The Wlonk consists of only ten buttons or pads, each about half an inch wide and two inches long to accommodate varying finger length. Every pad is always in contact with its assigned finger. There is no searching for the correct key to press as in current QWERTY devices, nor do the hands have to hover in the air. Finger motion is minimal.
Given the current level of concern about Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and other repetitive motion injuries, comfort is a serious issue. The Wlonk addresses this issue directly. Various configurations are possible, in one of which the pads are in or on the arms of a chair, so the user can "type" in complete comfort with fingers, hands, arms, and back supported at all times.
The pads can also be positioned on the sides and bottom of a laptop computer, eliminating the keyboard area entirely. This saves weight, and means that such computers need be no larger than their screens: no more flip-tops with cables that are exposed or have to pass through complex and fragile hinges.
The user "keys" by chording, pressing several pads at a time just as with many musical instruments. Physically, this can be done very rapidly -- just listen to any fast music. The mental effort it takes to play music fast and well is something Wlonk users are spared, an issue we discuss in more detail later on.
With a single press, the Wlonk can generate any of 1,023 possible chords. Three of these are reserved for system use. Thus, the user has several times more individual choices than with a QWERTY device, where there are at most a few hundred even with shift, option, command, and control keys.
A single chord is not limited to generating a single character as with QWERTY, but can spawn an arbitrarily long string of characters. The user can easily specify the result of pressing any of the 1020 available chords; the system comes with about a hundred predefined chords for the standard keys so users can get started, but that still leaves 900 undefined chords, any of which they can use for whatever they want -- a name, the current date, some consistently misspelled word, the entire heading of a business letter, and whatever sequences of control characters they use frequently.
Given this capability and the fact that "typing" with the Wlonk involves little or no physical motion, one can expect very high input speeds from ordinary users; far higher than even skilled typists achieve with QWERTY. In short, ten times the functionality with one tenth the keys.
Despite all these points, we would not be trying to interest people in this device were it not also far, far easier to learn. We have developed a system based on techniques used by memory experts, techniques that enable people to learn the device smoothly and efficiently. An hour and forty-seven minutes after walking through the door and seeing it for the first time, the first person who ever trained on the Wlonk was accurately keying "the quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog" with her eyes closed, and telling us how much fun she was having doing it.
The mental effort is comparable to that needed to learn to play a popular board game. Trivial Pursuit probably has more players than the guitar, and the Wlonk keyboard is easy to learn for much the same reason: playing a board game requires only the establishment of patterns in the brain, while the guitar demands both extensive patterns in both nerve and muscle cells, and their careful coordination.
The system can be expanded to make two chords the unit of input rather than one.This gives the user more than a million possibilities, far more than area available in a Unicode typeface; vastly more, in fact, than are required to encompass all Chinese and Japanese ideographs. It allows several billion potential customers to learn, quickly and easily, to use computers.
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