Keybowl Introduces orbiTouch: Revolutionary Keyless Keyboard
History was made last week in Boston during TASH's 27 Annual Conference when Dr. Peter McAlindon, CEO and founder of Keybowl, Inc., introduced the world's first keyless computer keyboard, the orbiTouch (www.keybowl.com). The culmination of a decade of research and multiple patents, the revolutionary orbiTouch uses a pair of ergonomically sculpted domes to “type” characters with the same precision as pressing a key.
The orbiTouch has two markets. The first market is targeted at the millions of computer users who have limited hand use from repetitive stress injuries (RSI) such as carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS), arthritis, neuro-muscular control problems, accidents, and limitations resulting from accidents or injuries.
The second market is the able-bodied user of all ages wanting to avoid developing RSI. Teacher Jennifer Coots saw the orbiTouch during TASH's conference and said, “ To reduce RSI among children, the orbiTouch must be introduced to children when they are introduced to a keyboard.”
Recent data from the Bureau of Labor statistics show that carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) and other repetitive stress injuries in the workplace lead the pack in median days away from work with an average of 27 days. Average costs per claim vary from $29,000 to over $100,000 according to some studies, with the total cost to employers estimated to be in excess of $1 billion per year. For employers, for people with CTS, and for millions of others with limited use of fingers and wrists, the ability to use a computer represents a new hope for restored productivity and personal growth. “The orbiTouch Keyless keyboard provides this solution,” says McAlindon.
The orbiTouch's value to people with disabilities in terms of numbers of people it can help can't be underestimated. “This orbiTouch opens up the world of computing and information access to people with repetitive stress injuries and limited use of their hands and fingers. This is a population estimated to be more than 10 million people in the United States ,” says nurse and former occupational therapist, Karen Reier, 35, Los Angeles , CA .
Reier believes other versions of the orbiTouch are needed.
McAlindon agrees. “We founded this company to bring new products to market that provide universal access to computing. Our mission is to level the playing field. The orbiTouch is the first of a line of products that will change the way people view computer interaction.”
Keybowl, Inc.'s mission is to unite the best mix of research, technology, and tradition to empower the typist and computer user with the best possible alphanumeric input devices, and the orbiTouch through its unique design actually changes the whole process of typing through its physical and cognitive components. Physically, it relies on the whole hand versus the fingers to type. These hand motions are similar to the ones used on a QWERTY keyboard. Cognitively, the process is changed because on average it takes less time to learn to use the orbiTouch than it does to learn touch-typing on a standard QWERTY keyboard.
A crucial aspect of the orbiTouch research and development has been the field-testing of prototype units with persons of diverse levels of typing ability and manual dexterity. This has led to numerous refinements in ergonomics and mechanical design elements that have yielded such benefits as the early statistics showing that an experienced typist can quickly regain over 50% of their original typing speed using the orbiTouch.
Does the orbiTouch work with any major hardware? According to McAlindon, it connects to any IBM PC without any special programs or drivers.
Consumers see many roles for the orbiTouch.
The $695 price for the orbiTouch produces different views among consumers. George Mitchell, 38, says, “I could not afford the price myself.” Yet he believes the orbiTouch is an awesome piece of technology. An unemployed Mitchell has CTS and is looking for an alternative keyboard to help him return to work. He has approached his insurance company to buy it for him.
Tommy Callahan, special education teacher, 36, has an opposing view. “The $695 price for a first time product is fair and eventually the market will bring it down.” Callahan has rheumatism in his hands and is missing the last two fingers on his left hand.
Callahan sees tremendous opportunities for the orbiTouch in the special education field. He says, “The orbiTouch belongs in the special education field. It can do a lot to help students with disabilities compete with their non-disabled peers.”
Physicians believe there is a healing role for the orbiTouch.
“I believe the orbiTouch's unique design enhances the goals of people who have left the workforce because of RSI to return to work and be as productive and maybe more than when they left,” says orthopedic surgeon Dr. Michael Buchanan.
While currently there is not another product on the market similar to the orbiTouch, some manufacturers of assistive technology believe the orbiTouch has a profitable future in it.
“I can see the product benefiting people with and without disabilities. The market potential for the orbiTouch mandates that it should be mainstreamed and definitely manufactured by a major hardware manufacturer,” says the accessibility director of one of the nation's largest hardware companies.
Human Resource consultants believe the orbiTouch can be a plus in the workforce.
“With so many people developing RSI and CTS, we know the standard QWERTY keyboard needs to be changed. If this orbiTouch can do a tenth of what it says it can, employers and insurance companies should strongly embrace it,” Willard Taplan, HR consultant.
Since the orbiTouch can be used by people with different disabilities to access information technology, federal employees with disabilities who have seen it because the product can assist federal agencies comply with section 508.
Keybowl starts shipping the orbiTouch to customers this month.
Founded in 1994, Keybowl, Inc. is an high technology company located in Winter Park, Florida that specializes in the research, production, distribution and licensing of alternative computer input devices and the associated software that manages those devices.