New Ergonomic Keyboard Relieves Wrist Pain
For a video of the Keybowl in operation, contact NSF's Dena Headlee, (703) firstname.lastname@example.org
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Peter McAlindon has taken the stress out of using computer keyboards. McAlindon, with assistance from the National Science Foundation's (NSF) Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program, has developed an ergonomic alternative that could increase comfort, prevent carpal tunnel syndrome and help millions with other disabilities gain access to the power of computing.
"This new keyboard is testimony to the power of small businesses, supported by the federal government, to contribute significant public benefits," said NSF program manager Sara Nerlove.
Carpal tunnel syndrome, a painful wrist condition caused by repetitive motion, afflicts hundreds of thousands of computer users in the United States each year. Others, such as new computer users among the elderly, are afflicted with arthritis or other physically limiting conditions. Most alternative keyboards intended to reduce repetitive stress simply change the shape and tilt of a conventional keyboard. McAlindon's Keybowl, however, completely eliminates the finger and wrist motions required to stroke alphanumeric keys.
A user's hands rest on two domes that slide into eight different positions. In a technique known as chording, the user selects combinations of positions to enter letters, numbers and commands. The Keybowl also has a built-in navigation capability that eliminates the need for a mouse, which is expected to further reduce stress.
McAlindon completed his doctoral research on ergonomic keyboards at the University of Central Florida. After graduating, he started a small computer consulting firm and obtained an SBIR grant from NSF to develop his design. Tests have confirmed the Keybowl's effectiveness for people with carpal tunnel syndrome or with limited motor function in their hands and arms.
"The Keybowl is easy to use and may help temper the growing worldwide problem of typing-related injuries," said McAlindon. "This design and method have the potential to benefit all typists, including those with temporary or permanent physical disabilities."
The second phase of McAlindon's SBIR grant will help his Florida-based company produce a marketing prototype, the next step toward commercialization. McAlindon hopes to have a marketable product by the end of the year.
The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering. In fiscal year (FY) 2016, its budget is $7.5 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and other institutions. Each year, NSF receives more than 48,000 competitive proposals for funding and makes about 12,000 new funding awards. NSF also awards about $626 million in professional and service contracts yearly.
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