chorded keyboard replacement method


ASETNIOP is a keyboard replacement method. It's based on the idea of using only ten input point - ten fingers - to accomplish all the same tasks you'd use a keyboard for. The design is based on the QWERTY layout that you're familiar with, but requires the use of chords - two or more fingers at the same time - to produce all of the letters of the alphabet.

Chorded keyboard methods have been around for quite some time. Unfortunately, all of these suffered from major design or functional flaws. Some were limited to very low input speeds. Some consisted of alphabets and shortcuts that were unreasonably hard to learn. And some were just prone to far too many errors, leading to an incredibly frustrating experience.

ASETNIOP is different from these because it's designed to overcome many of the handicaps that have limited chorded keyboard methods in the past. It's the most practical design possible for users who are already familiar with the QWERTY layout, and there are several tricks associated with the method that make it faster, more efficient, and easier to learn than any other chorded method that's been developed so far.


Typing is based on a simple principle: a device receives an input based on a point in space where a physical action occurs, and produces a corresponding output. In the original typewriter, this "point" consisted of a key attached to a lever, and pressing down on this key would swing an engraved block of metal against an inked ribbon and produce the desired mark on a piece of paper. In modern computer keyboards, the "point" consists of a button; pressing the button causes a circuit to close, and that information is passed to a computer and translated into a character for display on a monitor. In order for either device to produce a specific output, an action must occur at a specific location.

With both the original typewriter and modern computer keyboards, there are two basic ways to ensure that the correct action (i.e. pressing down) occurs at the correct point in space (i.e. on top of the key). The first is by sight - simply looking down and finding the key visually. This is known colloquially as "hunt and peck" typing; the user's hands hover over the keyboard and the user must visually monitor the input stream in order to be sure they are completing the action at the right point in space. The second is by touch - the user develops muscle memory that allows them to use kinesthesis (our ability to recognize the position of our body and limbs in space) to intuitively recognize the location of their hands and press down at the right point. This is referred to as "touch-typing" and, once learned, is consistently faster and more accurate than relying on visual input because it allows the user to focus on what is coming out, rather than what is going in.

With the advent of touchscreen computers and other devices, a number of new text input methods have been developed. While some are based on virtual keyboards (two-dimensional representations of the keyboard surface) and others are based on more exotic designs, practically all of them function based on the same principle as the physical keyboard: to obtain a particular output, a specific action must take place at a specific point in space. Normally, when touch-typing, the user relies on the "home" keys to serve as an anchor from which their other movements can determined. The problem with touchscreen devices is that without keys or any other kind of physical feedback, it is very difficult for the user to track their own movements in space using kinesthesis, and they must do so visually. As a result, it is virtually impossible to enter text into a touchscreen device while paying attention to anything other than the device itself.

ASETNIOP is designed to move beyond this limitation. The basic question that drives the process for existing keyboards and keyboard replacement methods is "where is a finger being pressed down?" With ASETNIOP, this question is changed to "which finger is being pressed down?" In other words, the user only needs to concentrate on the action of pressing a specific finger down, and the actual location where the finger makes contact is no longer a determining factor. For entering text, of course, this is complicated by the fact that humans only have ten fingers and there are 26 letters in the alphabet. How is it possible to generate all 26 letters of the alphabet, plus all the various punctuation characters, numbers and symbols that are a part of written language? The answer is to use chords - to press two or more fingers at the same time.

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complete keyboard

The layout of ASETNIOP consists of eight "primary" keys. Each key primary key represents one of your eight fingers, similar to the "home" keys of a standard keyboard. To obtain the remaining letters of the alphabet, the primary keys are combined into pairs of two to form chords. Based on the eight primary keys, there are a total of 28 chords - 18 of which are used for letters, and a remaining 10 that are assigned to produce commonly used punctuation marks. The thumbs are used as a shift key and a space bar.

One of the guiding philosophies for the design of ASETNIOP is that the space bar is the most important key on any keyboard - that's why it's the biggest! You use the space bar every single time you type a word! In ASETNIOP, the space bar gets its own dedicated key which isn't used to form any other letters or symbols. You strike the space bar with your thumb, the same way you always have on a regular keyboard. The image above shows the configuration for users that strike the space bar with their right thumb, but it can easily be flipped for left-handed users. The other thumb is used as a shift key, and when both are pressed together they function as the Enter key.

In order to maximize typing speed and efficiency, ASETNIOP uses common letters as its primary (non-chording) keys. Aside from A and S, the home row keys on a QWERTY keyboard are not particularly common letters. In ASETNIOP, rather than wasting the eight primary keys on rarely used letters, the most commonly used letter that is normally pressed by that same finger is assigned. For example, when you’re typing on a normal keyboard, the right index finger normally rests on the letter J. But that same finger is also used to press the Y, U, H, N, and M keys. Of these, N is the most commonly used letter, so in ASETNIOP this is used as the primary key, and J is reassigned as a chord.

With ASETNIOP, the eight primary keys include seven of the most frequently used letters in English (E, T, A, O, N, I, and S) - which account for 44% of all keystrokes. Along with the space bar, the shift key, and the letter P, these ten keys account for 65% of all keystrokes. That's 65% of all keystrokes accounted for without having to use any chords at all!

For the remainder of letters in the alphabet, the chords in ASETNIOP are designated based on three factors: the finger that would normally be used to strike the letter on a QWERTY keyboard, the frequency of use of the letter, and the difficulty of the chord. The chord for every letter contains the same finger that would normally be used to strike that key; common letters are assigned to easy chords, and rare ones are assigned to the tougher ones. For example, the commonly used letter H is assigned as a chord consisting of the right index and right middle fingers, while the less commonly used K is a chord consisting of the right middle finger and right pinky.

Of course, efficient design is only part of what makes ASETNIOP function at a higher level than other methods. ASETNIOP has a series of special features that simplify the learning process, increase typing speed (for both novices and experts), and reduce the number of errors produced without relying too heavily on autocorrect features that try to outsmart the user and end up causing more frustration than they're worth.

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ASETNIOP is designed to be learned easily. Preserving commonality between the fingers that are used to strike keys on a QWERTY keyboard and the ASETNIOP chords makes it very easy to switch between the two input methods. When you learn ASETNIOP, it won't affect your ability to type on a regular keyboard at all. But another advantage of this process is that it allows for a disambiguation scheme that means new users who already know how to touch-type can simply ignore the chording process entirely when first getting started.

When a user types words that only use primary letters (such as “seat” or “point”), the output appears as typed. However, if a user enters a sequence of letters that is supposed to contain a chord (such as the word “tnis” when the intended word is “this”), the program automatically corrects the word to produce the desired output. This can only be done automatically, however, when there is only one potential output word.

gain-rain-vain In cases where the input leads to an ambiguous output, a menu is produced that lets you select one of several word choices. It’s similar to the T-9 method that was used for texting with cellphones before touchscreen phones became available. But with ASETNIOP, the twist is that the menus are designed to teach you chords as you select your choice. For example, given the input “tain,” the computer will produce three options - “gain”, “rain”, and “vain.” To select one, the user must enter the proper chord for G, R, or V.

Disambiguation is an interesting technique, but it has limits. Having to select items from menus slows down your speed considerably. For some input combinations there are just two or three words to choose from, but for others there can be many, many more. In the worst-case scenario for ASETNIOP, there can be as many as 18 word choices for a given input sequence (with other methods there can be as many as 48!). But perhaps the most limiting factor of all with disambiguation is that it doesn’t work when you’re trying to enter usernames, passwords, website addresses, email addresses, filenames, proper names, or any other combination of letters that isn’t found in a standardized dictionary. Disambiguation can be a useful tool to help you get used to ASETNIOP more quickly, but once you become proficient at chording, you won’t be using disambiguation at all.

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Probably the most novel and exciting feature of ASETINOP is the multitude of stenographic combinations that are available.¹ When pressing three or more keys together, it's possible to get digraphs, trigraphs, and even entire words - instantly. There are more than 300 different combinations, but once you’ve learned the basic alphabet, it’s not actually necessary to memorize any of them!

Each stenographic combination, is the most common combination of letters that would be typed for that particular combination of keys. For example, the easiest stenographic combination to perform is also the most useful - if the user presses the left index finger for the letter T, the right index and middle fingers together for the letter H, and the left middle finger for the letter E, but presses them all at the same time the output is the word “the”.

There are actually as many as four different potential outputs for each stenographic combination of three or four keys. When entered as part of a larger sequence of letters, the output is usually a digraph or a prefix/suffix. When entered as a separate sequence (indicated when the word is bracketed by a pair of spaces), the output is a full word. In addition, there are left-hand (western) and right-hand (eastern) versions of most combinations, depending on which hand the user begins pressing keys with. For example, the words “will” and “low” can be formed with the same combination of letters (the left pinky, left ring finger, right middle finger, and right ring finger). If the user presses either of the left-hand keys first, the output is “will”. If the user presses either of the right-hand keys first, the output will be “low”.

There are two major advantages to assigning shortcuts in this fashion. The first is that the user has no need to memorize any of the combinations - they are typically learned through experimentation. The second is that when users begin typing quickly, “stepping on” previous keystrokes (i.e. pressing a new key or chord before releasing the previous one) is less likely to generate an error.

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Another key feature of ASETINOP is the autocorrect process.² Many people who consider using a chorded keyboard are concerned about the timing; that if they don't press letters down at the exact same time, they won't get the desired output. ASETNIOP avoids this problem through a process of testing potential solutions on the fly when errors are suspected.

The ASETNIOP processor contains a dictionary database, and when the user enters an input that does not correspond to an output that can be found in the dictionary, potential alternatives are generated. For each pair of single letters in the word, the computer combines them and replaces the pair of letters with the letter that would be produced had they been entered as a chord. For each chord, the computer splits it into its component parts.

For example, if the user intends to enter the word “seat” but steps on the final two letters, producing the chord for the letter F and the output of “sef,” the computer recognizes that an error may have been made. One potential alternative is constructed by combining the S and E characters for their chord output of D, which leads to the potential output “df” - which isn’t a word. Another alternative is constructed by splitting the F into its primary letter components (A and T), producing the potential word “seat”. Since this is the only possible combination that is found in the dictionary database (“sef” and “df” are not words), the computer automatically makes the change.

By contrast, if the user intends to enter the word “hat”, but does not connect the first two keys in the chord for the letter H and the input is received as “niat”, the computer will produce the potential alternatives “hat”, “n!t”, and “nif”. Of these, the only combination that is found in the dictionary database is “hat”, so the computer can automatically produce a correction.

In cases where there are more than one potentially correct output alternatives, the computer simply waits until more information is available. For example, if the user enters the letters W, I, and N in succession, the potential output alternatives “win” and “wh” and “asin” are produced. Since two of these are viable outputs (“win” as a separate word and “wh” as the leading fragment of words like “who” and “where”), the computer will wait for the next keystroke. In this example, if the next keystroke is consistent with a word that contains the leading fragment “wh”, the correction will be made - for example, entering the letter Y, will retroactively produce the word “why.” If the following keystroke is a space character, the computer will produce the word “win” as it was originally typed.

There are other autocorrect techniques, such as correcting for skewed combinations (such as typing the letters “ga” when the word “of” is intended), replacing digraphs with their eastern or western counterpart (such as replacing the western digraph “da” in the word “mda” with its eastern counterpart “ad” to produce the word “mad”), or substituting lesser-used combinations when the primary combinations don’t produce a coherent output (for example, replacing the “id” in “gaid” with “ze” to produce “gaze”), but these occur less frequently, and should be unobtrusive enough that you won’t even notice them happening.

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numbers keyboard

It's also possible to switch out the basic ASETNIOP layout to gain access to numbers and symbols. By pressing a relatively simple four-key "layout switch" chord consisting of the pinky and index fingers on both hands (the "devil horns"), the user can gain access to numerals as well as a host of less common punctuation marks and other symbols that are available on a regular keyboard. The primary keys, plus the space bar and shift key, are used to obtain the numerals 0 through 9. The punctuation characters that were originally accessible in the main layout (period, comma, semicolon, etc.) are still available and do not change, but there are a number of additional symbols that are available as well. All that's required to switch back to the text layout is to press the "layout switch" chord again.

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¹Stenographic output for all potential input codes are generated via a proprietary (patent pending) process.

²The autocorrect processes are performed according to a proprietary (patent pending) process.