Although I hated the “keyboarding” class I took in high school, I’ll admit it did put me on the path to being an effective touch typist today. If you still employ the inefficient hunt-and-peck typing technique and want to break those bad habits, you can apparently build a negative reinforcement keyboard that physically shocks your fingertips when you’re not typing properly.
There are many ways to learn proper touch-typing skills, including online tutorials and dedicated apps (does anyone remember Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing?). If you want to accelerate the process, you can even build yourself a custom keyboard with blank keycaps so you can’t cheat. But YouTuber 3DprintedLife went another direction, one that probably delivers results — at great physical cost.
The first step is customising a keyboard so that it can automatically tell when someone is typing with proper technique — fingers on the home row — or randomly sniping keys one finger at a time. A collection of eight capacitive sensors were installed inside, with each one detecting key presses from groups of three keys. This helped make the whole project a little cheaper and a little more streamlined. The hardware is powered by a Raspberry Pi Zero, but to crunch the data and determine the typing technique employed, the keyboard uses a neural network trained by simply typing on the keyboard using the two opposing techniques. Now it can spot good typists and bad ones.
If a user properly keeps their fingers over the home row and types at a steady, accurate pace, they’d assume they were just using a normal keyboard. But if a user’s typing patterns become sporadic, a 20-watt LED light bar begins to flash to both discourage them from looking down at the keyboard and to warn them of what’s coming next. The suspicious-looking “T” and “Y” keys (the two keys not connected to capacitive sensors inside) feature copper contacts connected to a shocking mechanism borrowed from a gag pen designed to shock the user whenever they click the bottom. In this case, however, the shocking mechanism is activated when a user’s typing performance drops below a certain speed and accuracy, encouraging them to improve through discouragement.
The keyboard is designed to be a standalone typing tutor with the inclusion of its own touchscreen display that displays a performance metre at all times (another visual clue as to when you’re going to get jolted). It also offers access to typing games that challenge a user’s speed and accuracy. But, quite frankly, those games don’t aren’t going to be much fun if you’re a bad typist.