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New chorded keyboard to make texting while driving 'safer'

Press Trust of India  |  Melbourne 

Thirty two-year-old second Lieutenant James Edge-Williams sees motorbikes as an obvious application for a one-handed keyboard that does not require the user to look at a screen.

"Chorded" technology works on the same principle as a musician who uses a combination of fingers to play a specific chord on a piano or a flute, the 'Sydney Morning Herald' reported.

The device, which relies on tactile feedback to the operator to let them know they have keyed the correct combination of buttons to create the right letter, could also be fitted to the steering wheel of a motor car.

Edge-Williams said there was also potential to create communications aids for the handicapped, including blind people and those with limited use of their hands and fingers.

He said this is a case of technology having come a full circle.

The first "chorded" keyboards or devices where letters were generated using multiple key combinations were braille typewriters invented in the 19th century.

Edge-Williams's prototype offers tactile feedback, can be connected to a wide range of existing electronic devices and has the potential to incorporate Blue Tooth connectivity.

He said while chorded keyboard apps for smart phones were available as Internet downloads, their functionality was limited.

"Touchscreen apps offer no tactile feedback. Helicopter pilots currently type messages with gloved fingers on keypads beside their chairs.

"If we installed a chorded keyboard they would never have to take their hands off the control or look away to type a message," said Edge-Williams.

First Published: Wed, December 12 2012. 15:45 IST