THANK YOU TO ALL OF OUR BACKERS.
I’M OVERWHELMED BY THE POSITIVE REACTION. YOUR EMAILS OF ENCOURAGEMENT AND SUGGESTIONS HAVE SPURRED ME TO WORK EVEN HARDER.
I WILL SOON SEND OUT A SURVEY TO OUR BACKERS ASKING YOU FOR YOUR ADDRESS, MODEL OF iPAD AND ANY FEEDBACK YOU WANT TO CONTRIBUTE.
IF YOU ARE VISITING HERE AFTER THE KICKSTARTER PROJECT HAS CLOSED, PLEASE FOLLOW US ON TWITTER; and FACEBOOK FOR INFORMATION ABOUT ORDERING AN IKEYBOARD WHEN OUR E-COMMERCE WEB SITE IS UP AND RUNNING.
AND, AGAIN, THANK YOU.
FREE YOUR HEAD
The iKeyboard addresses the one drawback of a tablet computer—the impossibility of touch-typing on its virtual keyboard.
Imagine riding a bicycle having to exclusively watch your feet on the pedals. Worse, you have to think about where each foot is every second and tell your legs to "push right foot down. Okay, my right foot is all the way down, now push left foot down." You can't ride like that. You'll either fall over or crash into a pole.
Now imagine sitting in a classroom trying to take notes but having to exclusively look at a virtual keyboard so you'll be able to hit the right letters. If you're thinking about where the next key is to tap, you can't take notes because you can't simultaneously think about what the teacher is saying.
Review after review of the leading tablet, the iPad, has cited the virtual keyboard as its one imperfection. Good for short, quick notes and emails. Inadequate for real writing.
The reason it’s inadequate is that the user can’t touch-type, but must “hunt-and-peck” instead.
Touch-typing is vital for productivity, because it produces greater speed and accuracy than hunt-and-peck typing.
But even more important, touch-typing frees up your brain to focus on other tasks besides the mere physical act of finding and hitting the right key.
Touch-typing and hunt-and-peck typing use different parts of the brain. Touch-typing uses what’s called muscle memory, which enables an action to become automatic. Touch-typing is like riding a bicycle, or playing a musical instrument, or just walking.
Hunt-and-peck typing “hijacks” the thinking part of your brain, making it unavailable for more important tasks. Your brain is monopolized by having to ask a series of questions and issue a series of instructions: "Where is the 'W’? Touch that spot." "Where is the 'H’? Touch that spot."
By making touch-typing possible on a tablet computer, the iKeyboard sets the thinking part of the brain free. Free to listen, free to learn, and free to think.
WHY YOU CAN’T TOUCH-TYPE ON A VIRTUAL KEYBOARD
A virtual keyboard is an image of a keyboard that is displayed on a tablet’s touch-screen. You type by touching the image of the keys. One advantage of a virtual keyboard is that it doesn’t increase the footprint or weight of the device. Another advantage is that when it’s not needed, the virtual keyboard disappears, freeing up space on the screen.
However, a virtual keyboard deprives you of the positioning cues and tactile feedback provided by a “real,” or physical, keyboard.
That’s because the touch-screen is super-sensitive, so it’s impossible for you to lightly rest your fingers on the virtual keys without typing the characters. And the keys themselves are just images, so you can’t know by feel alone where your fingers are on the keyboard.
Instead, you must suspend your fingers over the screen and must keep your eyes on the virtual keyboard—at all times—to know where to type. So the only kind of typing you can do is the two-fingered, hunt-and-peck variety.
Hunt-and-peck typing increases errors and decreases speed. Instead of watching what you’ve just typed so that you can instantly correct an error, you must keep your eyes on the virtual keyboard. Copying something from a book or newspaper using a virtual keyboard takes far longer than with a real keyboard. Taking notes at a lecture or business meeting is almost impossible, because you can’t keep up with what the speaker is saying or watch the blackboard.
To touch-type, you need a real keyboard. A real keyboard permits your fingers to rest on the keys without typing. A real keyboard lets you know—without looking—whether your fingers are on the correct keys. A real keyboard lets you feel whether you have actually typed a character.
A real keyboard, however, increases a device’s footprint and weight. A physical keyboard is contrary to the very idea of a tablet computer.
THE BEST OF (BOTH) WORLDS
One solution is to carry around a Bluetooth real keyboard. However, using a Bluetooth keyboard with your iPad adds weight and bulk and gives the device a bigger footprint (so it needs a desk to sit on instead of a lap). If you're going to carry around an iPad plus a Bluetooth keyboard, you're much better off just taking a laptop computer with you.
Adding a Bluetooth keyboard to an iPad amounts to turning a prince back into a frog.
My solution is to provide the feedback missing from a virtual keyboard by “grafting,” or piggybacking, a real keyboard onto the screen. My invention—the iKeyboard—will sit atop the virtual keyboard and be lightweight. It will add little bulk and not increase the footprint of the tablet. It will be easy and fast to deploy and remove.The iKeyboard will improve accuracy and typing speed, letting tablet users do real writing. It will set the brain free. In certain settings—the lecture hall, the library, the classroom—the iKeyboard will be an essential tool rather than just a useful accessory.
To bring my idea to life, I've been working with the excellent industrial design firm IDEAZ.
We started by identifying the tactile characteristics of traditional keyboards that we needed to mimic in order to make the iKeyboard useful. Two characteristics were of paramount importance: the force needed to activate a key, and the distance a key must “travel” to type a character.
The designers at IDEAZ have managed to match the force required to depress a key on the iKeyboard to the force needed to depress a key on an Apple keyboard. They’ve also succeeded in making the iKeyboard's keys travel a distance equal to that of Apple keys. We now have a fully functional prototype that works pretty well.The highest hurdles have been jumped.
WHAT'S LEFT TO DO
IDEAZ is continuing to work on optimizing the geometry of the keys and matching that geometry with the best polymers for the task. Need money. We’ll need to make additional prototypes to test those refinements. Need money. I’d like to expand user testing to a larger focus group than we’ve used so far. Need money. We also want to do mechanical testing. Again, money.
I need to have an e-commerce web site designed and coded. Need money. Plus, tooling for the actual manufacturing. More. Money.
That’s why I’m here on Kickstarter.
A HAPPY ENDING
This process of taking an idea from napkin doodle to concrete product has been exhilarating—from thinking the iKeyboard through and sketching out the design (after teaching myself how to use rudimentary 3D CAD software), to finding smart people who know industrial design and intellectual property law, to looking for and evaluating manufacturers.If you, too, have come up with a great idea, now's your time. Kickstarter is an incubator of ideas and dreams.
Good luck. And thank you for whatever contribution you choose to make to help turn my idea into something real.
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