Part 0: Introduction
Apologies for the name; I haven’t come up with anything better. This is the next project I will be working on and, as a special change of pace, I will actually (hopefully) be updating on my progress.
The project is based on a concept I’ve had for several years now. The idea is that there are conductive pads on the tips of the user’s fingertips. Touching these to the thumbs in different combinations would make different letters. For instance, touching the dominant hand’s middle finger to the thumb, then the non-dominant hand’s middle finger (the easiest combination) would give an “e” (the most common letter).
This system would allow typing without the need for a keyboard and would allow the use of hands more, since the hands wouldn’t need to be together in order to type and could switch between typing and not typing quickly. While this wouldn’t be in the prototype, using conductive rubber (which, incidentally, is a thing) would allow gloves with this capability to still have a good grip.
The main benefit, however, is that human brains instinctively know where all the parts of the body are without looking (proprioception), which means that this method of typing would be more instinctual than using a keyboard, which is not part of your body. Incidentally, proprioception is pretty cool in general and I recommend reading about it. It’s why you can touch your nose with your eyes closed.
Obviously learning this new method of typing is a task in itself which is why I don’t really intend for this to be marketed or to replace anything. While it might, might be more efficient than normal typing, normal typing is already in mass use. This project is mainly for fun.
The project will have 4 parts:
Part 1: Deciding which finger combination will correspond to which letters. Finding the most common letters is easy thanks to Wikipedia, but I will still need to decide what the easiest finger combinations are. This is obviously subjective but it shouldn’t vary too much between people. I’ve actually already finished this, as seen below.
Part 2: Building the hardware. Since this is a prototype, this is actually pretty simple. All it really consists of is something conductive on fingertips. I’m planning on using thin gloves, aluminum foil, and wire. The brains will be an Arduino.
Part 3: Software: Surprisingly, this also shouldn’t be too difficult. The pseudocode that I’ve worked out so far is fairly basic and shouldn’t take too long. The coding experience I got through the pneumatic controller project should be very helpful.
Part 4: Learning to type anew. This is the part I’m really worried about. I haven’t had to learn to type on a new “keyboard” since I first learned how years ago. I’m expecting lots of finger cramps and swearing. Thankfully I have fun programming and building to do before I have to deal with that.
Part 1: Picking letters
This part was finished today. I took the most common letters from Wikipedia and put it into Excel. Then I thought of a few guidelines to follow (like how the easiest fingers are middle, index, then ring). I found that pinkies (which are super awkward to use) could be ignored entirely because with just middle, index, and ring you get 36 options*. Then I basically sat down and stared into space flicking my fingers about like a crazy person. What I came up with is Letter combinations (mini). It is what I believe to be the most efficient method.
More importantly, it’s color-coded, which looks very pretty. If you’ve never used conditional formatting in Excel, you should.
These files reference dominant and non-dominant hand (unless I forget) because the product will allow the user to switch between righty and lefty. I’m a righty, so I will be using dominant-right and non-dominant-left.
*This is confusing only if you over think it. After any first finger, you then have 6 choices of where to go (middle, index, and ring on two different hands). You have 6 options to begin with, so 6 x 6 = 36.
That’s all for now. I will hopefully have something interesting to tell you soon. I’m making this post/project more public in the hopes that it will pressure me to keep more of a schedule.