As my fingers gently tap the right side of my head, I watch the letters pop up on the iPad in front of me: “A, E, I, O, U.”
No, I hadn’t suddenly become psychic. I’m wearing a finger strap called Tap that allows me to type on any surface using my hands.
I mean any surface.
As a demonstration of Tap’s flexibility, I tested the system on a table, then on my denim-covered leg and finally on my head. While the system wasn’t free of errors, more times than not I was able to figure out the correct gesture for the letter I wanted.
Tap represents an unorthodox alternative to the tiny virtual keyboard on your iPhone or Android smartphone. It also has potential as a method for navigating your way through a virtual reality world, which requires you to wear a headset that blocks your vision. The company says the product has applications in the accessibility field, offering the vision impaired a speedier way of composing messages.
Tap look like a string-equivalent of brass knuckles. You place your fingers through fabric loops that are linked together by short nylon straps. There’s a larger loop for the thumb that also houses a haptic motor and a sensor that turns it into a mouse.
Typing, at least at first, wasn’t easy. Your five fingers each represent one of five vowels, and tapping a combination of fingers gets you different letters. While it was easy enough to go through the first letters, I had a bit of trouble once I had to think about the correct gesture for letters beyond A, E, I, O, and U. It also works better on hard, flat surfaces like a table. My soft, round head contributed to a lot of mistakes.
CEO Ran Poliakine sees Tap potentially becoming a platform for games. I tried it out, loading up a platform game that let me control a rabbit’s hops by tapping different fingers. I ended up seeing the Game Over screen often.
Tap will come packaged with several games that serve as a fun tutorial for using the wearable. Poliakine says it gets easier as you go along, and that kids pick it up in a snap. His six-year-old son uses it to play Minecraft, he told me. Still, breaking out of years of using a traditional keyboard — whether a physical one or one on your phone’s screen — will take getting used to.
While it will primarily be used on phones and VR headsets, Tap works with anything that’s got Bluetooth, which means Windows PCs and big tablets too.
Tap comes with a charging case that gives it eight days of active use (roughly six hours). By itself, the finger strap will get you through a single day.
Tap costs $130. It opens up for pre-orders on Thanksgiving, with the first products shipping in December. You can order it here, although Amazon will carry it too.
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