Author Topic: On keyboard science: Split and flat keyboards compared.  (Read 4885 times)

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Online ideus

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On keyboard science: Split and flat keyboards compared.
« on: Tue, 08 December 2015, 10:59:24 »
According with Smith and collaborators there was no significant difference on musculoskeletal pain between subjects using flat keyboards against those using split adjustable ones (Smith et al., 1998)
Reference
Smith, M. J., B.-T. Karsh, F. T. Conway, W. J. Cohen, C. A. James, J. J. Morgan, K. Sanders, y D. J. Zehel. 1998. Effects of a Split Keyboard Design and Wrist Rest on Performance, Posture, and Comfort. Hum. Factors J. Hum. Factors Ergon. Soc. 40:324Ė336. Available from: http://hfs.sagepub.com/content/40/2/324.abstract
It seems the study was just way too short.
 
 

Offline mivanov

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Re: On keyboard science: Split and flat keyboards compared.
« Reply #1 on: Tue, 08 December 2015, 18:55:01 »
Well, adjustable doesn't mean it was correctly adjusted :)

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Re: On keyboard science: Split and flat keyboards compared.
« Reply #2 on: Tue, 08 December 2015, 20:44:02 »
Well, adjustable doesn't mean it was correctly adjusted :)


Right. It seems these guys are not precisely keyboard aficionados.

Offline zefyr

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Re: On keyboard science: Split and flat keyboards compared.
« Reply #3 on: Tue, 08 December 2015, 20:56:04 »
It seems the study was just way too short.

I'll say "Yes, yes it was too short."
I have studied "with my body" for a hundreds times more than that guys.
As a big fan of split keyboard myself, I am totally against with this article.
I've been used split keyboard since MS announced Natural Keyboard.
It's about 17 to 18 years, and look at me. Now I cannot type flat keyboard just 5 minute, it hurts my shoulder and wrist.
My cursed body is proof. (Damn;;; This sounds like a dork.)
If not, why am I designed split custom keyboard? It was not just a hobby for me. :)
ZeFyr "Vermillion" J.

Vergo type.T / alpetit / alpetit II / VE.A with Vergo type.T-II

Offline Niomosy

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Re: On keyboard science: Split and flat keyboards compared.
« Reply #4 on: Wed, 09 December 2015, 00:23:06 »
I'm a bit fan of tented split keyboards.  I use an MS Ergo 4000 at work and was using one at home until I bought my Ducky.  I can definitely notice the difference when using a tented split board.  I've at least got the Ducky elevated in front which helps a bit, though I tend to be pretty careful typing on it.

Hopefully I'll be using one again at home.  I just need Kenesis to hurry up with the Kenisis Freestyle with MX reds or someone to build something like that in a single case that's already split/tented like the MS Ergo boards.

Offline RominRonin

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Re: On keyboard science: Split and flat keyboards compared.
« Reply #5 on: Tue, 15 December 2015, 03:22:33 »
@Niomosy: me too, I have a msne4k and have recently getting into mechanical keyboards. I'm trying to recreated the same angles of the msne4k in a mechanical frame, with the added benefit of programmable firmware.

Offline jacobolus

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Re: On keyboard science: Split and flat keyboards compared.
« Reply #6 on: Tue, 15 December 2015, 03:32:55 »
According with Smith and collaborators there was no significant difference on musculoskeletal pain between subjects using flat keyboards against those using split adjustable ones (Smith et al., 1998) http://hfs.sagepub.com/content/40/2/324.abstract
Iím not sure if Iíve read this particular paper, but a year ago I skimmed about 100 ergonomics-related papers, and read maybe 30 carefully. The vast majority are complete crap. Itís really depressing. The researchers donít have a good mental model of what factors are relevant, and as a result they design studies which ask useless or misguided questions. In addition, they have tiny sample sizes, they do a poor job controlling for extraneous variables, they run studies for much too short a time scale, and they donít bother to look up the relevant prior research to improve their methods or questions.

If a handful of capable researchers were given a few tens of millions of dollars and 5Ė8 years, and given leeway to properly design the research program, I think we could get to the bottom of a lot of keyboard ergonomics questions. Which seems well worth the money to me, considering how much pain and suffering is caused by RSI (and how much time and money it costs).

Unfortunately, as it is, the knowledge among folks here at Geekhack is on the whole much more accurate and complete than the knowledge of professional academic researchers in this field.

Offline jacobolus

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Re: On keyboard science: Split and flat keyboards compared.
« Reply #7 on: Tue, 15 December 2015, 04:09:49 »
From a quick skim, this paper seems a bit better than most. Iíll read more carefully tomorrow.

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Re: On keyboard science: Split and flat keyboards compared.
« Reply #8 on: Tue, 15 December 2015, 07:31:46 »
From a quick skim, this paper seems a bit better than most. Iíll read more carefully tomorrow.


Please be sure to provide us with your feedback on it.

Offline Niomosy

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Re: On keyboard science: Split and flat keyboards compared.
« Reply #9 on: Tue, 15 December 2015, 13:30:21 »
@Niomosy: me too, I have a msne4k and have recently getting into mechanical keyboards. I'm trying to recreated the same angles of the msne4k in a mechanical frame, with the added benefit of programmable firmware.

There's a Korean Vergo Type.T board out there that's right up our alley (though it doesn't have the contour).  Someone made one with a split/tented case.  I'd simply buy one of those if that was an option.  Kinesis is supposed to be bringing out a Cherry MX Freestyle at some point as well.  I'd get a custom case made for it to lock in the split/tent but I'm still waiting to see an actual board for sale.
« Last Edit: Tue, 15 December 2015, 13:43:13 by Niomosy »

Offline jacobolus

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Re: On keyboard science: Split and flat keyboards compared.
« Reply #10 on: Tue, 15 December 2015, 15:37:28 »
Okay.

Some details about this study:

* 18 participants:
    * 3 men and 15 women
    * each could type at least 55 wpm
    * none with any history of RSI
    * age range from 18Ė49, average 33.5
    * typing experience range 6Ė32 years, average 16 years

* Study was 5 consecutive days of typing
    * Half the participants used a wrist rest, half did not
    * Participants had chairs with adjustable height and armrests
    * Researchers adjusted chairs/table for standard posture across participants
    * No mention of how far away the keyboards were from the body, or how the typists were sitting in their chairs
    * Standard keyboard was white Alps, split keyboard looks like MX keycaps from the picture
    * The two keyboards had different amounts of front/back tilt, but they placed them both with the home row at the same height
    * First day, typing test on flat keyboard, various setup, a couple hours experience with the split keyboard
    * three days, 4 one-hour typing sessions with 10m breaks between
        * one day with the flat keyboard and two days with the split keyboard in fixed configuration
        * different participants got different orders
    * last day, they could configure the split keyboard however they wanted, but no data was recorded

* Posture was judged by researchers looking at a 3-minute video of typing and assigning numerical scores for different posture features like various wrist angles, etc. For wrist pronation, they scored palms parallel to table = 4 (substantial pronation) and palms perpendicular to table = 0 (no pronation). For other postures, thereís no description given of what the numbers mean.

* Some of the findings:
    * On the split keyboard (in its fixed position) the typists had their wrists bent upward more, and some had their left wrists bent inward (radial deviation). For the standard keyboard, they had more wrist pronation and ulnar deviation (wrists bent outward) for obvious reasons.
    * Over the two days of testing the split keyboard, typists improved a fair amount, especially when fresh, but at the end of the day were still about 3% slower than on the day with the standard keyboard
    * Still though, these typists didnít seem to have much trouble adapting to the split keyboard (still ANSI/QWERTY layout, etc.)
    * Using every type of keyboard, by the end of 4 hours of typing every day, typists reported much more pain/discomfort in back/arms/wrists/hands than at the beginning of the day; there wasnít really enough data to draw useful comparative conclusions about different types of keyboards here though, other than to report that typing for 4 hour-long blocks of time might be an uncomfortable task regardless of keyboard.
    * The 9 typists who used a wrist rest had better typing performance on the split keyboard and more improvement in performance from day 1 to day 2, and reported less arm and shoulder pain.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

Some things I like about the study: they adjusted the height of the chair/desk to match each participant (at least half of all ergonomics studies donít do this), they somewhat tried to keep extraneous variables fixed, they reported most of their data in clear tables, they cited previous research.

Some things I donít like:
* way too small a sample: differences in performance between 9 people who used wrist rests and 9 people who didnít could be from any number of other causes with such a small group (it would have been nice if they tested the same people both with and without wrist rest)
* much too short a test: itís hard to fully adapt to new equipment in 2Ė3 days
* no full data reported for the posture scores, only a few of the averages
* posture scores not based on any standard metric, so the data they do provide are not interpretable by anyone outside the researchers
* no attempt to analyze posture of arms/torso, only wrist/hand position
* no picture or explanation showing how the arm rests or wrist rests were used by any of the typists
* no qualitative or quantitative description of the difference in typing technique between typists
* split and standard keyboard werenít as similar as they should be for proper comparisons
* no study of the effect of various adjustments to the split keyboard. Split keyboards have at least 3 degrees of freedom of adjustment (tent angle, yaw angle, separation distance) that standard keyboards donít, in addition to the 3 degrees of freedom on any keyboard (height, distance to the body, and front/back tilt), and they just used a single fixed position for their study

Overall, I donít find this particular study too enlightening. It finds something I could have told them before: people who are typing on a keyboard with the hands too close together but not angled inward to match forearm length and thus their elbows sticking out to the side a bit or their arms held a ways in front of their bodies are going to get tired shoulders and backs, which can be ameliorated by a wrist rest but not really fixed. People who type on a tilted keyboard with more tilt than warranted for the height of the home row are going to end up with extended wrists. People who type for most of four hours continuously with barely any breaks are going to become fatigued and might experience pain regardless of keyboard.

Random list of ideas about want I want to see in keyboard ergonomics research: Give people an adjustable keyboard and a standard keyboard which are in other respects identical (same switches, same layout, etc.), some substantial training about sitting/typing posture, and expert help adjusting both keyboards until as many of their joints as possible are in as neutral a position possible. Hook up devices which measure tendon/muscle strain, and see if the differences are detectable between setups. Try to record 3D position of joints over time, and report precise objective measurements of posture. Maybe for contrast let the people initially set the keyboards up themselves before any training and see how they set them up and whether they naturally will reduce their level of strain or if expert advice is required. Try putting split keyboards into at least 20 different configurations, to better test the full space of possible adjustments. Measure more than 20 people. Try measuring not only during a few days of a study, but then go back a few months later and see what their new preferences are, and redo the formal tests to see what has changed. Make sure to ask some questions about sleep level, hunger, anxiety, and other recent activities to make sure there are no confounding variables. Measure not only average typing speed over the course of an hour but also more granular typing speed and granular information about errors, and see if there are any patterns to be found there. See if finger motions change at all as typists get fatigued, or if sitting posture starts changing. Record the various typists body/arm/hand measurements, including the range of motion and strength of various joints, to see if that has any effect on typing technique or performance. Analyze different typing techniques of different typists, and see if they can be classified, and if they respond differently to different keyboards. Study the interaction of keyboard design with different pointer devices, with mixed tasks that arenít 100% typing. Try setting typists up with alternative types of seating, or with standing desks. Give people a few recovery days between intense all-day typing tests. Allow typists to spontaneously change sitting position or other posture whenever they want, and see whether people cycle their positions to give tired muscles a break. Etc.
« Last Edit: Tue, 15 December 2015, 15:47:18 by jacobolus »

Offline zefyr

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Re: On keyboard science: Split and flat keyboards compared.
« Reply #11 on: Tue, 15 December 2015, 23:40:31 »
@Niomosy: me too, I have a msne4k and have recently getting into mechanical keyboards. I'm trying to recreated the same angles of the msne4k in a mechanical frame, with the added benefit of programmable firmware.

There's a Korean Vergo Type.T board out there that's right up our alley (though it doesn't have the contour).  Someone made one with a split/tented case.  I'd simply buy one of those if that was an option.  Kinesis is supposed to be bringing out a Cherry MX Freestyle at some point as well.  I'd get a custom case made for it to lock in the split/tent but I'm still waiting to see an actual board for sale.

I'm designing stand for Vergo series.
here's my stand prototype version.

I made one.

(Attachment Link)
(Attachment Link)
(Attachment Link)

To avoid distortion(considering keyboards weight), stand is made with Poly Carbonate, with CNC.
acrylic palm-rest and feet, with laser-cut since it's cheaper.
No bonding, just nuts and bolts.


I'll share design plan with dxf(AutoCAD) format when design is done.
ZeFyr "Vermillion" J.

Vergo type.T / alpetit / alpetit II / VE.A with Vergo type.T-II

Offline Niomosy

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Re: On keyboard science: Split and flat keyboards compared.
« Reply #12 on: Wed, 16 December 2015, 00:46:16 »
@Niomosy: me too, I have a msne4k and have recently getting into mechanical keyboards. I'm trying to recreated the same angles of the msne4k in a mechanical frame, with the added benefit of programmable firmware.

There's a Korean Vergo Type.T board out there that's right up our alley (though it doesn't have the contour).  Someone made one with a split/tented case.  I'd simply buy one of those if that was an option.  Kinesis is supposed to be bringing out a Cherry MX Freestyle at some point as well.  I'd get a custom case made for it to lock in the split/tent but I'm still waiting to see an actual board for sale.

I'm designing stand for Vergo series.
here's my stand prototype version.

I made one.

(Attachment Link)
(Attachment Link)
(Attachment Link)

To avoid distortion(considering keyboards weight), stand is made with Poly Carbonate, with CNC.
acrylic palm-rest and feet, with laser-cut since it's cheaper.
No bonding, just nuts and bolts.


I'll share design plan with dxf(AutoCAD) format when design is done.

Solid.  I'd still need the details on a Vergo keyboard and getting one made but that would be fantastic. 

Offline jacobolus

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Re: On keyboard science: Split and flat keyboards compared.
« Reply #13 on: Thu, 17 December 2015, 15:26:28 »
Okay. Some details about this study: [...]

By the way, in mentioning that I think this study could do better, I donít at all mean to question ideus for posting it. Thanks again for the link, I donít think I had read this particular study before.

I also donít mean to be too harsh on these particular researchers. For better or worse, most academic research is done by grad students and junior professors with small budgets, short time constraints, and lots of other **** to finish. There are many topics to study, and I suspect ergonomics labs get better funding for studying e.g. assembly line workers or users of heavy machinery, where routine work is pushing the boundaries of human performance more than data entry or transcription typing. My frustration is with the field as a whole, not anyone in particular.

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Re: On keyboard science: Split and flat keyboards compared.
« Reply #14 on: Thu, 17 December 2015, 16:11:20 »
Okay. Some details about this study: [...]

By the way, in mentioning that I think this study could do better, I donít at all mean to question ideus for posting it. Thanks again for the link, I donít think I had read this particular study before.

I also donít mean to be too harsh on these particular researchers. For better or worse, most academic research is done by grad students and junior professors with small budgets, short time constraints, and lots of other **** to finish. There are many topics to study, and I suspect ergonomics labs get better funding for studying e.g. assembly line workers or users of heavy machinery, where routine work is pushing the boundaries of human performance more than data entry or transcription typing. My frustration is with the field as a whole, not anyone in particular.


Dear Jaco, I really appreciate that you posted that informative comment on the study, and did not feel anything but interest in your feedback, you are always welcome to express your opinion, as all fellows that have written their point of views, that is the only purpose to post the study here, I do not endorse it, nor think that what they found is the last word on the subject, by any means.

Offline cryptokey

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Re: On keyboard science: Split and flat keyboards compared.
« Reply #15 on: Thu, 17 December 2015, 16:18:44 »
Would anybody with a Matias FK403 be able to chip in on this? I'm curious about peoples' experience with tented boards such as that one.
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Offline jacobolus

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Re: On keyboard science: Split and flat keyboards compared.
« Reply #16 on: Thu, 17 December 2015, 19:38:58 »
I really like the Matias ErgoPro, and I think itís the best currently selling example of a ďsplit but otherwise standard layoutĒ keyboard. Such keyboards (not only the Matias ErgoPro, but also the no-longer-selling IBM Model M15, Cherry G80-5000, etc.) are very easy for typists who are used to standard keyboards to adapt to, and as such can be easily recommended to basically anyone. They donít require too much retraining, and they quickly fix the biggest problems with standard keyboards. A keyboard.io, Maltron, Ergodox, μTRON, etc. may be better in the abstract and after training, but most people have no desire to learn something new and unique, so in practice they are only good options for more the adventurous.

A crucial part of using a split keyboard is configuring it to match your own body shape and typing style. Try to position and orient the two halves so that when your fingers are on the home row, the plane of each keyboard half is approximately parallel to your forearms, the two sides are separated and turned to allow easy access to all the keys without excessive reaching, and the tent angle makes a comfortable compromise between reducing wrist pronation and letting gravity help with keypresses. Personally I like a more extreme tent angle (30į+), and a bit more control over the combination of tent and front/back tilt than Matiasís feet alone provide, so for optimal comfort I would recommend trying to find (e.g. mini tripods) or build some kind of keyboard support which gives a bit more tilt control. But even if you stick to its standard tenting option using the flip-down feet, it should be possible to position desk, chair, and keyboard halves so that typing is much more comfortable than on a single-piece keyboard.