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The Kee4 one-handed, four-key mobile keyboard

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November 25, 2010

The Kee4 Keyboard puts mobile typing at your fingertips

The Kee4 Keyboard puts mobile typing at your fingertips

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If there’s one major weakness of devices like the iPad and touchscreen-only mobile phones, it’s their onscreen keyboards. This is evidenced by the selection of portable keyboards available, such as the Jorno Bluetooth and Thanko folding keyboards. Citta Consulting is taking a different approach to portability to with its Kee4 Keyboard – a device that has just four keys and can be operated with one hand using a "composite keystroke" system.

The Kee4 is Bluetooth keyboard worn on one hand with the thumb inserted into a pouch to hold it in place. This allows the four fingers to rest on each of the device’s four keys so the user doesn’t have to move their fingers from key to key. If you’ve got a light touch you might be able to get away with using it freehanded, but resting it on a solid surface, such as the side of your body or an armrest, is recommended to stop the keyboard moving when the keys are pressed.

The Kee4 Keyboard prototype

With only four keys and slightly more than four letters in the alphabet – not to mention numbers, upper and lowercase characters, symbols, foreign language characters and function controls – the unit relies on patented technology that uses a combination of keys, called composite keystrokes, to generate a full range of characters.

The device uses two types of composite keystrokes. The first, called a rocking composite keystroke, involves a rocking motion where the key that is pressed second is the first to be released. A rolling composite keystroke, on the other hand, (well, actually the same hand), involves a rolling motion where the first key that is pressed is the first to be released – kind of like drumming your fingers. The only exceptions are A, E, space and CTRL, which are generated with a single keystroke.

The Key4 character map - rocking composite keystrokes are highlighted red, while rolling c...

Obviously, such a system will take a bit of getting used to, but the demo video below proves it’s far from impossible. Citta Consulting has patented the device and is currently seeking investors to bring the Kee4 Keyboard to market. So if you’re interested in one day getting your hands on – or rather, hand in – the device, drop by the Kee4 website where there’s also a downloadable Kee4 Keyboard simulator to let you get your head around the composite keystrokes.

About the Author
Darren Quick Darren's love of technology started in primary school with a Nintendo Game & Watch Donkey Kong (still functioning) and a Commodore VIC 20 computer (not still functioning). In high school he upgraded to a 286 PC, and he's been following Moore's law ever since. This love of technology continued through a number of university courses and crappy jobs until 2008, when his interests found a home at Gizmag.   All articles by Darren Quick
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14 Comments

neat, but not fast. if they could tweak this design to make typing faster, i'd be interested. you need to be able to do more motions with each finger, i think that would help.

Kim Holder
25th November, 2010 @ 08:14 pm PST

OK, who is this really targetted at? Not iphone users sorry. This is just too slow to operate, too slow to learn, you'll get RSI at about 10 x the speed.

the only potential users of this I can see are people who have no arm mobility and limited finger mobility in only one hand, and who can't speak.

Adrien
25th November, 2010 @ 08:39 pm PST

No mention of Doug Engelbart (inventor of the mouse)& the chorded keyboard he pushed?

Doug was pushing this 20-30 years ago. There is actually a time saving with this device - I guess you could relate it to how a court stenographer can type quicker with a vaguely similar setup.

t0mt0m
25th November, 2010 @ 10:45 pm PST

Reminds me of the "Writehander" - a one-handed half sphere keyboard from the late 70s or early 80s. Never had one, but I think it was a 5-key input device.

BobH
26th November, 2010 @ 05:36 am PST

I imagine a thumb-joystick with swype type kb would be smaller and have better results.

this is slower than I can type on either the screen of my phone or the physical keyboard for it. I can also see there being a problem if you are only an occasional user, trying to remember all the combinations for all the characters.

quick, what's the dollar sign again? greater than/less than sign? slash? infrequently used letters? or are they expecting people to constantly reference a card?

I wonder how useful this is for even disabled users, for the same reasons of infrequently used characters being hard to remember.

thumb joystick with swype would def be a better path.

MockingBird TheWizard
26th November, 2010 @ 06:38 am PST

Those who once used the superb Microwriter Agenda keyboard will wonder what improvement has been achieved over the years. The beauty of it is kept alive and toady is available as the CYKEY (pronounced psyche!): see http://www.cykey.co.uk/ and I recommend anybody seeking a onehanded keyboard usable for touch typing to consider this if it can be matched to their equipment. I used to use my Agenda for taking notes at conferences and found it excellent.

jmaclaren
26th November, 2010 @ 01:09 pm PST

there is already a "one key" system, called the iambic paddle, upon which people are doing 150 wpm. it runs morse code. The nice thing with that and this is the ability to type in your pocket, without ever looking.

I believe that its worth the effort. I also think there should be a code input so you could do simple "command line" entry, like "open video," "call this number..." etc, so we don't have to look first then go to the type pad, whichever system.

Facebook User
26th November, 2010 @ 01:33 pm PST

Or, let's just go with one key and use Morse code! ...--..---.--...

Will, the tink
26th November, 2010 @ 01:51 pm PST

Google up "microwriter", a 6 key word processing device sold in Britain in the early 1980's. All 128 ASCII characters could be entered with chording combinations and the memory device for learning was very clever and intuitive. I've always thought you could use the same system with a series of "keys" arranged around the perimeter of a smartphone or a smartphone add-on case.

Apparently a version of this keyboard is sold by "CyKey" for use with a PC. their website shows how it works and how easy it is to learn the system.

Dreamer
26th November, 2010 @ 02:54 pm PST

Also it would be nice if the device name would be KEEFO :)

Михаил Финогенов
26th November, 2010 @ 02:58 pm PST

I used to use my Agenda for taking notes at conferences and found it excellent.

wholesaleeshops
28th November, 2010 @ 11:31 pm PST

What a totally crappy idea! Those over a certain age would have an unbearable time trying to work this out. What about a mini bluetooth touchpad that recognises the same types of lettering that used to be on the Palm handhelds? This was easy to use & fairly accurate being that it depended on knowing what letters actually look like rather than converting them to numbers. Maybe 3 small buttons for single-press Shift & double-press Shift-Lock, single-press Control & double-press Others & an Enter button...

Rex Alfie Lee
30th November, 2010 @ 09:04 pm PST

...also forgot a backspace/delete key, the rest are done by drawing characters like the old Palm...

Rex Alfie Lee
30th November, 2010 @ 09:06 pm PST

I have noticed that everyone on earth is an expert on chording keyboards. It is perfectly obvious they are very slow. It's also obvious that they're faster than qwertys. They're ridiculously hard to master and as easy as pie. No evidence is necessary to support these claims because they're all OBVIOUS.

Also, regardless of any differences in details, it's all been done many times before starting with Douglas Engelbart. Or Samuel Morse.

Everybody's an expert and half are engineering historians to boot.

John_3000
1st September, 2011 @ 11:20 am PDT
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