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PostPosted: Mon Sep 03, 2012 11:12 pm 
Avisaru
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Ever received a text message while driving, biking, in a boring class, etc., and thought to yourself, "I wish I could read this and reply without looking at my phone"?

There are 31 combinations of buttons I could press with the five fingers on one hand; in my ideal world, I would be able to use this method to input text by holding my phone in my hand. Here's the system I devised:

Image

This encoding lends itself naturally to a Braille-like tactile alphabet that can be read by touch. It's a little simpler than Braille as well, because there are only 32 different symbols (25) rather than 64, and it can be input with one hand rather than two (as Braille keyboards require).

Each symbol is arranged hexagonally as depicted above, with the center dot representing the thumb, and the four outer dots representing the other fingers. (The hexagonal shape maximizes the density of dots while also maximizing the distance between them.)

The general principle is that the easiest symbols represent the most common letters in English (according to the familiar ETAOINSHRLDUCMFGYPWBVKXJQZ ordering). By "easiest" I mean:

  • Fewer fingers are easier than more fingers.
  • Stronger fingers are easier than weaker fingers. (stronger = closer to the thumb)
  • Moving the middle or little fingers without moving the ring finger is especially difficult. (If your hands are anything like mine, try it yourself and see.)

Thus, the most common letter (E) gets the easiest symbol (thumb), while the least common letter (Z) gets the most awkward symbol (index+middle+little).

Some remarks about the non-alphabetic symbols:

  • The blank symbol (_) represents the space in output, but is not used in input (since you can't detect pressing zero buttons).
  • The middle finger (→) and the ring finger (←) represent "space" and "backspace" in input, but are unused in output because it would be too hard to distinguish them from T and A by touch.
  • The # symbol represents numbers and punctuation (e.g., #_ = "period", #A = "1").
  • The full fist (↑) is the shift symbol, denoting capital letters (where it's necessary to mark them).

You may notice that one of the 32 possible symbols is entirely unused. This is the "middle+little" symbol, which is unused because it's too similar to R, and is too awkward to be used as an input-only control like → or ←.

Much like Braille, we can use single-letter abbreviations to shorten the text. For example "THE" is abbreviated as "C", which in any case is what you'd naturally do if you tried to input "T H E" really fast. (It's a pretty easy gesture as well - it's how you'd hold a fine cup of tea.)

Here's a sample text (made by poking index cards with a pencil):

Image

Transcribed literally, this says: "ALL HUMAN BEINGS R BORN FREE D EQUAL N DIGNITY D RIGHTS# CY R ENDOWED W REASON CONSCIENCE D S ACT TOWARDS ONE ANOTHER N A SPIRIT F BROTHERHOOD#"

Here it is again, with the spaces marked for clarity:

Image

(Note: I realized afterwards that I forgot the word "D" between "REASON" and "CONSCIENCE", in the place marked by the double red line.)

I'm not sure how easy this is to read without looking; I myself can only identify words because I already know what the text says. I'd imagine it would get easier with practice, though. Also, this text is written in the "compact style" that leaves no gaps between letters and only a single-cell gap between words, so the dots tend to run together and create a somewhat ideographic effect.

So, what do you think? Any ways you'd improve it?


Last edited by Tmeister on Tue Sep 04, 2012 1:07 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Mon Sep 03, 2012 11:59 pm 
Visanom
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Why is the thumb in the middle? How are you supposed to fit your hand onto the keypad?

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PostPosted: Tue Sep 04, 2012 12:16 am 
Avisaru
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Ah, I see the confusion. I didn't mean to suggest that the input buttons themselves would be laid out in the hexagonal pattern; only the output dots. I'd imagine that the buttons would be mounted around the perimeter of the phone like a handle or grip, or into the tips of a glove's fingers for a nice futuristic touch.

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PostPosted: Tue Sep 04, 2012 6:03 am 
Avisaru
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That would be epic. Especially for me since I can't use touchscreens very well and I resort to the traditional "one-finger-stabbing" method of writing anything.


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PostPosted: Tue Sep 04, 2012 10:07 am 
Sanci
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Good work, Tmeister. I like the X-shape of the touch cell and the hexagonal shape of the ''dots''.

What will be the code for zero?

You should reserve at least the first 15 codes #A to #O for decimal and hexadecimal digits. You also should reserve at least one code to enable further extension of the system, e.g. for national special characters, e.g. the code ##.

I don't think that E should be done by the thumb. If you want that e.g. for a cell phone, you might wish to press it with the thumb while entering the text. You always need the thumb to hold the device. Maybe providing two buttons for the thumb, selecting two 16 character pages.

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Last edited by Tanni on Tue Sep 04, 2012 10:45 am, edited 5 times in total.

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PostPosted: Tue Sep 04, 2012 10:12 am 
Osän
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It'd be better to arrange this in the real order of your fingers. Then perhaps you would realise that left and right are the wrong way round.


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PostPosted: Tue Sep 04, 2012 10:24 am 
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 04, 2012 10:41 am 
Osän
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Here's one I concocted off the top of my head, vaguely basing some of them on the BSL fingerspelling alphabet (at least the vowels). It's based on your right hand, so thumb on the left, pinky on the right:
Code:
A x----
B xx--x
C x-x--
D xxx--
E -x---
F -xx-x
G -x-xx
H --xxx
I --x--
J xxx-x
K xx-xx
L xx---
M -xxx-
N --xx-
O ---x-
P --x-x
Q x-xxx
R ---xx
S x---x
T -xx--
U ----x
V xx-x-
W x-x-x
X x-xx-
Y -x-x-
Z x--xx

x--x-
-x--x
xxxx-
-xxxx
xxxxx

There are five gestures left over – perhaps all five could be the shift, like you suggested, and the two four finger gestures could be left and right, leaving the two odd ones for triggering extra symbols, or spaces, perhaps. You can't have a zero-finger gesture for a space, incidentally, because you need to press something in order to have a gesture.

Edit: just trying it for myself and the five finger gesture feels more natural as a space. dunno what you would do for capitals, perhaps involve the other hand.


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PostPosted: Tue Sep 04, 2012 1:06 pm 
Avisaru
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finlay wrote:
Edit: just trying it for myself and the five finger gesture feels more natural as a space. dunno what you would do for capitals, perhaps involve the other hand.
Interesting. Did you find some way of trying it out on your computer? I couldn't figure out a way to get my keyboard to distinguish 5 simultaneous key-presses.

finlay wrote:
It'd be better to arrange this in the real order of your fingers. Then perhaps you would realise that left and right are the wrong way round.
What do you mean? I'd suppose you could use either hand equally well.

Tanni wrote:
I don't think that E should be done by the thumb. If you want that e.g. for a cell phone, you might wish to press it with the thumb while entering the text. You always need the thumb to hold the device. Maybe providing two buttons for the thumb, selecting two 16 character pages.
You think so? I guess it might be kind of hard to push the thumb by itself, without thereby pushing the buttons on the other side of the phone into your other fingers. Maybe it could be made easier by a clever shape of the buttons. I'm not sure if having two buttons for the the thumb would help, however.

EDIT: I also added to the alphabet above a sketch of what I'd imagine such a device would look like.

Tanni wrote:
What will be the code for zero?

You should reserve at least the first 15 codes #A to #O for decimal and hexadecimal digits. You also should reserve at least one code to enable further extension of the system, e.g. for national special characters, e.g. the code ##.
It wouldn't be necessary to have separate codes for hex A-F, since you could just use the normal letters, no?

Actually, now that I think of it, the "#A #B #C..." number system would be kind of confusing, since there's no pattern in these symbols, and people already have strong ideas about what numerical gestures should look like. So, here's a proposed set of number/punctuation codes (using the thumb-first notation finlay uses). I couldn't use "##" for special characters, because that's the number 4, but we can let "#↑" do the job.

Code:
Code  Gesture  Character
L     --xx-    exit # mode
T     -x---    1
H     -xx--    2
P     -xxx-    3
#     -xxxx    4
E     x----    5
O     xx---    6
I     x-x--    7
N     x--x-    8
S     x---x    9
A     ----x    0
→     --x--    .
U     ---xx    ,
B     --xxx    ;
R     -x-x-    :
↑     xxxxx    additional characters

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PostPosted: Tue Sep 04, 2012 3:35 pm 
Osän
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Hurry and get it to market before someone on Apple finds this page and patents it and sues everyone else!!

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PostPosted: Tue Sep 04, 2012 4:41 pm 
Visanom
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So how is space entered?

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PostPosted: Tue Sep 04, 2012 5:04 pm 
Avisaru
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Soap wrote:
Hurry and get it to market before someone on Apple finds this page and patents it and sues everyone else!!
Heh, I'd be flattered. :)

Qwynegold wrote:
So how is space entered?
Space is entered with the middle finger, or "→" symbol. (This is done because the corresponding dot code would be too hard to distinguish from "T", so it's used as an input-only control.)

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PostPosted: Tue Sep 04, 2012 7:38 pm 
Avisaru
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Tmeister wrote:
finlay wrote:
Edit: just trying it for myself and the five finger gesture feels more natural as a space. dunno what you would do for capitals, perhaps involve the other hand.
Interesting. Did you find some way of trying it out on your computer? I couldn't figure out a way to get my keyboard to distinguish 5 simultaneous key-presses.

Unless you have a gaming keyboard I doubt you can use chords.


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PostPosted: Tue Sep 04, 2012 8:29 pm 
Osän
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I was just experimenting on the table, to see what felt most natural. You'd also need a character for backspace, although I guess that's left. As for left and right, most people are right-handed, so you want your layout to reflect that if you're going to have characters for left and right – so your middle finger should be left and your ring finger should be right, if you're using your right hand. Of course, you could very easily have a switch to tell the computer you're using your left hand. But then on that note, I'm curious as to why you're not using both hands really...


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PostPosted: Tue Sep 04, 2012 8:47 pm 
Avisaru
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Oh, you're talking about the → and ← gestures. These are just supposed to be "space" and "backspace". My thinking was that since the space is used more often than backspace, and the middle finger is stronger than the ring finger, it makes sense for the middle finger to be → (space) and the ring finger to be ← (backspace).

As for the one-handedness, it's mostly for convenience and elegance (in the imagined world where such devices actually exist). This leaves your other hand free to do other things, such as driving, eating, etc.

EDIT: Thinking about it more, maybe ← should be switched with A, so that A is the ring finger and backspace is the pinky.

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PostPosted: Wed Sep 05, 2012 9:49 am 
Sanci
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Tmeister wrote:
Tanni wrote:
I don't think that E should be done by the thumb. If you want that e.g. for a cell phone, you might wish to press it with the thumb while entering the text. You always need the thumb to hold the device. Maybe providing two buttons for the thumb, selecting two 16 character pages.
You think so? I guess it might be kind of hard to push the thumb by itself, without thereby pushing the buttons on the other side of the phone into your other fingers. Maybe it could be made easier by a clever shape of the buttons. I'm not sure if having two buttons for the the thumb would help, however.

EDIT: I also added to the alphabet above a sketch of what I'd imagine such a device would look like.

I assumed that it looks like a cell phone, with the thumb on the keyboard and the other fingers on the ''perimeter''.

Tmeister wrote:
Tanni wrote:
What will be the code for zero?

You should reserve at least the first 15 codes #A to #O for decimal and hexadecimal digits. You also should reserve at least one code to enable further extension of the system, e.g. for national special characters, e.g. the code ##.
It wouldn't be necessary to have separate codes for hex A-F, since you could just use the normal letters, no?

Actually, now that I think of it, the "#A #B #C..." number system would be kind of confusing, since there's no pattern in these symbols, and people already have strong ideas about what numerical gestures should look like. So, here's a proposed set of number/punctuation codes (using the thumb-first notation finlay uses). I couldn't use "##" for special characters, because that's the number 4, but we can let "#↑" do the job.


Is it just for input, or for input and output as a refreshable braille display? I assumed the latter. I assumed that the # character is both, a number sign and a modifyer. As a modifyer, it could be used to easily switch through the code pages by just repeating the same guesture.

Tmeister wrote:
As for the one-handedness, it's mostly for convenience and elegance (in the imagined world where such devices actually exist). This leaves your other hand free to do other things, such as driving, eating, etc.

I remember a TV reportage long ago that Israelian army had developed a similar device.

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PostPosted: Tue Jan 22, 2013 10:08 pm 
Avisaru
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Very cool, but won't work. When you hold your fingers stuff to hit the thumb button, your other fingers will activate the other buttons.


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PostPosted: Thu Jan 24, 2013 7:19 am 
Avisaru
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So I used my phone (an object that fits my hand in the manner ascribed by your picture) to test some of these theories of not being able to press some without pressing others.
I am entirely capable of pressing a button with my thumb without pressing one on the other side with any of my fingers. I don't generally consider myself a freak of nature, so I'm going to assume it is possible in the general populace as well :)

However, to make it easier a delicate shaping of the device would be helpful. I'm thinking something thicker than your average smartphone, with an edge that has a flat, then a strong bevel... So... like a trapezoid, I guess? With the buttons on the flat part. Thus allowing the fingers to rest on the (preferably rubberized and finger-grooved) bezel, thus allowing you to actually be gripping with as many second phalanges as you like, but keeping the tips of the unnecessary digits off of the buttons.
I don't know if that made sense... I guess I mean that I gripped the phone with my first joint and pressed with my tips...
However if you made it somewhat thinner and required the fingers to press onto the surface it would amount to the same thing.
(Side note, shifting the thumb button to just atop the corner would put it where my power button is. And I routinely hit that without pressing any of my side buttons.
Second side note, pushing middle and little is not that difficult (especially if you shift thumb to atop.) the device would sit between those fingers and the base of your thumb, basically pushing it into your fingers. It is more an act of removing the index and ring than placing the middle and little.)

One thing that came up for me though is that you would either need multiple sizes in both sides, (left handed/right handed) or allow the device to be somehow adjustable. Because if you have large hands, or small hands, or are right/left handed... buttons would need to be in different places for comfort...

I suppose another way would be a kind of loop system, where your fingers are inserted into the loops, then pulled back for finger "presses". Though this would make it less convient to pick up/put down.

It could however be a very good peripheral device for mute, deaf, blind, handicapped, etc. persons.

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