Better shift key layout on AG6?

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Lars Krueger

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Jun 1, 2006, 3:03:48 AM6/1/06
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I just came to the idea how to improve the placement of the shift-keys for both Control, Shift, Alt and colorshifts like in Carl's remap.

The reasoning is this:
- Many programs require combinations such as Shift-Ctrl or Alt-Shift or any combination thereof up to Shift-Alt-Control.
- We have 3 shifts (Control, Shift, Alt).
- If we put them in a circle where each key gets a 120 degree segment we can press either one, or any two at a time, or all three together.
- If we do this for the colorshifts (e.g. red, green, blue) too, we get 8 shift levels at 24 keys each -> 192 keys. This way we could get rid of the index finger up/down keys, leaving 160 keys. This more than enough to even leave out a few shift levels or to include the more funny looking members of the character map (e.g. like the German umlauts, French accented letters, or the Euro sign, ...).
- This can be conventiently combined with regular shifts. Assume Red-i is the delete key. The Ctrl-Alt is pressed using the left thumb, Red using the right thumb, right middle finger presses i, Windows login dialog opens!

A conceptional drawing is to been seen below. I hope, you don't mind I "stole" the images from Carls remap archive ;-).

A test of this feature could be done using e.g. Shift, Backspace, Z for the Shift, Control, Alt and Tab, Space, Enter for colors. Tab and X should be the same color as the keys have the wrong shape and distance for the Enter-Tab combination.

I have no experience with autohotkey (and it does not work yet in my Windows 98 box) so could any interested expert give it a try?

Any comments?

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Lars Krueger
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Carl Andersen

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Jun 1, 2006, 12:34:27 PM6/1/06
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Lars, I think that's a great idea.

One question for anyone who knows - is the key combination CTRL-ALT
used much, in your experience? Obviously there is CTRL-ALT-DEL, but
have people seen CTRL-ALT used in applications very much? I haven't.

One could use a 4-valued hat key for this purpose with
CTRL
SHIFT TBD
ALT

TBD = to be decided

I like this because I think people intuitively find it easier to use
systems that are symmetrical. But it would only work if you never need
to type CTRL-ALT. Of course, you would need to somehow handle
CTRL-ALT-DEL.

Actually, I guess you could just use
CTRL
SHIFT SHIFT
ALT

oggie rob

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Jun 1, 2006, 12:57:17 PM6/1/06
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Lars said:
> - If we put them in a circle where each key gets a 120 degree segment we can press either one, or any two at a time, or all three together.

This is helpful, but I think the upper button is difficult to press.
What I would rather see (at least for the colored buttons) is a "fan"
shape. My thumbs move very easily between K and L, but have more
trouble moving upwards (e.g. Y). This could still allow for two
adjacent buttons to be pressed at the same time.

As for where I would want the ctrl/alt/shift keys... I'm not so sure
about that one. Perhaps your circle approach is best. The red "Shift"
key is in a great spot to hit with the button of the thumb joint - if
there was a way to easily hit all of the ctrl/alt/shift keys in that
location I think that would work well.

-rob

Lars Krueger

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Jun 1, 2006, 1:50:08 PM6/1/06
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> Lars, I think that's a great idea.
>
> One question for anyone who knows - is the key combination CTRL-ALT
> used much, in your experience? Obviously there is CTRL-ALT-DEL, but
> have people seen CTRL-ALT used in applications very much? I haven't.

I use the wmii window manager (wmii.de) under Linux and it comes Alt-... as its factory setting for all window related functions. Alt-Ctrl-Right for instance moves the current window to right column, as it automatically puts windows in a tiling layout.

MS-Word (German version) uses Shift-Ctrl-... for the italics, underlined, bold and such. IDEs such as Visual Studio or Borland usually use WordStar commands, where Ctrl-Left moves the cursor wordwise. Shift-Ctrl-Left selects the word to the left of the cursor. The other combinations are mostly Ctrl-(Shift)-{PgUp,PgDn,Home,End,Left,Right,Up,Down}.
Last but not least Emacs uses combinations like Ctrl-Alt-... for a lot of things.

This decision basically depends on your customers. I see the Alphagrip as a geek product for keyboard centric users, so I'd guess more Emacs than Powerpoint, more Visual Studio than Word. YMMV.

> One could use a 4-valued hat key for this purpose with
> CTRL
> SHIFT TBD
> ALT
>
> TBD = to be decided

TBD=Windows/Apple key? Might be interesting for the Mac user out there?

> I like this because I think people intuitively find it easier to use
> systems that are symmetrical.

Just to be picky: 120 degree pie slices have a rotational symmetry ;-). But I agree the mirror symmemtry of a 4 way hat seems more natural. I own such a joystick, but never, ever used these buttons.

> But it would only work if you never need
> to type CTRL-ALT. Of course, you would need to somehow handle
> CTRL-ALT-DEL.
>
> Actually, I guess you could just use
> CTRL
> SHIFT SHIFT
> ALT

That's an idea. Depressing all together could be the Windows/Apple key if that's ergonomically. Using a three way hat you need only 3/4 of the force to activate it.

Lars Krueger

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Jun 1, 2006, 1:59:29 PM6/1/06
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> Lars said:
> > - If we put them in a circle where each key gets a 120 degree segment we
> can press either one, or any two at a time, or all three together.
>
> This is helpful, but I think the upper button is difficult to press.
> What I would rather see (at least for the colored buttons) is a "fan"
> shape. My thumbs move very easily between K and L, but have more
> trouble moving upwards (e.g. Y). This could still allow for two
> adjacent buttons to be pressed at the same time.

For me this depends on the arm position. If I hold the AG close to my chest, I can reach the CKLY better, because I grip it more from the side. Stretching the arms rotate my hands and finger such that JV are better reachable.

> ... The red "Shift"


> key is in a great spot to hit with the button of the thumb joint - if
> there was a way to easily hit all of the ctrl/alt/shift keys in that
> location I think that would work well.

I'd require a more prodruding key for that.

This smells like we need different size like gloves: S, M, L. This reminds me of a documentary I recently saw: The clothing industry has recently performed a new study on such issues. Maybe this data is publically available in order to design the required scale factors?

Lars

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Jun 3, 2006, 6:28:14 AM6/3/06
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I gave your 4-way hat idea another thought. I still think its not
useful for the Ctrl-Shift-Alt, but I think you're onto something for
the color-shifts.

A 4-way hat gives 9 or 10 shift levels: centre, north, north-west, ...
plus down if all four buttons are pushed together. The latter is to be
evaluated for the force it requires.

With 16 finger keys (still no 4-way keys on the index fingers) we get
144 or 160 possible keys. Enough room for foreign characters.

Matthias Schult

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Jun 4, 2006, 7:08:13 PM6/4/06
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Hi,

As long as the modifier keys and mouse buttons are at the thumbs it is not possible to ctrl-click, shift-click and so on, or the thumb at the track ball has to move to the modifier before clicking.
So I believe it's definitely worth thinking about putting all modifiers at the back side.
Advantages:
*all modifier combinations and mod+key combinations are possible
*modifiers have no shifted states => less backside key functions to remember for beginners
*no duplicated keys

Disadvantages:
*more letters at the thumbs

It would also be a good thing to have 3 "keys" per finger: tip, joint, and both. That would produce 24 keys on the back.

Lars' idea of 3 buttons would also work for the fingers: down-left or down-right for the finger tips and one at the joint. The buttons would have to be formed accordingly, of course. That makes natural 24 keys on the back plus chords. I like that Idea.

For the front I find the fan-layout proposed by Rob more promising.

I'll finally manage to put the results of me counting the Wikipedia online tomorrow. I probably won't manage to do any work on an optimized layout for another 2 weeks though.

Good night,
Matthias

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ollie

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Jun 28, 2006, 12:13:45 AM6/28/06
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beyond remapping, redesigning

I have a proposal for the layout of the AG6. I thought I'd share it
with the group, to see if there are any obvious faults and perhaps to
get some traction in suggesting it to Mike et al at AlphaGrip. Having
scanned the recent messages in this thread, it seems that some of my
ideas have already been discussed, but I will include them as
originally written below. I apologize in advance for the crudness of
my drawings. I started out trying to make the button shapes accurate,
but gave it up in favor of just suggesting button position.

See it here: http://oliver.langan.net/AGproposal.jpg

I should also start out by saying that I want my AG to produce all the
characters of a normal keyboard. I am not really against learning a
chording technique (eventually), so having a programmable AG6 would be
great: but one of the things I really want is all the normal modifier
keys, not a bunch of new ones that combine differently and thus
_require_ the use of a different key map or some such. I want it, like
the AG5, to act like a normal USB keyboard. Plug and play.

Since I use a Mac, there is no easy way to remap the keys on my AG5. I
still think it is possible, but beyond my current technical expertise.
In fact, I had designed a relatively dramatic remapping once before,
but I gave it up when I realized that Mac programs supported alternate
input layouts to inconsistent degrees. Instead, I am learning the
current AG5 layout, and thus am frequently reminded of why I had wanted
to remap it in the first place. When I looked at my remapping again
recently, I realized that I hadn't kept very good notes about the
rationals for my changes.

First the good: the letters are really pretty good. They are close
enough to my muscle memory for the standard keyboard that I have been
able to adapt quickly. I can even remember the ones on the front well.

The same is not true for the numbers, though I don't think mapping them
to be on or near the same fingers as I use for a standard keyboard
would be useful, but a more logical arrangement as has been suggested
before would be useful. I also have trouble remembering the green and
red keys.

I have adapted to the mouse well: I already used a thumb trackball. I
did miss my extra buttons, though, and especially the scroll wheel.

My biggest complaint by far, though, is the modifier keys. Try typing
command-c or command-v (that is the apple/windows key). This is copy
and paste, respectively, and I use it hundreds of times a day. Control
and alt keys are not much better, and I find that I even have some
difficulty with bending my thumb back far enough to press the red and
green shift keys consistently: I often press the wrong one. Then there
is the problem with modifier key codes not being sent from the unit,
until another key is pressed. I find that I am often shift-dragging
and alt-dragging to perform various functions that have become
second-nature. Alt-click-drag is just not possible with the current
unit.

So, in my redesign I started with the modifier keys. I decided that
the only way to make them universally apply-able to any other key _and_
the mouse was to essentially specialize the left thumb to be in control
of all modifier keys. I put the four standard keys in a cloverleaf,
since it should be possible to press two, three, or all of them at the
same time. The red and green keys, are to either side, and there is a
Fn key above so that one needn't us Fn lock to press a single function
key. On the upper-left-thumb area, I also placed the 'Pause' button,
and where the mouse buttons had been I put a scroll wheel (or scroll
ball, like the recent Apple mouse). Overall, this area seems
simplified to me.

I also put all the 'lock' keys on the left thumb, adding some that made
sense to me.

I wanted to be able to affect the mouse buttons with all of the
modifier keys, so I moved the buttons to the bottom of the unit. As
extra buttons on the index finger. I think these would benefit from
having a different 'click' from the normal keys.
Control-alt-click-drag should be easy now. To accomodate them, I
pushed the lower index keys outward, and think that it would also be
beneficial to move the upper keys slightly inward. While we are at it,
why not make the red _and_ green shift keys modify _both_ buttons,
giving us several buttons that can be remapped in software.

Also on the bottom of the unit, I wanted to rearrange the numbers to
make more sense to my brain: 1-5 inside left, 6-0 inside right. I
remapped the outside red-shift to (almost) match the shift versions of
these keys on a standard keyboard, so remembering them should be
easier. While I think the idea of having the brackets in pairs is
helpful, my instinctual movement for the pair is to use the other hand,
not the other direction with the same finger. All the green keys are
placed on the inside row (but in a fully-customizable AG6 these could
potentially be mapped to some other key combination). The Fn keys
mostly match the layout of the number keys, though the F16+ keys could
just as easily carry the Print Screen, Scroll Lock, etc. keys.

On the right thumb, I left the trackball as it is. Next to it, I
placed the whitespace-and-frequent-punctuation keys. Of these, I
probably use backspace and space the most (the former maybe even more
than the latter), so these have prominence. Period, tab, return,
quote, comma, are all easy to reach. These keys double as the arrow
keys and the 'home etc.' keys, using the red and green shift (which are
underused on this part of the AG5). Note that while 'delete' is on the
red shift, it should be very easy to press
control-alt-(red-shift)-delete.

On the lower right thumb I have placed most of the previously scattered
top-of-the-unit letters. The undo-cut-copy-paste keys are clustered as
on a normal keyboard, and these keys also carry the mathematical
functions usually contained on the numeric keypad.

Finally, a few changes that have nothing to do with the keyboard
itself. I think the unit would be more comfortable if it were a bit
wider: even as a gamer, my hands are not comfortable being so close
together for long periods of time. I think it might be nice to have
(optional) firm rubber 'straps' which go over each hand, making it
easier to hold the unit with one hand when, for example, taking a sip
of coffee. Perhaps there could be a simple skin-contact sensor in each
hand, makig the unit auto-Pause when put down. And I think the bottom
of the unit could possibly be flared so that it can be set down more
easily on its own, without the separate stand.

Comments? Other ideas?

ollie

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Jun 28, 2006, 12:25:53 AM6/28/06
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> MS-Word (German version) uses Shift-Ctrl-... for the italics, underlined, bold and such. IDEs such as Visual Studio or Borland usually use WordStar commands, where Ctrl-Left moves the cursor wordwise. Shift-Ctrl-Left selects the word to the left of the cursor. The other combinations are mostly Ctrl-(Shift)-{PgUp,PgDn,Home,End,Left,Right,Up,Down}.
> Last but not least Emacs uses combinations like Ctrl-Alt-... for a lot of things.

And in addition, lots of mouse actions use multiple modifier keys. In
Photoshop for instance, shift = constrain drag axis, alt = make a copy,
so shift-alt = make a copy and constrain drag axis. It is really
frustrating to have these missing when using the AG5.

Mike Willner

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Jul 2, 2006, 8:44:39 AM7/2/06
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I like the mouse scroll.

I like your idea of 2 blue fn keys, one acting as a shift key and one as a
lock key.

I agree that the unit would be more comfortable if it were a bit wider.
Ideally your wrists should be straight during operation.

Flaring the bottom so it can be set down and stand on its own is a good
idea. We had considered that, but were concerned that it might make the
AlphaGrip less comfortable when resting in your lap during use.

The optional straps make sense, though they would make picking up the unit
and putting it down more complicated.

The skin contact sensor is interesting, but sometimes I have very light
contact with the AG-5 when I'm using it while it's resting in my lap or in
the desk stand. I guess an override key could solve that problem.

I'm not a coder, so I can't comment on your letter layout from a coding
perspective. From a touch typing perspective, however, I have a problem
with the placement of the J, Z, X, C, V, and Y keys on the lower front
portion of the AG-5. I don't think I could quickly hit those keys without
looking down if they were placed there, thus slowing my typing. I think
your number layout is interesting, but locating the =, *, /, +, and -
characters on the lower front portion of the device presents the same touch
typing problem mentioned above. Also, where are the shift keys for capital
letters?

Mike

ollie

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Jul 5, 2006, 2:23:35 PM7/5/06
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I am glad you like some of my ideas. The most basic thing, I think, is
being able to press any modifier keys (and combinations) with any other
key. The 'normal' shift key is marked 'shft' and is right below the
new 'only while pressed' fn key. It is much smaller than before, but
having it so closely located with the control/alt/[command|windows]
keys means that the thumb could be used to press more than one of the
buttons at a time, providing combinations like alt-shift-C or what have
you. Looking at it again, I probably should have swapped the shift and
command keys, since the current layout would make control-shift very
difficult.

The skin sensors might add too much to the production costs, I don't
know. But if they are cheap and easy enough to add, then one on each
side would work to make sure that at least one is always in contact
with skin. And, as you say, the feature could be optional.

As far as the layout of the lower-right thumb region is concerned, I
was not working from a touch-typing perspective but rather thinking
about game controllers. The dual row of buttons allows one to easily
orient one's thumbs by feeling, so it is similar to touch typing;
however the different would be that on most game controllers one is
constantly hovering over these buttons whereas in my layout they are
clearly the less frequent letters. In any case, the actual shape and
specific location of those buttons on my layout is only a suggestion: I
simply think that placing some of the letters there would be
good/necessary if the left thumb is to be free to be the 'modifier
master.'

oliver

Bill Sun

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Jul 24, 2006, 4:16:21 PM7/24/06
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Ollie, I really like your layout idea!

Being a loyal PC gamer, I love the idea of putting the mouse buttons
near your trigger finger. However, I think it's better to somehow put
the arrow keys on the left. Either by changing the button layout (like
adding an additional group of keys), or by adding another shift button
to enable the modifier key cluster to function as the arrow keys. I
think this type of layout will make FPS games (and other games that
make use of the directional keys) much easier to play on the Alphagrip.

In regards about the keys at the lower right thumb region, if alphabets
are going to be placed there, some repositioning of those keys, and
perhaps, a redesign of the contours will be needed (in relation to the
AG-5 that is).

Another idea I have to contribute is about the keys on the backside.
Instead of using press-down buttons, would it be possible to use some
kind of bi-directional sliding key? An example would be a button that
perhaps will have a rough impression of your fingertips and would click
(or give some form of tactile feedback) when your fingers push and pull
(slide inwards and outwards) on it. The sliding action doesn't need to
move very far (it could just be a click to activate the key on one
side), but should provide enough resistance so that it's harder to
accidentally slide the button, or accidentally slide to the other side
when returning to the "neutral" position. This should
make it less easily to accidentally press a button on the back side
when you're picking it up and perhaps allow the device to be placed on
a surface without the need for the bottom to be flared. With really
"short" keys, you might even have additional room for your fingers to
grip the unit without actually touching any keys.

-Bill

Mike Willner

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Jul 26, 2006, 1:04:44 PM7/26/06
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I think the bi-directional sliding key is an excellent idea. We had
considered using that type of key on the AG-5 because it would minimize
finger movement and accommodate a greater range of hand sizes (because you
could slide the key no matter where your finger came in contact with it),
but it would have taken us much longer to get a product to market and our
development costs would have been much higher (because it is not a typical
key switch). In addition, we thought the AG-5 was radical enough as it is,
and decided it would be best to wait for a later version to try out a new
key switch.

We are considering producing a prototype with sliding keys, but a 4-way key
may add more functionality and, because it's commonly used in joysticks, it
may result in lower development costs.

Mike
-----Original Message-----
From: alph...@googlegroups.com [mailto:alph...@googlegroups.com] On
Behalf Of Bill Sun
Sent: Monday, July 24, 2006 3:16 PM
To: alphagrip
Subject: Re: Better shift key layout on AG6?

Bill Sun

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Jul 26, 2006, 7:14:37 PM7/26/06
to alphagrip
You could make a bi-directional key using the joystick mechanism as
well. It just wouldn't have the potential to slide as much, unless you
have some clever design on the button caps. But I think I'll prefer
subtle movements of my finger tips over more exaggerated motions. It
makes it easier to hold the Alphagrip while typing as well.

4-way keys are a natural fit for the thumbs, and maybe the index finger
as well. However, 4-way keys may not be flexible enough to be used for
the modifier keys for the left thumb as in Ollie's illustration. In
particular, you won't be able to simultaneously activate a certain
combination of the keys in a 4-way key. But I'd love to have a 4-way
key for the arrow keys (just make sure they can do the diagonals as
well). The rest of the fingers don't seem to be able to take advantage
of 4-way keys much.

Just some thoughts.

-Bill

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