OK, so I know what you’re thinking, “How can you have a keyboard that has no keys?” Well, let me take some time to introduce and explain this puzzling scenario. Enter orbiTouch®, an innovative device which has the ability to perform all of the functions of a standard QWERTY keyboard by utilizing just two domes on a platform with the basic shape of a regular keyboard.
Those of you who know me will know that this is a product being manufactured and sold by the company I have been working with for the past year, Blue Orb, Inc. So, before I go into describing how orbiTouch® works, let me delve into its history a bit.
The idea for orbiTouch® was spawned when our founder and CEO, Dr. Peter McAlindon, Ph.D., started to develop pains in his wrists as a result of typing–an activity which has become imperative to functioning within this technologically-based society–and decided there had to be a better, more comfortable, way to type. Well, Dr. McAlindon turned over two cereal bowls and the idea was born. Because the inspiration for orbiTouch® was derived from cereal bowls, it was initially named Keybowl and then the real fun of putting ideas into action began.
As any product is prone to do, orbiTouch® has gone through many iterations; various actuating forces and distances were tested for optimal comfort, and the combination with the highest level of comfort is what is used today. The technology used by orbiTouch® has been integrated to allow for an alternative text entry system in both console and PC gaming worlds. On the console side was a hardware intermediary between controller and console named Texter, which allowed the user to type using the joysticks of a controller in a way very similar to orbiTouch®.
The company quickly noticed that many Texter units were being sold to PC gamers for use with World of Warcraft. Because of the movement away from wired technology, and the booming PC gaming environment, Blue Orb decided to create a software version of Texter called SwitchBlade, which allowed PC games to be played using console controllers. SwitchBlade gave way to SwitchBlade PRO, which still allows PC gamers to play their favorite PC games with their favorite console controllers (e.g. Xbox 360, PS3), but for a nominal subscription cost.
In addition to providing orbiTouch® technology through various additional avenues, the number of people who were thought to be able to benefit from the use of orbiTouch® has grown dramatically. Initially, it was assumed the primary benefactors of orbiTouch® technology would be people with limited use of their hands and fingers. People with carpal tunnel syndrome, cerebral palsy, arthritis, etc. were the types of people we thought would have the most to gain from using our product–allowing them to more easily access the most efficient source of communication ever created (i.e. the computer).
Recently, however, research has shown that people with Austism Spectrum Disorders take to using orbiTouch® much more readily than they would a QWERTY keyboard (click the image below to see a full-sized version of the research results).
The average child with autism is not only capable of reaching a higher typing speed with orbiTouch® than a QWERTY keyboard, but they get to those speeds in about 15% of the time! We are excited about the potential we have to help these very intelligent people gain better access to extremely important modern day communication devices like the PC or Macintosh.
Ok, now, how does that darn thing work?
orbiTouch® has two modes, keyboard or mouse. In keyboard mode a combination of sliding dome movements performs any of the functions you are able to do with a standard keyboard.
While two domes, each sliding eight directions, would normally only allow for 64 –combinations of functions, shift and alt provide the ability to accomplish 118 functions as shown by the slide guide below (click the image to see the full-sized version):
If you move the left dome down twice in a row you are now in mouse mode, using the right dome to control the location of the cursor and the left dome as your right and left clicks.
My intention here is not to act as a salesman, but I figure it would make sense to provide links for more information; so here is a link to the Blue Orb YouTube channel:
And the orbiTouch®: