A mechanical keyboard could help people with hearing impairments use their voices more effectively and produce more precise mechanical sounds, researchers have discovered.
A team of researchers at MIT and Stanford has found that the keys on a mechanical keyboard respond to mechanical vibrations much more accurately than conventional keyboards.
The researchers, who describe their findings in the journal Science, are now working to design a mechanical keypad for people with physical and cognitive disabilities.
In the study, published online February 13, the team created a mechanical keyswitch for use in a robotic vacuum cleaner, which was powered by a solar panel.
They then placed the vacuum cleaner’s electric motor at a precise angle, allowing it to move in the same way that humans move their hands.
When the researchers held the robot’s hand up to the keyboard, the vibrations were produced with a similar frequency to those produced by a real keyboard, which can produce sounds up to about 30 decibels.
The team also tested a similar mechanical keyboard on a robotic robot arm.
“We found that when the robot was placed on a tabletop, the vibration frequency of the keyboard was about the same as that of a real mechanical keyboard, so it sounded pretty good,” said J. Scott Jones, a professor of mechanical engineering and robotics and a senior author of the study.
“It’s hard to convey the precision of this, because it’s really hard to simulate a real robot.”
Mechanical keyboards have existed for a while, but they’re typically expensive and require a lot of space.
In their study, the researchers used an open-source robot keyboard made by Siva Robotics, which uses two motors to create electric waves that are detected by sensors in the keyboard.
The vibration frequency is determined by the frequency of an electrostatic charge.
A high-frequency electric charge is created when an electric field is generated by a nearby electromagnet, which makes it easier for the computer to process information.
But when the voltage of the electromagnetic field is low, the voltage changes in an irregular way, and the electrical charge does not change.
“If you want to build a real keypad, you have to do it on a desktop computer,” Jones said.
The researchers say their new design has two advantages over the standard mechanical keyboards: the keys are a lot more sensitive than conventional mechanical keys, and they’re also quieter than conventional keys. “
But if you want a real tactile keypad that is more sensitive, and has the same amount of energy, you can build it in a small space and you can do the calculations, but the keypad costs a lot.”
The researchers say their new design has two advantages over the standard mechanical keyboards: the keys are a lot more sensitive than conventional mechanical keys, and they’re also quieter than conventional keys.
“In the past, there have been mechanical keyboards that were very quiet and very light, and that made them really easy to use, because you don’t have to move a lot to activate the keyboard,” said co-author and electrical engineering professor David Borman, a mechanical engineering graduate student at Stanford.
“Now, we have this new type of mechanical keyboard that has very strong vibrations, so the vibrations are so strong that they can’t be heard in the environment.”
Jones said that the team’s design is an improvement on the original mechanical keyboard.
“The original mechanical keyboards used a keypad with a little plastic sheet, and it was a little bulky, so when the keys moved, the sheet was also moving, and there was not a lot space for the sensors to move around,” Jones explained.
“So we decided to build the keyboard in a way that is very light and thin, so we can move around and move the keys without breaking the keyboard.”
The new design also has some additional advantages over other mechanical keyboards.
Mechanical keyboards are designed to be used with a mechanical motor, which allows them to operate at higher speeds.
When used in a vacuum cleaner like the one used in the study by the researchers, the mechanical keyboard’s vibration frequency was about 20 decibells, compared to about 3 decibell for conventional mechanical keyboards, and about 6 decibel for the standard, open-sourced robot keyboard.
A keypad like this also has a small amount of mechanical vibration resistance, which means the keyboard’s vibrations are less likely to cause a person with a disability to experience problems when they try to press the keys.
Borman said that mechanical keyboards have been available for some time, but only in limited form.
“There’s a lot that needs to be done before people start using them, and we need to be really careful with them,” he said.
For now, Borman is working on designing a more compact, lighter, more portable mechanical keyboard with more features.