There are a lot of gimmicky takes on the classic QWERTY keyboard — from colorful devices that look like old-school typewriters to a foldable thing that converts into a stick. But a wearable device that can eliminate keyboards entirely? That’s something else.
The team at Tap Systems Inc. has invented a new wearable called Tap Strap, which essentially lets you turn the world into a giant keyboard.
The strap has five holes that you put your fingers through, and it’s embedded with sensors that track information about your hands and fingers. The wearable can be connected to almost any device, just as long as it has Bluetooth. You then tap your fingers on any surface, and those taps are turned into commands and characters.
Tapping one finger will give you a vowel, and tapping a combination will give you other letters of the alphabet.
The device was made available to beta testers in May 2016, and since then the team has been collecting responses and making iterations to the product.
David Schick, one of Tap’s creators, said the feedback has led to two new significant changes — the addition of mouse functionality and a “fabric-like” design. They’ve also added a haptic feedback element to make it easier for users who can’t see their hands when they’re tapping.
“The people who need this the most are people in a virtual reality environment,” said Schick.
One thing that might present a barrier to prospective users is the learning curve involved in using the strap. It takes a while to memorize the finger tapping combination and how those correspond to different letters of the alphabet. According to Tap, playing a game on their TapGenius app for an hour will get you comfortable with the method. Still, if you’re used to typing away on a QWERTY keyboard, getting used to tapping might take you longer than that.
Schick insists that it’s not Tap’s goal to convert skeptics to their device.
“There are a lot of reasons to learn how to tap and get into this technology, but it’s different for different people,” he said.
Schick also hinted that the company may look at extending Tap’s functionality beyond text-entry in the future, and it’s currently working to release the product in languages other than English.
The Tap Strap should hit the shelves around August this year, Schick says. In the meantime, interested users can join the waitlist by signing up on Tap’s website.