About 20 years ago, the static split-and-tilt ergonomic keyboard became the wrist-friendly standard. Today, Smartfish Technologies, a company founded by a former chiropractor, has a better approach: the Engage, a keyboard that periodically shifts its position. The goal is to constantly change your typing angle, thereby reducing the chance of repetitive-stress injuries. A motor inside the keyboard tweaks the separation (up to 1.4 inches) and tilt (up to 6 degrees) of each side in small increments every 2,500 keystrokes. You can also alter the frequency of changes.
We used an early model for several days, typing articles on a Windows 7 PC as the Engage adjusted itself automatically. We paid close attention to key feel and wrist comfort and maintained an upright sitting position (we didn’t want to sabotage any benefits by slouching).
The ever-changing keyboard was startling at first, but we had no problem acclimating to it. Each shift takes only about two seconds, so using the Engage for long periods is comfortable. The downsides: the motor is noisy, the keyboard a tad high (which can itself cause stress), and the keys a bit stiff. But the company is already working on a model that fixes these problems, along with an additional nonsplitting option that tweaks just your wrist angle.
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.