November 17, 2003 6:31 AM PST

FrogPad aims to cut keyboard size

LAS VEGAS--FrogPad is out to make the keyboard the size of your palm.

The five-employee, Houston-based start-up is actively marketing a fully functional, 20-key keyboard at Comdex this week, which measures 3 inches by 5 inches--about the same size as a personal digital assistant. The typical keyboard contains 128 keys and is more than a foot long.

The size reduction is possible through a close analysis of human anthropology and typing styles, according to Linda Marroquin, FrogPad's CEO. The 15 letters featured at the center of FrogPad's keyboard--a selection which includes the letters "T," "A," "E" and "H"--represent approximately 86 percent of average keyboard activity of English-language typists. Hitting a Shift key at the bottom of the green keyboard in conjunction with one of the 15 central keys leads to the rest of the alphabet.


Special coverage
Comdex gets down to business
Complete News.com coverage of
the technology trade show.


Similarly, punching the Number key allows a person to type in numbers, while the Symbol key lets users type in parenthesis and other punctuation marks.

Alternatives to the standard QWERTY keyboard have long been a quest for many high-tech companies. Doug Engelbart has advocated use of the device he invented, the computer mouse. Microsoft and others have tried to popularize handwriting or voice recognition as an alternative to typing. Other companies have designed holographic keyboards.

Although these gyrations might not be necessary on a standard keyboard, the techniques are not that tough to learn, said Atin Patel, a representative from Gennum, a Canadian company that is helping FrogPad to come out with a version that can connect through Bluetooth in the first quarter.

In studies at Rice University, students were able to type 40 words per minute after eight to 10 hours of training, he said. While FrogPad came up with the concept, Ideo came up with the design, said Marroquin.

The keyboard is largely aimed at target markets. Engineers working on CAD (computer-aided design) applications often like to keep one hand on a mouse at all times, said Marroquin. With FrogPad, a CAD user can continue to use the mouse and input data through the keyboard. Similarly, people with disabilities can more readily type.

Invite Michael Kanellos into your in-box
Senior department editor Michael Kanellos scrutinizes the hardware industry in a weekly column that ranges from chips to servers and other critical business systems. Enterprise Hardware every Wednesday.




"You operate it with two fingers," Patel said.

A version of the pad that can be attached through a USB (universal serial bus) cable came out in October and is listed on Amazon.com at $169.99. A version that will connect through Bluetooth, tentatively called Blue Frog, will come out in the first quarter, Marroquin and Patel said. Apple Computer, among other computer makers, is exploring the idea of bundling the keyboard with computers.

6 comments

Join the conversation!
Add your comment
A market in gaming
Just like your example of professionals such as CAD designers, gamers also require one hand on the mouse at all times. Focusing a campaign on the hundreds of thousands of gamers around the World is far from a bad idea. Not sure the $100+ price is an acceptable cost for a keyboard, but we'll just have to wait and see.
Posted by (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Thanks for noticing the gaming thread
FrogPad is not as big as Logitech or as wealthy as Microsoft, nor as accepted yet by the masses. When we are i promise the price will come down. Yet for the moment, we are catering to those who get it. As you stated, the Professionals for AutoCad, programming, etc. And next for the Gamers.
Posted by FrogPad (3 comments )
Link Flag
A market in gaming
Just like your example of professionals such as CAD designers, gamers also require one hand on the mouse at all times. Focusing a campaign on the hundreds of thousands of gamers around the World is far from a bad idea. Not sure the $100+ price is an acceptable cost for a keyboard, but we'll just have to wait and see.
Posted by (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Thanks for noticing the gaming thread
FrogPad is not as big as Logitech or as wealthy as Microsoft, nor as accepted yet by the masses. When we are i promise the price will come down. Yet for the moment, we are catering to those who get it. As you stated, the Professionals for AutoCad, programming, etc. And next for the Gamers.
Posted by FrogPad (3 comments )
Link Flag
Great for people with disabilities
I can't believe there is something finally out there for people with physical disabilities. I was born with one hand and although I can type pretty fast, I need to look at the board most of the time. I am really looking forward to seeing this product on the market... but for $150 + I am not sure there are many people out there willing to experience.
Posted by C3PEO (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Great for people with disabilities
I can't believe there is something finally out there for people with physical disabilities. I was born with one hand and although I can type pretty fast, I need to look at the board most of the time. I am really looking forward to seeing this product on the market... but for $150 + I am not sure there are many people out there willing to experience.
Posted by C3PEO (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
 

Join the conversation

Add your comment

The posting of advertisements, profanity, or personal attacks is prohibited. Click here to review our Terms of Use.

What's Hot

Discussions

Shared

RSS Feeds

Add headlines from CNET News to your homepage or feedreader.