Breaking the type cast: TrewGrip's grab-and-go keyboard for mobile living
By C.C. Weiss
August 20, 2013
Hunt-and-peck, letter by letter, on your Roku remote, awkwardly balancing a wireless keyboard on your lap while sitting on the couch, typing long, painful emails with your touchscreen keypad – the world needs a new keyboard paradigm for mobile living. Outlier Technologies attempts to provide one its TrewGrip, a rear-keyed smartphone dock that you can hold and type with and is designed for use with smartphones, smart TVs and more.
Keyboards were great when all your computing took place at a desk. But now that computing has gone wireless, there are many situations when the keyboard just doesn't work that well. Tiny touchscreen keyboards are slow and painful to use. Portable physical keyboards are awkward to use when not planted on a stable surface and certainly don't work when you're on the move. These options are "good enough" when you're typing short text messages, but if you really have something to say, they're very tedious.
The TrewGrip gives you a keyboard that moves as freely as your smartphone and other mobile devices. Instead of requiring that you lay it down, this grab-and-go keyboard is designed for holding and typing, be it while walking, standing, sitting, etc. It includes keys on the back, laid out in a vertical, split-QWERTY design, so instead of using your thumbs or pointer finger, you can get eight digits involved. The curved form factor is designed to bring the most distant keys close enough to type comfortably.
The front face of the TrewGrip has a dock to hold smartphones and small tablets (up to 7-in display) with a suction mount. It also has several thumb keys, including "space," "enter," and "back." The rest of the face is covered in a backlit illustration of the keys on the other side to help you become familiar with the layout. Each key illustration lights up when the corresponding key is pressed, helping you develop this new type of typing coordination.
The TrewGrip is powered by a rechargeable lithium-ion battery providing 10 hours of life and connects to your device with Bluetooth 3.0. It can be used with smartphones and small tablets, as well as desktop computers and smart TVs. Outlier Technologies plans to offer a version with a USB dongle and integrated gyroscope for such purposes. The gyroscope will allow for it to serve as an air mouse, so that you can navigate on screen, as well as type. It should definitely be more comfortable and convenient for couch computing and home entertainment than a standard keyboard or hunt-and-click menu with remote control. It will have a 30-ft (9.1-m) wireless range.
Because of its non-traditional, vertical key layout, the TrewGrip will take a little getting used to, just like regular typing does. Outlier has developed training programs, games and conducted testing for the device and claims that users can develop 90 percent of their QWERTY typing speeds within about 10 hours.
Outlier Technologies launched the TrewGrip on Kickstarter earlier this month in an effort to raise US$100,000 for further development but as of the time of publication is still well short of this goal. A pledge of $249 will secure a pre-order for one of the first production models that are due to begin shipping in February if the goal is reached.