TOUCH TYPE KEYBOARD WITH HOME ROW EMBEDDED CURSOR CONTROL
A touch-type keyboard having shifted functions accessed by a concurrent combination of multiple home row keys. Cursor control keys embedded in the home row of a touch-type keyboard. Cursor key functions are mapped to a location on a home row and an immediately adjacent location. Access to the cursor control functions is provided by concurrently actuating at least one other home row key. One embodiment includes key configurations to reduce hand motion, and labeling configurations to reduce visual clutter. Other embodiments are also described and claimed.
1. Field of the Invention
Embodiments of the invention relate to a keyboard. More specifically, embodiments of the invention relate to a touch type keyboard having cursor control functions embedded in the home row.
With the increasing ubiquity of mobile products, reduced sized keyboards are increasingly important. Various manufacturers have provided different types of keyboards, many of which are actually larger than the devices with which they communicate. Many keyboards provide a single layer of functions associated with particular location on the keyboard. As used herein, a “layer” refers to a character and the shift of the character. Thus, capital J and lowercase j are regarded as falling within a single layer as is commonly the case on standard touch-type keyboards. To make keyboards smaller, it can be desirable to overlap functions under the same location on the keyboard. Taken to its extreme, a typical phone keypad allows cycling through letters and symbols using multiple touches to cause the cycling. This however, does not permit efficient entry and does not constitute what is commonly regarded as a touch-typing keyboard. Generally, touch-typing keyboards are constrained by spacing between keys and single touch access to alphabetic characters. Common touch type patterns include QWERTY and AZERTY keyboards. But merely having e.g. a QWERTY pattern does not make a keyboard a touch-type keyboard. International touch typing standard requires spacing between keys to be 19 mm±1 mm. Smaller devices such as netbooks have compressed this limit, but the practical limitation for touch-typing appears to be a key spacing of greater than 14 mm. Most typists would need at least 17 mm spacing to touch type effectively.
In addition to alphanumeric keys, many existing keyboards provide additional keys for popular commonly used functions. Such functions include the cursor keys, that is the up, down, and right and left arrow keys commonly provided as dedicated keys, usually on the right side of the keyboard. Unfortunately, these cursor keys, while popular, occupy valuable real estate where form factor of the keyboard is constrained and increased cost to manufacture these additional structures must be provided. More importantly, these side-located cursor keys cause the user to leave home row frequently, which slows typing.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
Embodiments of the invention are illustrated by way of example and not by way of limitation in the figures of the accompanying drawings in which like references indicate similar elements. It should be noted that different references to “an” or one embodiment in this disclosure are not necessarily to the same embodiment, and such references mean at least one.
Keyboard 100 provides three layers of functions in at least some locations on the keyboard. As used herein “location” refers to both an entire key where the key is mapped to a single character, and a region of a key where a key is mapped to multiple characters, but the region is uniquely mapped to a character. “Uniquely mapped” means that, based on the existing state of the keyboard, actuation of the location unambiguously results in a single character or function. Thus, for example each alpha character on keyboard 100 is uniquely mapped to a location within the first layer 112. Within this patent application, “layer one” is used interchangeably with “first layer,” “layer two” with “second layer,” and “layer three” with “third layer.” In a default state the first layer is active. Explicit details of each layer and the changing of the mode to access the different layers is discussed below.
Keyboard 100 includes a spacebar module 102, a right hand key array 104 and a left hand key array 106. Spacebar module 102 provides space bar functions to the keyboard. The spacebar module 102 also provides the “command” function that is commonly available on existing keyboards. In one embodiment, the command function is selected by actuating a region on the Spacebar module 102 located near the “Command” legend 130. For example, concurrently pressing command and P is a print command for Apple® computers. Other special keys from PC keyboards, such as control, alt, option, Fn, and the “Windows Command” key, may also be supported. This can be provided through a combination of regions mapped to these functions, and/or sequential, temporal or location-based gestures. For example, double-tapping the command legend can be interpreted as the control key. In one embodiment, a controller within the keyboard 100 can detect the type of host system, such as an Apple iPhone, or a Windows PC, and automatically map the required functions to support that specific host. Right hand key array 104 includes four distinct mechanical keys that are collectively mapped to all the alphanumeric functions typically accessed by the right hand of the user on a touch-type keyboard, in this example a QWERTY layout keyboard. A left hand key array 106 similarly maps to all of the alphanumeric functions typically accessed by the left hand of a user. The letters (alpha characters) form the majority of the first layer (details of the first layer are depicted in
Additionally, cursor control and special functions are provided by the keyboard 100 at a third layer (details of the third layer are depicted in
Keyboard 100 defines a set of home row locations, one for each finger. Thus, in a QWERTY style keyboard, key array 106 has the home row location defined at the “A” location, the “S” location, the “D” location and the “F” location. The right hand key array 104 has home row locations defined at the “J”, “K”, “L”, and the apostrophe locations. This represents a repositioning of the apostrophe location to the home row instead of the “;”. But in usage today the apostrophe has higher usage than semi colon and colon and is therefore more desirable to be placed on the home row in the first layer 112. In one embodiment, a rounded well 122 defines each home row location. The rounded concave well 122 provides easy tactile identification of the home row location on the key surface for a user. Other embodiments of the invention may use some other tactile indication such as a roughened area, a raised area, or other tactilely-discernible feature that permits a user to locate the home row without looking. It is believed that some tactile indication of location is highly desirable for touch-typing.
As noted above, to compactly provide all of the functions of a standard keyboard as well as some other desirable functionality, keyboard 100 provides at least three distinct layers of functions at some locations on the keyboard. The alphabetic characters 112 exist at one layer, numbers 114 as well as special characters exist at a second layer 114, while cursor control functions and some other special functions exist at third layer 116. For example, the “K” location provides capital K and lowercase k in layer 112, an “*” in layer 114, and a down arrow function in third layer 116. The functions on the left edge 140 (tab, caps lock, and shift) and the right edge 142 (back space/delete, return, and shift) are available at all layers in one embodiment. In one embodiment the keyboard permits concurrent actuation of a letter location, and a second location, e.g. the shift location, on the same physical key. The layers are explained in greater detail with reference to
Among the problems that arise with many compact keyboards is the individual keys become too small for effective touch-typing. This is especially true for compact mobile keyboards. By aggregating multiple letters onto keys that are actually larger than standard keys, the spacing between fingers in the home row position can be maintained in a desirable range for touch-typing. For example, the spacing di between adjacent home row positions for one hand is greater than 14 mm and preferably in the range of 17 mm to 22 mm. When discussing “distances” herein, the distance between two locations is defined as the center-to-center distance. That is the distance from the center of one location to the center of the other location.
Notably, in the arrangement of keyboard 100, all alphanumeric characters to be accessed by a particular finger during touch typing (1) reside on the same key and (2) occupy a location immediately adjacent to the home row location. As used here in “immediately adjacent” when modifying location means there is no location (for another character) between a location and its immediately adjacent neighbor location. All immediately adjacent locations on a key are closer to the corresponding home row location than that home row location is to any other home row location. The distance d2, that is the distance between a home row location and an adjacent location, will be in the range of 7 mm to 18 mm, but d2 is always less than d1, where d2 is defined as the distance between a home row location and any of its immediately adjacent locations on the same key, and d1 is defined as the distance between any two immediately adjacent home row locations to be operated by a single hand during touch-typing. It is desirable that di always be at least 10% greater than d2 for every d1 and d2. As a general matter, the distance d2 between J and Y, or J and N, or F and T, and F and B will be the greatest throw (distance between immediately adjacent locations on any key) required to access any function. Testing has shown that the reduced throw coupled with the desirable finger spacing between adjacent finger locations on the home row increases the speed of touch-typing.
This layer 114 includes the numbers 0-9, each located to be associated with the same finger that would be used for that number on a standard keyboard. Additionally, the symbols that are the shifts of the numbers are directly accessible in this layer without a shift, and immediately adjacent so as to associate with the same finger as on a standard keyboard. Finally, the lesser-used symbols such as brackets and less common punctuation are distributed in this layer. On the small keys, that is, those keys used by the middle and ring fingers, two symbols may be accessed at one location. This is performed using the normal “up-shift” function, as with shifting between upper and lower case in the alpha layer 112. In the nomenclature of this embodiment, the symbol on the left of the key is the shifted variant, and the symbol on the right is directly accessible without a shift. For example, in this layer 114 the “@” is directly accessible by the ring finger at the home row location 206 without a shift. The “˜” is accessible as a shift of that same home row location 206. In one embodiment all of the large keys, i.e. those keys accessed by the index and pinky fingers, have a single layer two 114 function per location, and hence can be accessed without a shift. For example, at layer 114 the “]” can be accessed without a shift by actuating the “M” location, and the “[”can be accessed without a shift by actuating the “N” location, which is below and to the left of the “J” home row location 210. Access to symbols that are commonly used together, such as the brackets, has been found to enhance usability when those symbols can be accessed by the same finger.
The functions of this layer are depicted in a second color different from the characters in the first layer. It is desirable that the second color be less obtrusive than the first color. In one embodiment, the functions of this layer are depicted in metallic green ink. Testing has shown that metallic green ink (such as Pantone 10316C) performed best in bright and dim ambient light conditions to provide both good visibility in low light as well as sufficient subtlety relative to the alphabet color when viewed in bright light. Other embodiments may use other inks, such as Pantones 10317C or 10318C which have also be found to have desirable characteristics.
Table 1 shows one possible mapping of layer three 116 functions with the activating key combinations:
The first row of Table 1 shows the location combination that allows the user to access that functionality. The first column shows the layer one locations in correspondence with the layer three functions symbol. The remainder of the table sets forth the function associated with the particular symbol in different states of layer three 116 operation. Accessing the layer three 116 functions is discussed in more detail with reference to
However, it is deemed to be fundamentally different where a user must leave the home row completely to instigate the change. The risk of error and the coincident requirement of visual confirmation renders combinations of locations exclusive of home row less desirable for providing the touch-type transition without requiring visual confirmation. In this example, index finger 304 actuates location 204 and middle finger 302 actuates location 202 allowing a right hand index, middle and ring finger to access cursor control functions 210-216 directly while anchored on the home row. In one embodiment, the other functions at layer three 116 such as cut and paste are also enabled by the concurrent actuation of locations 202 and 204. It is within the scope of the invention to swap the triggering array with the cursor control array. For example one embodiment of the invention may use the J location and the K location to enter cursor control mode and use the S, D, F and E locations as the inverted T cursor control. Left-handed users may prefer this arrangement. In one embodiment a firmware toggle permits such a swap. For purposes of this invention, concurrent actuation shall mean overlapping in time. In order to determine the start and finish of a key actuation at one location relative to another, a controller within the keyboard 100 can apply a timestamp to each key event. In this way, the controller can determine which key event occurred first, and how long the gap in time was between a first and second key event constituting a concurrently overlapping pair. These timestamps may be used after the physical key event has occurred, but before reporting the resultant determination to the host. In this way, very high time and sequence precision can be achieved.
In one embodiment, the keyboard remains at the third layer only so long as both triggering locations (here 202, 204) are actuated concurrently. In an alternative embodiment, after the keys have been actuated concurrently, the mode is latched within a processor in the keyboard, and the keyboard remains at layer three 116 until triggered to leave that state. In one embodiment, the trigger to leave the mode and e.g. return to layer one 112 (the alpha characters), may be the next concurrent actuation of the triggering locations (here 202, 204). Thus, the concurrent actuation of these locations acts as a toggle between the cursor control mode and the alpha mode. Alternatively, one concurrent actuation of the trigger locations could modify only the next key struck. It is within the scope of the invention to allow for concurrent actuation of the triggering locations (here 202, 204) at the same time as the key that is modified by switching layers. Exiting layer three 116 may also be triggered after a defined time period where none of the triggering locations (here 202, 204) are pressed. Combinations of these options are also possible. For example, one embodiment may alternatively remain in layer three 116 mode while the keys are concurrently actuated, but also respond to a momentary actuation by latching the mode for a single immediately following actuation.
In some embodiments, actuation of an additional location converts the third layer keys to an audio control state. For example, in one embodiment concurrently actuating all four left hand home row locations (A, S, D, F) converts the third layer keys to audio controls. In some embodiments, “audio” may be blind-embossed in association with the “A” location. In some embodiments, audio control may be entered by concurrently actuating the “A” location with only one or two other locations on the keyboard. The Audio control state may also be latched, exited, or otherwise toggled as described above.
In an alternative embodiment, holding down a single home row location, e.g. location 202 with the left hand, causes actuations of other locations to be interpreted as actuation of a layer three 116 function. By way of example, concurrent actuation of location 202 by the left hand, and 214 by the right hand, would result in a down arrow function in this alternative embodiment, however care must be taken to avoid confusion with intentionally distinct keyboard “rollover” events.
In the foregoing specification, the embodiments of the invention have been described with reference to specific embodiments thereof. It will, however, be evident that various modifications and changes can be made thereto without departing from the broader spirit and scope of the invention as set forth in the appended claims. The specification and drawings are, accordingly, to be regarded in an illustrative rather than a restrictive sense.
1. A touch type keyboard comprising: wherein the actuation of at least one of the home row locations while actuating a second location, alters a function of a third location in the array to a different keyboard function based, at least in part, on a temporal sequence of the timestamps; and
- an array of tactile keys defining a home row of locations that allow each of 8 fingers to rest concurrently in the course of touch-typing, and providing single stroke access to every letter of a full alphabet through unique locations on the array; and
- a controller that records a timestamp for each of a plurality of key actuation events at different key locations, and
- wherein the sequence can be evaluated after the events have occurred.
2. The keyboard of claim 1 wherein the concurrent actuation of at least two locations maintains the altered function of the third location only during the concurrent actuation.
3. The keyboard of claim 1 wherein the concurrent actuation of at least two locations activates a latched state which maintains the altered function of the third location for some period after the concurrent actuation.
4. The keyboard of claim 1 wherein the second location and the third location having the altered function are the same location.
5. The keyboard of claim 1 wherein an alphabetic function location is altered to a cursor key function at a same location.
6. The keyboard of claim 5 wherein a set of cursor key functions is arranged in an inverted T pattern of locations.
7. The keyboard of claim 5 wherein actuating an additional location on the array while operating a cursor key produces a cursor function that allows selection of a range of text.
8. The keyboard of claim 1 wherein the altered function is at least one of copy, paste, undo, redo, go to beginning of line, go to end of line, go to next word, select next word go to previous word, select previous word, go to next sentence, go to previous sentence, select next sentence, select previous sentence, go to next paragraph, select next paragraph, go to previous paragraph, select previous paragraph, page up, page down, go to start of page, go to end of page, go to start of document, go to end of document, an edit control, a cursor selection control for a zone of text, play, pause, fast forward, rewind, skip forward, skip backward, volume up, volume down, mute, and a media control.
9. The keyboard of claim 1 wherein numeric functions are associated with a same finger used on a typewriter keyboard.
10. The keyboard of claim 9 wherein symbol functions associated with number keys are associated with a same finger used on at least one of a QWERTY or AZERTY typewriter keyboard.
11. The keyboard of claim 1 integrated with a computer having a display.
12. A touch type keyboard comprising:
- an array of tactile keys defining a home row and a rest location for each of eight fingers on the home row;
- the array having discrete locations corresponding to all the letters of an alphabet and all numbers 0 through 9;
- wherein multiple functions reside at a same location; and wherein at least one location has at least three layers of functions;
- wherein indicia for a first layer of alphabet functions is in a first color different from a background color,
- wherein at least one other layer of functions is distinguished by at least one of dimensionally engraved or raised markings that are not colored differently from the background
- wherein indicia for three layers of functions are permanently marked on a physical surface of the tactile keys.
13. The keyboard of claim 12 wherein at least one layer is distinguished by indicia of a different color than both the indicia corresponding to a first layer and the background color.
14. The keyboard of claim 12 wherein at least one layer is distinguished by indicia of a different scale than the markings on the first layer.
15. The keyboard of claim 12 integrated into a computer having a display.