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DataHand (wikipedia.org)
81 points by kick on Jan 20, 2020 | hide | past | favorite | 52 comments

If you're reading this, you probably need make a majority of your income using your hands, and your ability to type things with them.

Please get yourself a proper keyboard. They keyboard on your laptop, or even a good external one, is likely destroying your wrists. You're injuring yourself.

I highly recommend the microsoft sculpt keyboard. It's cheap (for something that will help you protect your livlihood) and will make a substantial difference in the longevity of your wrists.

Keyboards should be split. If you're not using a sculpt at the least, please change that. You'll thank yourself when you're older.

(Currently typing this on a keyboard.io -- it's a lot more expensive than the sculpt, and a lot of that cost goes to the cool factor of it, imo. The sculpt is a great keyboard.)

Musculoskeletal disorders are complicated and not completely understood. I’m not sure the evidence base for alternative layouts and geometries is compelling enough to suggest that using a conventional laptop keyboard amounts to “destroying your wrists”.

I think the main areas of possible injuries are related to the angle and width of your keyboard:

- Your hands and wrists pronate to type on a flat keyboard. Holding _any_ position for a prolonged period increases chance for injury. Other things such as pens and mugs don't require us to turn our wrists that much. Some say the ideal wrist position is more like a handshake.

- The arm angle in on the standard keyboard as the home keys (for the index on 'f' and 'j') is positioned too close. This can cause either excessive wrist rotation or hunching of shoulder when typing.

I am sure not everybody has the same risks to injury, every hand and body is unique, either muscle composition/strength/flexibility, bone ratios/geometry, and others. But it doesn't hurt to try these alternative keyboard/layouts to find out whether it's more comfortable _for you_. Again, most of us makes money by typing into keyboards, it would be insane to see a truck driver seating on a bench seat just because it's 'standard' or cheaper.

Everyone should use whatever keyboard makes them happy, and that includes choosing one that is most comfortable for them; the study of physical ergonomics can sometimes help with that.

If we’re making general claims that a specific device will prevent a medical condition then we need evidence from clinical studies.

I agree with you on that. The statements are often times overboard. The testimonials are too. People need to watch out for these false claims and also be aware of their own needs and signals from their body.

Keyboard.io keyboards are awesome, I'd also highly recommend checking out the Ergodox project [1] - it's an open source keyboard that's very similar. They offer all the materials you need to DIY, and you can also buy a pre-built one for a similar price to the keyboard.io ones (still very expensive however).

[1]: https://www.ergodox.io

I saw a thread here about a month ago about these split keyboards and got a Centromere v2 (https://southpawdesign.net/products/centromere-plus-v2?varia...) and am typing this comment on it right now.

I have various observations, which I'm going to write up in a post soon, but here's a summary:

* It's amazing, I never want to use a non-QMK keyboard again. Just the fact that I can use layers and never have to take my hands away from the home row for anything is great.

* Having my Caps Lock be a combination of Ctrl and Esc is great, but I've done this for years with my normal keyboard as well using xcape.

* Having my Shift keys be parentheses and pressing both of them to activate Caps Lock is very convenient.

* I don't have any problem switching to my laptop's keyboard at any time. I noticed I type "wrong" on normal keyboards, probably because I hold my wrists straight so I can only use 2-3 fingers on each hand to type. This means that I don't have much problem with wrist position, but the split keyboard feels a bit better.

* Using a linear keyboard might have been a bit unnecessary, since I basically had to learn to touch-type properly again, starting at around 5 WPM (from 110 WPM normally).

* I still haven't learned all the keyboard shortcuts, though I'm getting better.

I don't remember more at this time, but I'll be happy to answer any questions anyone has.

I’ve used both the keyboard.io and Kinesis Advantage II, and the latter is miles ahead. The curved fingertip bowl, the more logical placement of modifier keys, the F keys and media keys, the softwareless macros and remapping; if you have any interest in a keyboard.io I strongly recommend a Kinesis Advantage II, instead.

Like another commenter said: ortholinear (not staggered) is a huge win. Perhaps even higher priority than split, but close at least. Don’t settle for staggered.

(I emphatically second the urging of ergonomic HIDs!)

What's so great about ortholinear keyboards? I'm typing on one right now, but I'm not sure I prefer it over the staggered one so much. It's easier to find where each key is, for sure, but I don't know if the adjustment hassle is worth it.

It's about the angle your left wrist makes to hit that top row. If you only extend your fingers linearly, keeping a staggered keyboard aligned with a "neutral" left wrist means basically a 90° angle. Anything less and you're twisting your wrist horizontally.

For me that's the most painful, and anecdotally I hear twisting your wrists is a notorious contributor to injury. But, as always, do your own randomized controlled trial if you want to be sure :)

I wouldn't recommend a staggered keyboard like the Microsoft Sculpt.

The Kinesis Advantage is a much better choice.

The reason I mentioned the sculpt is because it's cheap, and still infinitely better than the normal keyboard that ships on a laptop.

I agree that it's important to find something better than the laptop keyboard. Even a £2 keyboard will outperform it; position is critical.

Split keyboards solve the problem of ulnar deviation. This doesn't affect me as much as other RSIs, so I don't optimise for this.

I am convinced that technique can compensate for more strain than equipment can. Keep wrists straight, use gross motor (shoulders, arms), work with gravity (in fingers and in arms). Relax.

Bad keyswitches can force you to put in extra effort. But good technique, positioning and furniture can get a lot out of a budget keyboard.

I think I've had four sculpts. They are great for the price. Would like a better keyboard with mechanical bc switches, but the next level is simply to expensive and there is too little choice for a international layouts. So please Microsoft. I would pay triple for a sculpt with mechanical keys.

I'm using a good old logitech for work. It's big. It's clunky. It's got a ps/2 connector. It's not split. It's the only keyboard that never made my wrists hurt over prolonged use and I've been using it since 2006 along with microsoft mouse. I think overall keyboard size/key size and spacing matters more than splitting the keyboard in two.

I do however second the thought that keyboard (and ergonomics in general - external monitors set at correct height, good mouse, chair and table at good height, etc.) is not something you should ignore if you plan on keeping working with computers.

I highly recommend looking for a bowl-shaped keyboard as the second priority after split. Kinesis advantage is popular, and similarly priced to the keyboard.io. There are also maltrons, if you're willing to shell out a little extra dough. There was also a project to make a bowl-shaped split keyboard you could 3d-print at home. I can't remember the name.

I was also very excited about the moonrim, a project that portended to go a step further and change the hands' orientation, so they would face inward instead of down. Sadly, it ended up not taking off.

The Dactyl is a bowl shaped split keyboard that you can 3D print the case for. From what I've read it's a very complicated build.

The Kinesis inspired 3d printed one is the Dactyl. Quite an effort to make it, but worth it to some.

Are all of the 'exotic' keyboards designed for people who use the home row, or do they work for other styles, too? I type primarily with two fingers, employing the others for particular keys according to muscle memory, and do it faster than most touch typists (>100 WPM). Never knew whether that would translate to one of these other form factors.

It certainly doesn't help with transitioning to alternative layouts. I found my touch typing improved dramatically when I started using ortholinear and vertical stagger keyboards that force you to really use the "right" fingers

I kept having wrist pains and switched to the Surface Ergonomic Keyboard. I also got a trackball. My wrist pain disappeared quickly and is much less likely now. I have the same setup anywhere I work and at home.

There’s an open source DataHand project:


At CES Samsung demo’ed a “keyboard” using the Selfie camera.


Once we use a camera to track our hands, we can invent other motions to augment a traditional keyboard.

Also, this keyboard reminds me of DataHand:


I wouldn't want this as a keyboard, I'd want one hanging from my right front pocket while looking at my phone with my left hand. It's the touchscreen interfaces that are terrible and need replacing, not the qwerty keyboard. The backlash against touchscreens has started with interior car controls and I'd like to see that spread everywhere else.

(Yes I have RSI problems.)

Touchscreens: cheap to design around, easy to rearrange into the latest fashion, hateful to use, and here to stay--and I don't even have an RSI!

Don't have a child's fingers and a eagle's eyes? Suck it grandpa! You weren't part of our hyperconsuming target demographic anyway.

Ancient China had foot-binding. Perhaps in the future we'll have finger-binding, where teens wrap bandages around their fingertips so they'll still be able to manipulate small electronics in their later years?

How about a pair of gloves that can sense the muscle movements in your fingers and hands and learn to associate those movements with letters on the keyboard as you type. Then when you're away from the keyboard, the gloves just use the model to infer what your movements intend as you "air type". Surely this is possible with modern machine learning techniques and hardware.

The Senseboard virtual keyboard tried to do that a decade ago: https://sandipsandilya.wordpress.com/2010/07/21/senseboard-v... and the AirType as well a bit more recently https://www.ohgizmo.com/airtype-keyless-keyboard-future/

The problem with gloves only would be the lack of tactile feedback to tell your fingers that the key press has registered.

I used a Datahand for several years and while it was very easy on fingers (the activation pressure was much less than typical keyboards, even Topre's), the tactile feedback from the switches was I think essential for typing efficiently.

I miss that thing...

Years ago I was trying to prototype something like this (the "typing gloves" part) with accelerometers. I wanted them so I could see if I could type while lucid dreaming. Alas, my hardware skills were not up to the task!

This reminds me of the wired hand interface in Children of Men[1]:

[1]: https://youtu.be/sJO0n6kvPRU?t=122 (minute 2:02)

At least one company is working on that general concept: https://www.ctrl-labs.com/

I had a toy called hand band that was a similar concept you could move your fingers to produce different sounds but it was only one sound per finger.

A character in Asimov's "I, Robot" (the book) had one of these. He even kept it in his pocket so he could type discreetly with his hand resting on his leg.

Interesting. Was that only in the book? because I don't remember seeing that in the movie.

Yeah, the book is... quite different. It's a series of little stories told to the point-of-view character, a reporter, who has this device and records the stories as notes from an interview.

The stories are basically illustrations of how great the Three Laws of Robotics are, which is not surprising since Asimov invented them himself.

You mean how faillible they were? I recall many stories were about how someone died or had an accident because of overzealous or faulty interpretation of the laws... :)

Huh, maybe. I interpreted it as Asimov showing how perfect the rules were, in that the slightest tweak could lead to disaster.

No, the point was that they were detective stories about robot bugs. People who don't understand why people like "sitting in front of screens all day" should read that book to get a sense of how exactly looking at a core dump could be fun.

Sounds like the Twiddler keyboard. It’s been around since at least 1991.

Previously, on Hacker News:


Very interesting 63-comment thread from 6 years ago.

2014? That dates how long I've had this Sidewinder X4 keyboard from my reply there, and roughly how long my experience with the Datahand and Plover has put me off buying another strange or unusual keyboard. Specifically the "Truly Ergonomic"/Cleave keyboard which came up in the last year or so for another round of production, and when I googled it found a review by Xah Lee [1] - who no longer uses it - and this guy I'm sure you'll recognise - https://www.sacrideo.us/not-your-typical-keyboard/ - who seems to no longer use it, and both previously owned a Datahand too [2].

I wonder what the incidence of people continuing using their strange keyboards long term, vs. raving about them and then not using them after a few months, really is. And what happened to the guy who bought my Datahand and paid international shipping to get it.

[1] http://xahlee.info/kbd/truly_ergo_keyboard_cleave.html

[2] http://xahlee.info/kbd/datahand.html

I haven't followed Oculus stuff at all, but some of the comments there talk about how great Oculus keyboards will be. Anybody know if that's still the case?

There's a bunch of hackers trying to reverse-engineer and open-source the DataHand here (most recent reply was yesterday):


I've had a couple of DataHands (and still keep one under my bed). It's a real marvel. For certain repetitive strain injuries: it's the only thing that helps.

I'm using regular keyboards now, and I'm grateful that I can. But I look forward to the day when anybody who needs one can find one.

In the late 90s I had a co-worker who managed to wrangle one of these at our office. I think he tried it for a few weeks and then returned it. I solved most of my RSI problems at the time by switching to dvorak.

I had a very similar experience with RSI and Dvorak. It was getting pretty bad and many years later, my wrists are holding up great. Maybe I'd have learned Colemak if I learned today, maybe not.

I used Dvorak since 2005.

After one look at Coleman / Colemak, and typing "he" (the second most common digraph in English) I'm sticking with Dvorak.

Bob Moog and John Eaton designed a multi touch synthesizer with a similar design vision. http://experimentalsynth.com/eaton-moog-multi-touch-keyboard...

From what I hear and having attempted to play one myself, it’s mentally taxing and hard to express artistically.

i distinctly remember this product, not because i used one...but because my friends and i learned about it on compuserve! same night was my first use of mosaic. prior all my “internet” use was actually either muds via telnet or dialin bbs.

to be clear, after we saw that we were all positive that Blade Runner was going to happen before we graduated middleschool...

cykey.co.uk is an interesting option - very easy to learn (I did it in an afternoon), but suffers from a couple of shortcomings: 1) there's no dedicated backspace key; 2) the characters regularly used by programmers are awkward to get at in some cases. Both of these issues could be addressed, and I'm experimenting with my own build which will use two rows of 5 keys, the upper row providing access to key layers + BS.

PS. It's also IR, not bluetooth - but thats a trivial DIY fix.

I used to own one of these. It was utterly unusable.

Looked cool, though.

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