Experiment: Improving the keyboard quality, based on technique used in HP 200LX keyboard


A2000

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Off topic:


A2000, you may check my new Pandora port "PortaBase", if you need a database on the Pandora. (I assume that this is what "data" on the Psion is).


http://repo.openpandora.org/?page=detail&app=PortaBase-hmc

Exactly what I thought, when I downloaded it from the repo yesterday or the day before :) . But I hadn't had the time to try it out, yet. ... maybe I spend to much time on the forums...


Thank you for the port!


A2000
 

Binky

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I don't think it is upside down as the enter key is in the downright corner.
Look at the top of the picture. There is another key, symetrical to the enter button opposite it. Shift perhaps?
Yes, you are right. But where is this key on the green tile? Are all contacts the same size?
I think so. Looks like enter and shift are actually two keys with one keycap
 

Bosbeetle

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The design and layout is different:


parts2.jpg

static.gif



Where can I preorder? I expect it in 3 years :)
 

hmc

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Criteria for good handheld keyboards, that I have collected in the past and during my current experiment:


- Small keyboard size. Pandora / 200LX is ideal.


- Keys must have space between each other. -> Fingers need to be able to feel each single key (touch typing: http://en.wikipedia....ki/Touch_typing ) Pandora / 200LX is ideal.


- Each key must have a well feelable "click" as the tactile feedback, that a key has been pressed (200LX is ideal here, Pandora is not)


- But that "click" must not introduce a too hard resistance, so that it does not get too hard to press the key. When typing fast, one cannot afford high force to apply to each key press. (200LX new keyboards sometimes had a too hard "click", but that changed with time, Pandora has a too mushy "click")


- OTOH, the "click" must not be too weak, because if they are, probability of accidental press of a key, when finger accidentally hits a wrong key, is higher (200LX and Pandora are good here, Viliv N5 is not)


- All key labels must be well readable (unlike the blue Fn labels on the Pandora keyboard, mainly due to the bulged top of the keys)


- The keyboard should be well usable when thumb-typing AND when touch-typing. For thumb-typing, keys like the current Pandora keys are fine, with buldged top and innards of rubber, that they are somewhat elastic. For touch-typing this is not good; they should be flat and solid instead. So in order to fulfill both needs, we should either have a keyboard, that combines those features in a way that it is a suitable compromise, or a solution with two different kinds of key mats would be the way to go. You choose the type of key mat, that suits your needs best. Maybe it could even be exchangable by the user.


EDIT:


- The keys should have a matt (non-glossy) top. The current gloss of the Pandora keys make the key labels (especially the blue ones) hard to read in many lighting conditions.


- Even if the felt "click" will be harder, the keyboard should not be louder than the current one.


Feel free to discuss or add more criteria!


Daniel
 
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Binky

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I think it'd be great if someone made an improved pandora 1 keymat that could be installed in old units
 

hmc

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Yes, this would indeed be great.


If enough people have interest, this may be financed with crowd funding.
 

quartercast

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Count me in. I'm not a big fan of the gummy P1 keypad and I think it could be greatly improved. It's too slippery, too rounded and too mushy.


What I would like to see would be a keymat with flat or slightly concave keys. I would prefer matt texture. Hopefully the polymer and design used would yield to give definite, vertical keypresses.
 
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fusion_power

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Pandora Keyboard is pretty hard to press for my taste. Ok for thumb typing but not very good for desktop typing. But since the gamig controls have the right preassure stiffness, I guess there were no other way to do it in one single rubber matt. P2 Keyboard indeed should be smoother to press. Backlight is also an important thing for me, because I use the Pandora with 180° opened lid, the LCD does not light up the Keyboard when I sit in my dark room at night and write stuff with the Pandora.
 

bismuthdrummer

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@hmc


Fair point on the 8-finger typing, but now I tried on the Pandora and was able to do so. It's not comfortable, and to me that has nothing to do with the keys but the fact that my fingers are so cramped. Perhaps my hands are large. I don't have fat fingers but I imagine someone who did would have further difficulty. It just doesn't seem a likely use case to me, unless we are widening the unit as well. I think most people will use their thumbs.


I find the tactile response just fine. Perhaps you are seeking to refine it even further, but I like the mushy click since it keeps the Pandora nice and quiet when you are next to people on a plane or in a coffee shop. Is this click you are seeking to be louder than the Pandora currently is?


***


Since the keyboard is definitely changing it would be nice to be able to try out the new designs before deciding to pitch into the P2... unfortunately that's probably not possible, I will just have to go off of user feedback on it. Hopefully when we axe the keymat we don't put in an inferior D-pad, as some users have attested to this being the best they've felt.
 
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Asmo

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Am I way off in thinking the keyboard template is upside down so we can't see a printed front surface?


A changeable template so themed versions could be added......?
 

Binky

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Am I way off in thinking the keyboard template is upside down so we can't see a printed front surface?


A changeable template so themed versions could be added......?
I also note that the layer with the actual keycaps on has not been shown yet...
 

hmc

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Replying to the last couple of posts:

What I would like to see would be a keymat with flat or slightly concave keys. I would prefer matt texture. Hopefully the polymer and design used would yield to give definite, vertical keypresses.

Matt texture is a good point. I have added it to my "criteria" list.

Pandora Keyboard is pretty hard to press for my taste. Ok for thumb typing but not very good for desktop typing. But since the gamig controls have the right preassure stiffness, I guess there were no other way to do it in one single rubber matt.

I think the hardness of the "click" can be influenced by the thickness of the material, that produces the "click": The base of each key in the key mat.


However, for the current keys this material is very thin already. So maybe the material of the key mat should be softer, the bases of the letter keys should keep their thickness, and the gaming controls should get thicker key bases.


I don't have experience with producing such key mats, so I don't know, if this is realistic. But at least it should be logically correct. ;-)

P2 Keyboard indeed should be smoother to press. Backlight is also an important thing for me, because I use the Pandora with 180° opened lid, the LCD does not light up the Keyboard when I sit in my dark room at night and write stuff with the Pandora.

I agree that backlight would be nice, but in case it won't be implemented, there is another solution for your use case: A front light.


Many years ago, I have built such lights for the HP 200LX, that not even has a backlit screen by default. Those LED lights also lighten up the keyboard. I could imagine, that a similar thing with a USB plug could be usable for the Pandora. There are laptop USB LED lights out there. However, I am not sure, if there are models light and small enough, that they fit the Pandora.

@hmc


Fair point on the 8-finger typing, but now I tried on the Pandora and was able to do so. It's not comfortable, and to me that has nothing to do with the keys but the fact that my fingers are so cramped. Perhaps my hands are large. I don't have fat fingers but I imagine someone who did would have further difficulty. It just doesn't seem a likely use case to me, unless we are widening the unit as well. I think most people will use their thumbs.

You may be right with that most people thumb-type on the Pandora. However, most users are gamers, and it's designed for gamers and for thumb-typing.


My intention is to broaden the user base of the Pandora, making it a good "mini laptop", too, for people like me, who need such a second brain and who have the need to write a lot of text. See my signature. ;-)


I am part of a community, where many people wait eagerly for such a device for years now. So I am pretty sure, that there is demand for that use case.


I disagree with you on the point that the unit must be widened to be comfortable for touch-typing.


Let me use the HP 200LX as an example again ;-)


It is wider than the Pandora, but it has that block of numeric keys on the right, that the Pandora does not have. If you imagine a HP 200LX without that numeric key pad, it is exactly as wide as the Pandora.


I currently don't have a direct comparison picture here, but you can see it on that image (backmost row, second device from the left is the 200LX. Same keyboard as the device on the left, the Omnigo 700LX).


I don't embed the picture here, but rather link to it, because otherwise it may seem as a shameless ad. ;-)


Click here to see the picture.


Of course it depends on your fingers, too. Too thick fingers will make touch-typing on such a small keyboard impossible.


Also, you have an advantage, if you are a piano player. I am, and I got used to small keyboards rather quickly. But I know people who are not piano players, and they also get used to it. It may only take a little longer.


Try it some more, and don't hurry. Allow some time for getting used to it. Maybe a few weeks or months of intensive typing. If your anatomy doesn't prohibit you from touch-typing on a small keyboard, it WILL be only a matter of getting used to it. I gut used to it on the Pandora keyboard now.


And that's the point, when you will be able to really evaluate the strength and the weeknesses of such a keybaord.


It's dangerous to do so, before you really got used to that keyboard, because then you may claim your own weaknesses to be weaknesses of the keyboard.

I find the tactile response just fine. Perhaps you are seeking to refine it even further, but I like the mushy click since it keeps the Pandora nice and quiet when you are next to people on a plane or in a coffee shop. Is this click you are seeking to be louder than the Pandora currently is?

Good point. The 200LX's click is indeed louder, and that's not desirable. WIll add that point to my criteria list as well.


The current tactile response varies between units. I have tried a few Pandora keyboards, and one of them is much better than the others. But even that one is not good enough for touch-typing yet. It is probably really perfect for thumb-typing, though. Hence my suggestion to offer two different key mats, one for the thumb typist, one for the touch typist. It would be sad, if we "optimize" the keyboard, and then the main target group of the Pandora, the gamers and thumb typers, would have a hard time using it.

Since the keyboard is definitely changing it would be nice to be able to try out the new designs before deciding to pitch into the P2... unfortunately that's probably not possible, I will just have to go off of user feedback on it.
We may well have a prototype Pandora2 keypad at Replay2012.

If I see this right, Replay will take place in Manchester. I doubt that I will make it to Manchester this year. ;-)


It would be great, if there was another way of being able to try it before mass production.


When I developed a backlight for the HP 200LX, I knew that many people would not like it, because it modified the screen characteristics significantly.


What I did, to make interested people able to decide, if they really want it or not, was:


I built up one unit with a backlight, and sent it off to USA to the first interested person. He would send it to the next one, and so on.


About 10 or 15 people tried it, and I got the unit back after about 2 months in very good shape. That test was a huge success. People were happy that they could try it, and only a few of them really bought the backlight upgrade and were happy with it. The others were happy that they did not let me modify their units.


Since I think only a bunch of people here are really concerned about the keyboard anyway, the number of people interested in evaluating the new keyboard is probably managable, so my suggestion would be, to organize a similar test cycle in this community for the P2 keyboard. I would gladly volunteer to organize this, if need be.


Daniel
 
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ghostpatch

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May I add, the rounded shape of the keys are not exactly ideal for writing desktop style. I feel like slipping off and missing the pressure point quite often . Flat keys could improve writing a lot. Anybody got the same impression?


Oh and very nice project! ; )
 
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hmc

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May I add, the rounded shape of the keys are not exactly ideal for writing desktop style. I feel like slipping off and missing the pressure point quite often . Flat keys could improve writing a lot. Anybody got the same impression?

Yes, see my criteria list, the seventh point: :)


"- The keyboard should be well usable when thumb-typing AND when touch-typing. For thumb-typing, keys like the current Pandora keys are fine, with buldged top and innards of rubber, that they are somewhat elastic. For touch-typing this is not good; they should be flat and solid instead. So in order to fulfill both needs, we should either have a keyboard, that combines those features in a way that it is a suitable compromise, or a solution with two different kinds of key mats would be the way to go. You choose the type of key mat, that suits your needs best. Maybe it could even be exchangable by the user."
 
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A2000

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I'd like to emphasize what hmc said: There are a bunch of people out there waiting for a device of the Pandora's size and specs with a decent keyboard. People who used HP Palmtop, Zaurus, Psion 5 and maybe some more machines. People who create large texts in opposition of consuming.


If there is interest, I'm willing to send one of my Psion 5 to anyone involved in the development of the next Pandora so that the construction of that keyboard could be analyzed.


A2000
 
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_wb_

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It's nice to improve the typing experience for table-top typing, but I'd rather not have a compromise that makes thumb typing harder than it is now. Most of the time I'm using the Pandora when there is no table available; and if you have a table, you might also have a USB keyboard that you can use instead. Thumb typing is surprisingly effective on the Pandora - the shoulder button SHIFT is helping a lot, and if there would have been an extra pair of shoulder buttons to have a shoulder Fn and ALT, it would be even more effective (especially for programming, when you need lots of Fn keys).


I think most of your ideas would improve the keyboard for both thumb typing and finger typing, thanks for the detailed analysis!
 

asdfffdsa

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It's nice to improve the typing experience for table-top typing, but I'd rather not have a compromise that makes thumb typing harder than it is now. Most of the time I'm using the Pandora when there is no table available; and if you have a table, you might also have a USB keyboard that you can use instead. Thumb typing is surprisingly effective on the Pandora - the shoulder button SHIFT is helping a lot, and if there would have been an extra pair of shoulder buttons to have a shoulder Fn and ALT, it would be even more effective (especially for programming, when you need lots of Fn keys).


I think most of your ideas would improve the keyboard for both thumb typing and finger typing, thanks for the detailed analysis!

I completely agree. Between thumb typing and table-top/"home row" typing, thumb typing is undoubtedly used 99% of the time on the Pandora (not to mention, I doubt most people will even attempt or are even capable of doing so). I really don't think it makes any sense to forgo design designs that improve thumb typing in order to preserve table-top typing.


See my post here for my suggestions for the Pandora 2 keyboard:





Essentially, this is what I'm recommending:


(1) reduced key stiffness. Key stiffness is one of the primary causes of RSIs, and in general the gummy feel just makes it very difficult to type on compared to other UMPCs


(2) putting the "modifier" keys (fn, alt, shift, control, etc etc) in the upper left and right areas of the keyboard (just below the gamepad controls) rather than in the lower left and right. The justification is that the lower left and right are the most difficult and cramped areas to put your thumbs in. Much more difficult for table-top typing, but through my own experience with remapping the keys of other UMPCs, much more suited to thumb typing.


NOTE: I know this thread is somewhat old, but I think it's valuable to keep it going.
 

klapse

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Yes to reviving the thread. HMC's points are excellent, and the P2 could capture the fans of Zaurus and HP and Psion, if keyboard met HMCs criteria. This is a relatively large potential customer base, who would be willing to pay (more than the average gamer) for a successor to their beloved old devices.
 
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