Author Topic: [IC] Velotype Chorded keyboard (updated 11/28)  (Read 1082 times)

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Offline MHayden

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[IC] Velotype Chorded keyboard (updated 11/28)
« on: Wed, 28 November 2018, 01:02:37 »

Product information:

Orthographic chording keyboard with custom 15g key switches

Colors
Casing: Anthracite
Keys: Anthracite with white print

Measurements
W x L x H: 37 x 23 x 4 cm (14.6" x 9.1" x 1.6").

Weight
965 grams (2.1 lb)

Display
W x L: 7 x 4 cm (2.8" x 1.6").
Integrated touchpad for mouse control.

Connector
USB type B

Power supply/consumption
Power supply from USB.
Power consumption with display backlight ON: 120 mA
Power consumption with display backlight OFF: 20 mA

Available menu languages
Dutch, English, German, French, Italian, Spanish, Swedish

Available Velotype languages
Dutch, Dutch Pro, English, English Pro, Chinese (Pinyin input), Danish, German, Finnish, French, Greek, Italian, Croatian, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Czech, Turkish, Swedish

Available keyboard layouts
US-English, US-international, UK-extended, Dutch, French, German, Swedish+Sami, Norwegian, Noors, Greek (Polytonic), Greek (Polytonic-iPad), Bulgarian (Phonetic Traditional), Czech qwertz, British (Mac OS-X)

Additional Details

The Velotype Pro is an orthographic chorded keyboard. It is designed to allow for high-speed ergonomic typing without the extreme learning curve of stenography.

The operation is very simple: you press multiple keys at once and the exact letters you press come out in a predefined order. The keys are arranged in a sequence that makes this as efficient and speedy as possible. Furthermore, the layout is mirrored to minimize the amount of learning required.

To be clear: you are in complete control of the output. There is no auto-complete or other "woo". No special software is required. Your computer will just see a regular keyboard.

After learning the layout, you should be able to at least double your typing speed, even if your keystroke rate is halved. With practice, going substantially faster is very doable. Several world record holders have used this keyboard in events that allow it. You can see what is involved in learning the layout by downloading the Academy software from the website.

These boards are designed to be used for extremely heavy, full-time data entry without significant RSI risk, typing discomfort, or fatigue. Typically, these are only bought by people whose work requires fast typing for long hours.

However, given that stenography has recently seen popularity among developers and other casual users, I think this device will also be of interest.

I will post additional information in response to questions as soon as I get answers from the manufacturer.

Pending Questions:
The nature of the key switches
Order sizes necessary to get significant cost breaks

Full disclosure notes:

The reason for the group buy is to get industrial grade hardware that is known to not have RSI issues and that works easily with all types of computer systems. As-is, the Velotype Pro is the only practical option for serious long-term use.

However, if you are interested in playing with the idea, you don't need to buy anything. If your keyboard has NKRO and you are willing to do a bit of work, you can just install Plover and make a "Velotype" dictionary. There is also literally nothing that keeps someone from making a completely open source competitor using standard parts.

That said, getting the ergonomics right to avoid RSI is very tricky. An open source developer working on a similar-in-principle system called Jackdaw ended up needing surgery from using an Ergodox for his beta-test keyboard. (He's working on a custom keyboard now.) So you can make a competitor or use a normal keyboard, but I'm not responsible for what happens.

Finally, mostly because of the key switches, the Velotype Pro had become the most popular model of this type in Europe. As a result, used versions of competing products such as the Veyboard are widely available on the second hand market for about 300 euro. They use normal mechanical switches and are cheaper to make, but widely considered inferior. They also require special software that only works on Windows. If you want to use it on a different system, you need an additional 200 euro adapter. Furthermore the future of that company is uncertain. They will not definitively confirm if they are planning to close up shop or to develop a new competitor to the Velotype.

I am trying to see if they will disclose enough technical information to make ongoing support without them possible. If so, I will post here and see if we can get a better group buy price.
« Last Edit: Wed, 28 November 2018, 19:49:51 by MHayden »

Offline clickityClackity

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Re: [IC] Velotype Chorded keyboard
« Reply #1 on: Wed, 28 November 2018, 01:30:14 »
The layout seems like it may be ergonomic, but there are several other factors to consider which haven't been touched upon here. Switches? Features/programibility/stock layout? Price? Your post is lacking several crucial details... I'm sure I'm missing some, I'm drunk. Hopefully I wake up to a well written response, and no hangover whatsoever.

Offline Techno Trousers

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Re: [IC] Velotype Chorded keyboard
« Reply #2 on: Wed, 28 November 2018, 09:37:54 »
"To that end, keys are 15g actuation. (Unfortunately, to save costs, they are built directly into the board and so can't be repurposed for use in other keyboards."

Velotype keyboard is rubber dome. Change my mind.

Offline MHayden

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Re: [IC] Velotype Chorded keyboard
« Reply #3 on: Wed, 28 November 2018, 13:00:34 »
The layout seems like it may be ergonomic, but there are several other factors to consider which haven't been touched upon here. Switches? Features/programibility/stock layout? Price? Your post is lacking several crucial details... I'm sure I'm missing some, I'm drunk. Hopefully I wake up to a well written response, and no hangover whatsoever.

I'm not sure how much of this is you being drunk or my being unclear. I'll assume the latter, especially since this is my first time doing this group-buy thing and I'm having to act as a go between for a Dutch company and an English-speaking market.

As I said above, the switches are a custom design that require a custom circuit board and various other "bespoke" parts. Because of that, the price is directly a function of the volume. I'll be able to get some estimates for different purchase sizes down the road, but because that's going to involve negotiations with multiple suppliers, I need to know if enough people are interested in the general concept before even trying that.

To be clear, this is completely different from almost everything else here. Normal keyboards merely change how the keys are arranged on the board; the typing method is still the same -- you hit the keys individually in sequence, producing one letter for each keystroke.

That's not how Velotype works. It's a chorded keyboard; by default, you hit multiple keys simultaneously to produce entire syllables at once. Therefore, even if learning the new layout cuts your stroke speed in half, you'll still double your typing speed because of the typical length of an English syllable. Some of the YouTube videos may be helpful.

If you take a look at the Academy software or the website I linked, you'll see that it's got around 30 different layouts/languages currently available. All of these layouts are fully customized to the target language. The onboard programability is fairly sophisticated; you can create custom "syllables" that do pretty much whatever you need.

I'll talk to the lead engineer about getting the details translated from Dutch into English for you guys.

Per the post above, we specifically want people to make custom layouts so that we can get an idea of how to make layouts for programmers, gamers, and other similar demographics. And if someone makes a particularly good one, there's an understanding that we can and will make it a "standard" layout on future iterations of the layout library in the firmware.

"To that end, keys are 15g actuation. (Unfortunately, to save costs, they are built directly into the board and so can't be repurposed for use in other keyboards."

Velotype keyboard is rubber dome. Change my mind.

I'll see if we can get an English description of how the mechanism works from their lead engineer. It's patented (ugh) and not like anything else I'm familiar with. Though, FWIW, the Veyboard *is* mechanical (linear, very short activation, etc.) and literally everyone who uses this system professionally has swapped to the Velotype because the keys are superior. That's essentially its only selling point.

Offline fireworm

  • Posts: 105
Re: [IC] Velotype Chorded keyboard
« Reply #4 on: Wed, 28 November 2018, 13:59:08 »
Would be great if you did price on 50, and then 100, to show the major difference.

Folks like being able to break these things apart to make them better, if the switch is patented, then surely a patent showing how it works will be useful to the community too.  And shouldn't be risky, since patent infringement is an illegal thing.  ;)

For software, I'd be interested in a usb dongle that transforms my 'boring' keyboard into this one.  After all, that sounds like the secondary product here (aside from layout). 

As a programmer, I'd find some 'word / syllable completion' thing slightly annoying if it always inserted a space because typing in code means you get lots of words like "peopleCount", and so on.  If it could customize and either make the next word capitalized, or put an _ between them, I'd be more interested.

You should also throw some pictures into this post; that will attract more folks.  Use the '[img]' tag.

Offline Techno Trousers

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Re: [IC] Velotype Chorded keyboard
« Reply #5 on: Wed, 28 November 2018, 14:42:46 »
Thanks for the additional detail. I'd be interested to see how the switches work.

I've always been fascinated by the speeds achievable by stenographers. But it's a steep ask to go from one character per keystroke to multiple at once. I feel like it would be harder to learn than even alternate layouts like Dvorak, Colemak, etc.

Also I don't know about other languages, but English is notorious for sound-alike syllables. How would you type these on that keyboard?

Their, they're, there
Your, you're, yore

Offline MHayden

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Re: [IC] Velotype Chorded keyboard
« Reply #6 on: Wed, 28 November 2018, 16:37:08 »
Would be great if you did price on 50, and then 100, to show the major difference.

Folks like being able to break these things apart to make them better, if the switch is patented, then surely a patent showing how it works will be useful to the community too.  And shouldn't be risky, since patent infringement is an illegal thing.  ;)

For software, I'd be interested in a usb dongle that transforms my 'boring' keyboard into this one.  After all, that sounds like the secondary product here (aside from layout). 

As a programmer, I'd find some 'word / syllable completion' thing slightly annoying if it always inserted a space because typing in code means you get lots of words like "peopleCount", and so on.  If it could customize and either make the next word capitalized, or put an _ between them, I'd be more interested.

You should also throw some pictures into this post; that will attract more folks.  Use the '[img]' tag.

This really is my first time doing this. If you could give me some examples of good ICs that I should use as models, I'd really appreciate it.  It would also be very helpful if you had suggestions of what pictures and such from the website I should include. I'm going to embed the YouTube videos into the post, but it's hard for me to predict what is most useful given that I already know this stuff. I don't want to talk down to people, but I also don't want to cause any confusion.

I'll see what we can figure out as far as prices, and I've already reached out to the lead engineer about the technical stuff. If the switches are to people's liking, I'd honestly like to start doing group buys for *other* keyboards; it would help bring down costs for everyone.

Regarding your specific questions, this doesn't do a word/syllable completion. You have complete control over the output. It only outputs the exact characters you tell it to. There are two big-ass wrist keys that handle the space vs capitalization vs do nothing option. There is no "woo" here; all it does is let you use chords to type more letters per stroke so that you can go faster. That's why we think it could be a popular item with developers.

Again in full-disclosure: You don't actually need to buy anything to use your ordinary keyboard for this. If it has NKRO, you can just install Plover and make a "Velotype" dictionary for $0. There is also literally nothing that keeps someone from making a completely open source competitor. There's nothing proprietary about the key arrangement or the programming needed to make the firmware.

The only reason for the group buy is to get industrial grade hardware that is known to not have RSI issues.

The the ergonomics of chording systems are much harder to get right. An open source developer working on a similar-in-principle system called Jackdaw ended up needing surgery from using an Ergodox for his beta-test keyboard. (He's working on a custom keyboard now.)

I've always been fascinated by the speeds achievable by stenographers. But it's a steep ask to go from one character per keystroke to multiple at once. I feel like it would be harder to learn than even alternate layouts like Dvorak, Colemak, etc.

Also I don't know about other languages, but English is notorious for sound-alike syllables. How would you type these on that keyboard?

This system isn't as elaborate as stenography. Stenography is phonetic, so you have to create a dictionary and a theory for how to convert phonetics into words in a way that doesn't have any conflicts.

This system is just based on orthography. You press multiple keys at once, and the exact letters you press come out in a predefined order. They order and the keys are arranged in a way to make this efficient and speedy. (Because there are general rules about what can go where in a syllable.)

Offline fireworm

  • Posts: 105
Re: [IC] Velotype Chorded keyboard
« Reply #7 on: Wed, 28 November 2018, 16:58:17 »
https://geekhack.org/index.php?topic=98350.0

For example, is a decent Interest Check.  Has lots of pictures, has specs (weight, switches, plates, layout, etc), has 'rough' price at the bottom $250-$300. Details shipping, so folks can figure out prices for DHL (X kilos from Malaysia).

I see more about what you are talking about with the typing chords; thanks for the info.  Perhaps giving people a way to experiment with Plover might be interesting too.  I feel like the specialized hardware might be for 'true' enthusiasts, and be a turn off for some folks, but that's just my opinion.  :) It possibly beats configuring Plover though (since it's in the hardware, not software), so that could be the advantage.

Another thing to do is make a Google Forms survey, to help track responses and organize them, for folks who aren't as vocal on the forum postings...  You can also get a feel for pricing like 'You'd pay [250, 300, 350, more] for this keyboard.'

Offline MHayden

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  • Posts: 9
Re: [IC] Velotype Chorded keyboard
« Reply #8 on: Wed, 28 November 2018, 17:22:24 »
https://geekhack.org/index.php?topic=98350.0

For example, is a decent Interest Check.  Has lots of pictures, has specs (weight, switches, plates, layout, etc), has 'rough' price at the bottom $250-$300. Details shipping, so folks can figure out prices for DHL (X kilos from Malaysia).

I see more about what you are talking about with the typing chords; thanks for the info.  Perhaps giving people a way to experiment with Plover might be interesting too.  I feel like the specialized hardware might be for 'true' enthusiasts, and be a turn off for some folks, but that's just my opinion.  :) It possibly beats configuring Plover though (since it's in the hardware, not software), so that could be the advantage.

Another thing to do is make a Google Forms survey, to help track responses and organize them, for folks who aren't as vocal on the forum postings...  You can also get a feel for pricing like 'You'd pay [250, 300, 350, more] for this keyboard.'

Thanks. That was helpful. How is my new version of the IC?

Any further suggestions or questions?
« Last Edit: Wed, 28 November 2018, 19:39:12 by MHayden »