Octodon Keyboard: Throwing and Metamorphosis

    Hello, Habr.

    After a painfully long break, the Octodon project team returns to the prosaic genre. We have already been asked several times cautiously how our project is doing, implying whether it is alive at all, and with this post I want to disperse the curtain of fog, while also raising the edge of the curtain, which now hides the product that we are preparing for release.

    The beginning of the story can be read here: Oktodon: What should be a comfortable keyboard for smartphones .
    And in subsequent posts on our blog.


    Keyboard Octodon is a new mobile input device that can become an alternative to a full-sized keyboard and bring comfort to work with text on smartphones and tablets. This problem is solved by involving all fingers in the printing process by placing input elements on the back of the device. This technology is sometimes called back-typing .

    The key advantages of the Octodon keyboard are compactness, good ergonomics and an intuitive input process:

    Last time we left the readers of our blog in the place where the heroes of the Octodon team rebuilt a compact and fast device that illustrates all the advantages of the new keyboard concept, broke the swype record, and began to prepare for the crowdfunding campaign and production, without losing, however, the hope of attracting additional investments to accelerate the process.

    What happened next?

    And then what happened. We closely, nose to nose, ran into a question to which we have carefully closed our eyes until now. Even, rather, they didn’t close it, but simply hoped that it would not be up to us to solve it, but to some major, for example, Samsung or ejj market player, who, shocked by the unimaginable coolness of the prototype of our gadget, would immediately throw the best forces into its production, and the engineers will cry out in delight: “Wow, now we will finalize this design so that you will not find it more reliable and more beautiful in the world!”

    But, alas, none of this happened, and the question, meanwhile, was very simple:
    "What exactly will we produce?"

    The zoo of Android smartphones and tablets has grown and continues to grow, and our product (so far) is very niche, and losing precious users only because they prefer the X phone, while our case is designed for the Y phone is unusually insulting . And even if we develop a universal cover Z (which in itself is very difficult, given the range of screen diagonals), it is likely that the user of smartphone Y, pulling a universal cover Z on it, will see that his phone now looks like X. This will ruin He’s all the joy of using an innovative gadget, he will remove the cover and put on a dark and dusty shelf, forever losing faith in scientific and technological progress in the field of octodon building.

    Fortunately, at about this point a ray of light struck the clouds: Apple announced that mere mortals were now allowed to develop on-screen iOS keyboards.

    There is no other phone that differs in such circulations as the iPhone, which means that if one model is released, then it definitely should be an apple model.

    We urgently modeled the concept for the fifth iPhone, which was relevant at that time (a bit narrow for an octodon, but what to do), simultaneously simplifying the mechanics and, finally, completely abandoning the cables connecting our moving magnetic joysticks . Renders turned out well:

    And the prototype of the mechanics is also nothing:

    Then came a couple of iPhones 6 and 6+, beautiful, thin and wide, as if created for an octodon, and we began to consider production in order to launch a kickstarter campaign.

    The production of accessories tailored to a specific phone model is a task that requires power and speed. Kickstarter is full of examples of how even the most uncomplicated accessory designs missed the deadlines and released a product when it no longer interests anyone, or entered into a hopeless race with the smartphone manufacturer, always one step behind.

    After I read the stories in the Update Project minimalist case study consisting of five parts and four screws and the history of similar set of four protective parts for the iPhone , I was worried.

    Even despite the simplified mechanics of the new prototype, our project still turned out to be disproportionately more difficult than these simple accessories, and the presence of moving parts seriously contributed to thinking about reliability. The disappointing statistics of accessory projects tied to a specific phone model indicated that there are almost no projects in nature that would leave their creators and backers satisfied.

    We did not succeed in getting into hardware accelerators that could reduce our risks by providing us with the missing manufacturing competencies, and therefore our concern about these statistics was quite natural.

    In the air, of course, there was a thought that the founders of those projects were slobs, and only we, certainly - musketeers, but we resolutely drove her away with the friendly swings of our swords.

    So our enthusiasm for the unexpected gift from Apple was somewhat dim. Even with the successful collection of funds, quite real risks loomed:
    • Tighten the release of the accessory and release it after the next iPhone model.
    • Release an accessory that does not match the high quality standard of the target device.

    Both risks were very real, because we still did not have the final device design ready for production. This required several more iterations of prototyping, and for which we simply did not have enough resources.

    The only solution in these conditions is the immediate release of a sufficiently high-quality product, which we are able to produce in an acceptable time. And if possible - universal, so as not to lose potential users.
    For this, definitely, something needs to be sacrificed.

    Since we have already made a choice in favor of universality, the first solution was given quite simply: we decided not to produce an accessory that is constantly on the smartphone. The idea of ​​constantly dragging a device on the phone that does not match its shape and dimensions is not very attractive.

    Instead, our new device should allow a very fast attachment of a telephone to it for operation.

    Simplification of mechanics was also required. With pain in the heart, we abandoned the cusps and cunning tilts of the planes with input elements, because these thin structural units had to carry significant loads, withstand accidental falls, and, among other things, give a pleasant feeling from folding / folding.

    Of course, all this does not mean either a final rejection of the release of stylish covers for top-end phones, or a rejection of the ultra-compact design of the device. These are only difficult decisions on the release of the first product on their own.
    Instead of some lost features of the original concept, we added new ones, the implementation of which became possible, thanks to the selected device format.

    Such decisions require verification and criticism, therefore, we present what happened as a result of our thoughts on your court, reader.

    Octodon square

    The new octodon has a square shape with a side of 128mm 6mm thick. Which is comparable to the size of the box for a CD and, in principle, compatible with a jacket pocket. The corners, according to the current trend in design, are rounded (and it’s easier to keep it that way :).

    Thus, even when refusing complex transformations, the octodon still remains the most compact solution among similar input devices.

    This flat design unfolds and with a pleasant click is fixed in the unfolded state, in which it is more convenient to hold. At the same time, the front joysticks move back from the phone body, which gives freedom of movement to the thumbs, and allows you to not touch the phone case with a diagonal of more than five inches during operation.

    On two deviating planes there are platforms for placing input elements. Two large platforms are located on the back side of the folding parts, 4 input elements can be magnetized on them in arbitrary places (in principle, iron allows magnetizing both five and six, this is a matter of appropriateness and software support). Magnets and friction pads provide enough force to ensure that the input elements do not move when printing. If the octodon is often planned to be dropped, then you can fix the input elements from running away when you hit the floor with the help of stickers from a special double-sided tape.

    In the new concept, front joysticks are also located on magnetic surfaces and also have some freedom of movement. By the way, two joysticks fit perfectly on the front surfaces, which makes perfect sense and will certainly be supported by software. For example, it will be possible to have a dedicated joystick for navigating the text under the right thumb and an additional set of modes under the left thumb.

    Such a system allows one of the main competitive advantages of octodon to be realized - ergonomics matching to an arbitrary hand size. In addition, the bonus is the ability to quickly change input elements, for example, the selection of input elements with the optimal degree of rigidity for each finger. Thoughts on what else can be done using such an input system I will share below.

    Now to an important question. How the smartphone will be attached to this design. To do this, a special metal sticker (in the prototype it is a 50 by 10 mm rectangle with rounded short sides) will be glued to the back cover of the phone or phone case on the correct double-sided tape. This sticker snaps into one of two magnetic holders: one for standard, portrait orientation of the phone, and the second, for more appropriate in gaming applications - landscape. The second holder is located at such an angle that the smartphone, although it protrudes to the sides above the thumbs, does not limit their mobility.

    Thus, the first octodon can be used with almost all smartphones and phablets in both portrait and landscape orientation. Landscape arrangement is another bonus of refusal to perform in the form of an accessory cover.
    This design, with some refinement (which we are planning), will allow the use of octodon in landscape orientation and with lightweight tablets, such as the Nexus 7 or iPad mini.

    What are the prospects for the development of this input platform?


    Game direction development

    It is very real to use octodon as an advanced game controller. Although so far only a large number of discrete input elements are available, technologically we can support analog sticks in a limited number (however, in large they are not needed).

    Support for alternative layouts and alternative input elements

    We are often asked if we can use the existing touch typing skill on a standard keyboard to work with octodon. Until now, we have been forced to answer: only to the extent that physical splitting of the octodon input elements in four directions per finger allows, which quantitatively does not correspond to the distribution of the input elements over the fingers in ten-finger typing. But now for a device with interchangeable input elements, it is possible to create an alternative set of input elements - six-position for the index fingers and three- or four-position for the others, in order to preserve the usual range of fingers.

    If such a scenario attracts you, I will be grateful if you write about it.
    In light of this, we can talk not just about a new keyboard, but about a new extensible input platform. Based on the octodon, many existing chord input methods can be implemented. For example, the accordion GKOS , using instead of eight four- position buttons, six ordinary ones.

    Instead of a conclusion

    Naturally, the whole development of octodon as an alternative platform for input on mobile devices will be faster if it is supported by the development community. The more applications the use of this controller will support, the more attractive it will be for the user. As soon as we decide on the final architecture, we plan to open both the software and hardware specifications of the octodon.
    So, if you have an interest as a software developer, an interest in creating your own octodon, or requests for expansion of functionality / compatibility as potential users, or maybe you want to purchase magnetic buttons for your project - your comments, messages and letters strongly welcome!

    We will be glad to see you on our website octodon.mobi(True, today he does not keep up a bit with our habr).


    Only registered users can participate in the survey. Please come in.

    Please select the statement most correct for you

    • 42.8% I do not need such a controller 483
    • 5.7% I’m interested in the idea, but I don’t like the planned implementation of this device 65
    • 36.7% Generally interesting, but until I hold it in my hands I won’t buy 414
    • 9% Would Buy a Serial Device with Good User Reviews 102
    • 4.3% Would Buy Now 49
    • 1.2% I even went to the site and signed up for the first batch of devices 14

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