geekhack Community > Ergonomics

Atreus keyboard for modular laptop?


The Framework is a modular laptop which has launched to much critical acclaim. The unique selling point is that the unit is completely modular so as to allow the user to repair or upgrade it themselves. The keyboard and trackpad are one such replaceable module.

I have suggested via the Framework forum that an Atreus style keyboard should be considered. So far the thread seems to be doing relatively well, and, whilst a project like this will throw up challenges (firmware and stuff like that), I think there is an appetite for such a keyboard being available on this laptop.

I consider the main barrier stopping an ergonomic keyboard on a laptop is not technical but getting everyone to compromise enough to agree on one design rather than hold out for their favoured configuration. I chose the Atreus because it is already (by the standards of such things)  commercially successful, and that it fits into the footprint of an existing laptop keyboard.

The idea of an ergonomic keyboard for laptop is very nice. However, I think that for the laptop form factor, an ortholinear keyboard may be more useful - thus more widely acceptable.

Here is an example:

This physical layout fits the 6x16 (75%) laptop form factor and this logical layout is functionally equivalent to a 75% (6x16). And, assuming it is programmable, it can support one-hand keyboarding scenarios. For example, a full tenkey pad and a few macro keys can be made available under the left hand.

Plus, for being rich of keys, the physical layout can be programmed to resemble the logical layout of many ergonomic keyboards. The Atreus included.

Ortholinear is bollocks IMHO. It is not ergonomic in itself only when split and/or angled enough, because then that is the ergonomic feature.

The Framework laptop keyboard is only 14 5⅔  units. An Atreus fits inside that with some to spare, but without a numeric row unless that row is 0.5u high. (The current function key row is 2/3u high)
I think a symmetric stagger layout would be a better use of space.

Great idea. I don't know how widely acceptable is uniform 0.5u stagger. But I think it would be great if we can agree on it and a little more aggressive angle (60 instead of 53): 6 full rows can fit in (5 * 13/15 + 1)u = 5⅓ u. (I use approximation sqrt(3)/2 ~ 13/15, with relative error 7.4E-4 and absolute error < 0.1mm for this size.)  With proper key size, shape and orientation, the regular hexagonal grid can implement many good things, the Atreus included.

Example. A variation of the Atreus, with 60 (instead of 20) opening angle and 0.5u (instead of 0.25u) column shift, in 5.2u 10u form factor. (5.2 = 6*13/15 instead of 5⅓ because regular hexagons are used in place of circles.) The top surfaces of keys are 2u/3 (0.5") wide, ~10u/13 (~0.58") high and separated by a u/3 (0.25") gap. The bottom of keys are 8u/9 (2/3") wide.

A simpler, less sophisticated alternative would be chiclet key that can fit inside a 1u 13u/15 'unit' rectangle, e.g. 18 15.5 mm key.

An ortholinear keyboard is not a bad option that might be accepted by a good proportion of users to be a viable option, however I chose not to agitate for one for the reason @findecanor puts forward. The Atreus seems to me the most practical columnar stagger arrangement, since the thumb cluster of designs based on the ergodox would impinge on the trackpad (of course there are many who say that they would prefer a pointing stick type solution, ignoring the fact that the Framework is too thin for such a system.

Thus far I have been very impressed at the response to the post in the Framework forum. I would be surprised if it has not come to the attention of people who work at Framework, and look forward to what they might have to say. Also the Framework forum contains a few threads on keyboard design and layout, so if an Atreus or similar is not your thing but you like the idea of a Framework there is other keyboard chat to be had. Certainly, the Framework keyboard is supposed to be very good by ultrabook standards, the development of was given its own blog post.


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