Engineers from Dartmouth College, City University of Hong Kong, Saarland University, and Stony Brook University have designed an eyes-free text entry platform that uses a miniature finger-worn QWERTY keyboard to enter text. The TipText keyboard layout was optimized by utilizing the user’s natural spatial awareness of key locations on the index finger, which is wrapped by the 2 x 3 grid flexible keyboard.
Users enter text by tapping their thumb tip on the keyboard, which is then displayed on a wrist-mounted display. (📷: Dartmouth)
The engineers state that their text platform has several benefits using the finger-tapping method, including the ability to text with one hand; text input can be carried out without being intrusive and can be utilized without having to see the input device.
The TipText keyboard was designed using a flexible printed circuit that contains a printed 3 x 3 sensor matrix with diamond-shaped electrodes. A layer of resin binder was deposited between the electrode layers to isolate them from each other, and silver ink was screen-printed for the keyboard’s conductive traces.
Those traces feed into an Arduino Nano outfitted with an MPR121 touch-sensing chip that processes the inputs from the sensors using a decoding algorithm. The text message is then sent to the wrist-mounted display in near real-time. Inputting text is accomplished through a series of taps on the corresponding letter grid, and once an almost completed word is typed, an algorithm (AKA statistical decoder with auto-complete) predicts what the finished word will be, much like the smartphones we use.
The engineers tested TipText using several participants and found that they achieved an average text speed of 11.9 WPM, and were able to up that count to 13.3 WPM by the end of the test. The engineers state that their text platform could be used in several applications, including use with mobile devices, wearables, and even augmented reality.