As technology becomes less and less confined to a desk, will the QWERTY keyboard become a thing of the past? The folks at Tap Systems Inc. believe that mousing, typing, and other user data input methods are ready for an update. That update has taken the form of the Tap strap, which works with smart TVs, tablets, and other Bluetooth-enabled devices.
Consisting of five silicone rings connected by a nylon strap and worn on one hand, Tap allows the wearer to type alphanumeric and special characters by drumming their fingers on any surface. Each ring holds an embedded sensor that recognizes when the finger taps on a solid surface. A single tap from each finger, beginning with the thumb, types the vowels A, E, I, O, and U; multiple taps using different finger combinations yield other letters, numbers, punctuation, and more.
A small device mounted on the top of the thumb ring houses the power and Bluetooth pairing button, charging contacts, circuit board, and haptic element. Conductors in the nylon strap channel signals from the fingers to the circuit board. Tap works with a range of operating systems, smart TVs, gaming platforms, VR and AR headsets, and more.
An optical mouse chip affixed to the side of the thumb ring lets the wearer direct a cursor, drag and drop, highlight, scroll, and other functions within the device’s mouse mode. Holding the hand in handshake position activates Tap’s air mouse mode, which allows mouse control as well as interaction with a smart media device menu via simple hand gestures.
Time will tell if serious QWERTY users will be willing to make a permanent switch to a novel input process such as tapping. However, wearables pose a challenge for getting user input; typically the devices are too small for a traditional keyboard or even a touchpad. A device like the Tap could provide a simple and effective means of communicating with and controlling everything from smart garments to implanted devices.