February 27th, 2019
The latest generation of virtual and augmented reality headsets (like the HoloLens 2 unveiled by Microsoft at MWC 2019) offer hand-tracking and voice controls, but there’s one task they still can’t handle easily: typing.
That’s where Tap comes in. It’s a device that resembles a silicone knuckle duster, but is in fact a wearable keyboard that lets you type one-handed without having to use a desk. We caught up with Dovid Schick, Tap’s creator, at MWC to find out how it works, and what it means for the future of typing.
Tap is a set of connected silicone rings, which fit snugly onto the fingers of your dominant hand and are adjusted using nylon sliders on the palm side. The thumb ring bears the power button, plus a flat edge that serves as a mouse, letting you scroll around webpages and documents by sliding it across any surface.
To type, you just tap your fingers against whatever comes to hand. That could be a table, the arm of a chair, the back of your other hand, your sleeve – anything hard enough to stop your fingers moving. Different combinations of fingers produce different letters, and with practice, you can expect to tap away at over 50wpm single-handed.
When we tried it, it felt snug but comfortable (it’s available in two sizes, but there’s some overlap between them). We tested it by tapping on a table, and found that it wasn’t necessary to bring down our fingertips hard at all. A light touch is all it takes, and you can use it while sitting back comfortably rather than being tempted to hunch over, as you might while using a keyboard.
It’s not a brand new device, and has been on sale since 2018, but Schick (an electrical engineer by trade, who developed the first digital X-ray system for dentists in the 1990s) believes this is Tap’s time to shine.
The device comes with two training apps. The first of these, Tap Genius, introduces the taps for each letter of the alphabet, plus basic punctuation. The vowels are the simplest, and each is represented by a single tap with one of your fingers. Other letters are a little more complex, requiring two, three or four fingers. The trickiest is J, which is created by tapping every finger except your ring finger, but can also be typed by double-tapping your middle finger.
Once you’ve mastered the letters, you’ll be able to type, but you’ll be slow. To build muscle memory, you need the second app, Tap Academy. This app provides a course of 10-20 minute lessons, designed to be completed over 30 days. By the end, you should be tapping away like a pro.