alternatives to the
Features of the AlphaGrip USB Handheld Computer Keyboard and Trackball
Main features of the AlphaGrip are:
- Device and operating system agnostic
- Natural vertical hand orientation for comfortable typing
- Organic 3D design
- Two-handed text entry for hi-speed typing
- Enables "Touch Typing" ("heads up" speed typing)
- Multidirectional, full-sized buttons located on the back of the device to optimize space utilization and minimize
- Centrally located, comfortable, two-thumbed cursor control
- Unique grip allows the device to be held between the palms, freeing up the fingers for typing
- Graphics on front show finger/letter location on back of device
- No "chording" required to generate all the letters and major punctuation marks and commands
- Mode Switch Button changes functionality from remote control, to gamepad, to keyboard and mouse, to musical
instrument, and more
- Colored shift keys - generate 50 additional characters with no additional buttons
- Programmable keys
Fulfilling the promise of "anywhere computing" necessitates the adoption of a new text input
technology. The solutions that have proliferated thus far have not satisfied our need for truly productive text entry
away from the desk. As long as computing at a desk is orders of magnitude more efficient and productive than computing
on handhelds, "ubiquitous computing" will remain a dream. What we need is a 21st century solution that will increase
location-independent productivity to the extent that it equals or even surpasses what can be achieved at the desk. The
AlphaGrip is that solution.
With the introduction of this new, proven technology, the challenge becomes
convincing the market to accept a new way of typing. By embedding its text entry technology into a popular 3D form
factor - the game controller - and targeting youth and vertical markets, the Company plans to infiltrate through the
paths of least resistance. From there, anyone who wants to type and think any-where will be able to follow a blazed
trail. To some adults, the AlphaGrip may appear as bizarre as the typewriter did to quill pen users in days of yore. As always, it is the younger generation, fearless and bold, that we must count on to bring us, kicking and screaming, into the next century.