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.
March 7, 2019
The Tap resembles a prop from an early ’90s cyberpunk movie. It’s a strange-looking device, resembling something like a high-tech knuckleduster that fits onto the hand, with a sensor on each finger and a Bluetooth connection to your phone or laptop. By tapping fingers in certain combinations, you can enter text, letter by letter. Tap the thumb and you get an A. The index finger gives you an E. Tap both thumb and index and you get an N. Tap the index finger twice and you get an exclamation point. Tap all of your fingers together and you get a space.
It takes some practice, but it is a surprisingly effective way to enter text once you become familiar with it. That’s made easier by the Tap Academy app, which trains you in the various combinations in stages. A number of simple games also help you practice. I didn’t find that the tap was any faster than using the keyboard; it was significantly slower, even with practice. But it can be more convenient, as you can use it on any surface. I used it while sitting on the bus, tapping text out on my knee to curious looks from my fellow passengers. It can also work as a pointing device: An optical sensor on the thumb emulates a mouse.
February 22, 2019
Tap features a series of rings with built-in sensors, with the rings designed to fit over your thumb and each finger to detect your tap gestures. The rings are adjustable and can fit a wide range of hand sizes, and with the sensors, you can essentially use the Tap Keyboard anywhere you are.
Each letter of the alphabet is a different tap. To create an “A,” for example you tap your thumb in a downwards motion onto a desk or flat surface. A tap of the index finger makes an “E,” while to create a “K,” you tap your thumb and ring finger downwards at the same time. To make a “B,” you tap your pinky and index finger at the same time.
Learning to use the Tap Keyboard takes just a few days, but because it’s an entirely new way of typing, mastering it can take some time. We reviewed the Tap last year and were able to learn the taps in about a week practicing 30 minutes per day.
Tap recently came out with new software that’s designed to help you learn faster than ever. The TapAcademy, one of the Tap apps available from the App Store, is a 30-day course that’s used for 10 minutes a day to memorize the letters, numbers, and symbols you need to use the Tap as a keyboard replacement for iOS devices, Macs, and more.
By completing TapAcademy, Tap users can greatly improve their typing speeds. According to Tap, its current regular Tap users type at an average of 40 words per minute, while some can type up to 70 words, which is impressive for a wearable keyboard with an entirely new input method. TapAcademy uses both games and daily exercises to improve typing speeds, and the company has a money back guarantee. After a Tap purchase, customers who are unable to reach 30 words per minute after finishing TapAcademy can return the product and get their money back.
Tap is a Bluetooth keyboard so it works with all of your Bluetooth enabled devices like any other keyboard. It also has a built-in mouse replacement feature that lets you use your thumb as a mouse for navigation purposes.
There are a selection of games that use the Tap keyboard as an input method, and Tap is fully customizable so you can create different Tap Maps for various games and use cases.
January 10, 2019
In some respects, there is a truth to saying that keyboards define how and why we use computers. Perhaps, our gaze at the abilities demonstrated with various forms of computers are conformed and informed by science fiction regardless of generation. But, there is something to be said about what it means to change or challenge the way that you use a computer. Since first getting an iPad (owned 1st gen and several more), I’ve been around this kind of revolution. And now, one of latest accessories for my iPad has taken that expectation for advancement a good step further.
The Tap wireless keyboard is a wireless (Bluetooth) keyboard accessory which connects with any kind of computer or mobile phone. Instead of a traditional QWERTY hardware keyboard, it uses a series of taps — one, two, three, four and even five fingers to register letters, numbers, and symbols. I liken the Tap to learning how to play various chords on the guitar. You are really training the muscles of your fingers to respond differently than the way you may have been taught in a typewriting, wordprocessing, or keyboarding class.
The hardware interface for Tap is a five-finger, nylon-threaded ring. Each of the rings go around the fingers on one hand, and they are connected by a nylon strap. It’s fairly easy for any size hand; however I found that my fingers expand and contract fairly quickly. I often need to readjust the sizing of the rings or the nylon strap. I’ve made the joke on Twitter that wearing Tap public spaces makes me feel as if I’m the Mandarin, a Marvel comic figure known for having several rings of power. And there is some truth to having this power. With Tap, you transform the space on your desk or table to a more comfortable position for deep-thought kinds of work. You don’t lose screen space when you need to start writing. That is, there is no on-screen keyboard which shows up when Tap is activated; only a thin gray bar at the bottom of the screen which shows copy, paste, cut controls. This is a problem if you want to use emoji — you need to disable the tap keyboard. You only lose your flow if the screen is not being disrupted while you are composing.
Tap makes you think a little more about the words being written. This is probably similar to someone who has lost their hearing and has had to learn sign language. The challenge with this keyboard is not that you are writing words at the same pace and cadence as you do with a normal keyboard, but that you are writing things out one letter at a time until you get used to a new way of seeing letters, words, and phrases. When I needed to go into editing this piece, Tap couldn’t play the participant because there’s no concept of a mouse on iOS (the on-screen keyboard does have a 2-finger tap-and-drag-cursor which I use often). To this end, Tap is almost a revolution in computer input, but one best realized when you use it in concert with another input method.
September 7, 2018
The Qwerty keyboard is a survivor. It’s been used on everything from typewriters to personal computers to today’s ubiquitous touchscreens. It may not survive the next big tech upheaval.
Nascent technologies that lack a convenient way to input text, such as smartwatches and virtual reality, are gaining traction. And this is opening a window of opportunity to reinvent the way people type.
Inventors have fiddled around with the Qwerty layout for years, perhaps most notably with the creation of the Dvorak keyboard in the 1930s that aimed to improve typing speed and efficiency by placing more commonly used letters together. The decades that followed brought funkier, ergonomically minded designs, like split-handed keyboards and devices with letters laid out on concave bowl-like depressions.
Now Tap Systems Inc. is taking a shot at Qwerty. The startup—co-founded by spouses Dovid Schick and Sabrina Kemeny—sells an eponymous wearable, one-handed keyboard-and-mouse controller that lets users type letters, numbers and other characters by drumming different combinations of their fingers.
“When we came upon the concept of tapping we immediately knew we were onto something,” Mr. Schick says. “Tapping, once you start doing it, has both the accuracy, complexity and speed that this kind of system needs. It’s an inherently human kind of action.”
The Bluetooth-enabled device is sold for $179 and looks a bit like pliable brass knuckles. Once on a user’s hand, the Tap registers his or her finger movements and translates various combinations of taps into letters and other characters using a proprietary system called TapAlphabet.
The TapAlphabet pairs the most commonly used letters with the least dextrous movements. Each vowel is entered with the downstroke of a single finger—for instance, one tap of an index finger types an “E.” While it is possible to type in the air, the Tap is most accurate on firm surfaces.
Users can learn the TapAlphabet with the help of TapGenius, an app-based game the co-founders designed with input from gaming experts and researchers at Stanford University’s Memory Laboratory.
September 21, 2018
Mixed and virtual reality may immerse you in a new environment, but it takes away some of the control options we are used to when sitting at a PC. One of those is access to a keyboard and the mouse. Typically, VR experiences require the use of a very slow virtual keyboard, but Tap Systems knew there was a better way and spent the last two years designing a wearable keyboard and mouse.
The resulting Tap device slides over your fingers and is worn like a set of five rings. To type, you simply, well, type! The device picks up which fingers are tapping and in what order to produce the desired characters. There’s a system to learn to access all characters, but it seems quite simple to pick up. There’s also TapMapper, which allows custom layouts to be created.
Mouse mode is activated by placing the thumb ring on a surface and keeping it there. Moving your hand around then moves the mouse pointer while your index and middle fingers can tap for left and right mouse button presses. Drag and drop and scrolling are also supported with other finger tap combos.
As Engadget highlighted, here’s Tap in action using Microsoft’s mixed reality headset to navigate and type in a virtual desktop environment:
A Bluetooth 4.0+ connection ensures you can use Tap to type on just about any devices, meaning your laptop, smartphone, PC, VR, mixed reality, augmented reality, tablets, and smart TVs should all work out the box. It’s also multilingual, can provide eight hours of tapping between recharges (seven days on standby), and is compatible with iOS 9+, Android 5+, OS X Yosemite+, Windows 8.1+, and Ubuntu.
At $179, Tap certainly isn’t cheap, but it does fill a gap in the market for virtual reality especially. It could certainly find wider appeal, though, because having a way to fast type and mouse around simply by wearing some rings sounds quite appealing.