Touchfire Keyboard

Looking for an ultra-portable keyboard for your iPad?

Check out the Touchfire Keyboard!

The Touchfire Keyboard  (49.99) screen top keyboard is made of  high-performance silicone rubber (latex allergy, this may not be for you) and is extremely thin, lightweight and portable. Magnets hold the keyboard in place on your iPad similar to how the Smart cover stays in place.

Transparent, the keyboard allows you to see the iPad keyboard, but provides you the physical feel of keys with a raised membrane. When you don’t want to use the keyboard it can easily be rolled back or removed to access the entire iPad screen.

A case comes with the Touchfire Keyboard for storage and portability.

It can be cleaned by simply running tap water over it and towel dry.

Here is a video of the Touchfire Keyboard to understand just how it works as a keyboard and on your iPad:

Trial

I did some timed, touch typing with and without the Touchfire Keyboard. I found little change with the rate of my keying, but I did feel more secure with the use of the Touchfire Keyboard due to the sensory motor feedback of physically touching the membrane keys when typing. Without use of the keyboard, I had no physical reference or sensory feedback to where I was typing causing me to have to concentrate very hard to use my motor memory of the keyboard layout, much less that it was different from the standard Qwerty keyboard. Another aspect of touch typing on the iPad keyboard, nothing to do with the Touchfire Keyboard, is the different layout of the iPad keyboard requiring a whole new motor memory from the standard Qwerty keyboard.

I also realized that the capacitive screen was very sensitive to my bioelectrical “charge”, resulting in more mistakes when typing without the membrane keyboard. This may differ from person to person pending how much of a “charge” each person produces (see related articles below, “How iPod Touch Works“¹). Since a capacitive touch screen responds to the bioelectric “charge” from your fingers, personal charge differences, whether typical or challenged (by such conditions as Raynauds Disease² or possibly peripheral neuropathies) may result in different responses to touch.

I enlisted a young, technically savvy 16-year-old millennial student to trial the Touchfire Keyboard and give me some feedback on what he thought of it. After trialing the Touchfire, he reported that he liked the keyboard’s feel and its feedback when typing on the iPad as opposed to typing without it. As a non-touch typist who used a modified typing approach to keying, he reported that the keyboard aided his typing on the iPad and gave it a “thumbs up” vote.

Final Thoughts

The Touchfire Keyboard is a lightweight and portable option for keyboarding on your device. A bit pricey, however appears to provide a better feel when typing with the on-screen iPad keyboard.

Choices of the use of the iPad keyboard versus standard QWERTY keyboard appears dependent on your familiarity to key accurately and quickly. With practice anyone can acquire a new motor plan for keyboarding on a new layout such as the iPad keyboard and if that is an interest or need, in time I believe you’ll become proficient with its use. For those of us who are die hard QWERTY keyboard users who may still gravitate to using laptops for their bulk of typing, using on screen keyboards as the Touchfire Keyboard may not be our first choice, not because of the design of the Touchfire Keyboard, but established habits and accuracy using a conventional keyboard. If you standardly use the keyboard in split mode this obviously won’t work.

Use of the Touchfire may certainly be a good choice for typing on the fly without having to tote a blue tooth keyboard along. Ergonomics also it a huge consideration when typing on the iPad for prolonged periods and for that reason Touchfire Keyboard would be best used for short periods of typing on the iPad.

Thoughts about its use for students or individuals with special needs…

  • For students who are acquiring touch typing skills, use of a blue tooth keyboard would be best to reinforce learning one keyboard for accuracy and speed. It is all about establishing habits and motor memory when learning keyboarding, so using the keyboard layout used in instruction would be important.
  • If students or users were going to be using the iPad exclusively for written composition, learning the iPad layout by using the Touchfire Keyboard could help with providing sensory-motor feedback of the keyboard layout. It also may provide fewer mistakes as the Touchfire Keyboard seemed to reduce the sensitivity and errors when typing.  The Touchfire Keyboard could also be visually adapted with color coding, dots or other markings providing a “skin” for keyboarding practice or keyboard awareness.
  • The ergonomics of the use of the on screen keyboard should be considered if typing for extended periods due to the poor ergonomics associated with using the one screen keyboard on the iPad. Bluetooth keyboards and use of a stand with the iPad provide the best ergonomics when typing for extended periods on a tablet.
  • For individuals with mobility impairments who have difficulty with the sensitivity of the keyboard, the Touchfire might provide greater room for error due to slight decrease in sensitivity. Use of a keyboard guard or a stylus may be best suited when accuracy, fine motor control for targeting keys is an issue.
  • For individuals with circulatory challenges (e.g. Raynaud’s Disease, Diabetes) use of a highly sensitive stylus or capacitive glove might work better than the tip of a finger due to calluses or reduced bioelectic “charge”. Holding a capacitive stylus or using a capacitive glove that gathers a charge from a whole hand might have more “charge” ( might that make a difference ?). If responsiveness to capacitive screens is generally poor, using a resistive touch screen might need to be considered. (See articles below. There is little information on this subject out there. Anyone have any sources of info on this?)
  • For individuals with visual impairment, use of the Touchfire keyboard provides the tactile markings on f and j keys like the standard Qwerty keyboard for orientation to the keyboard layout.
  • Have a latex allergy? This may not be for you.

Have you or would you consider using the Touchfire Keyboard yourself or with your students/clients?  Do you have experience with capacitive styluses, capacitive gloves and conditions of diabetes or other circulatory challenges with the iPad?

I would love to hear your comments!

Related articles:

How the iPod Touch Works¹ – http://electronics.howstuffworks.com/ipod-touch2.htm

Raynaud’s Association² – http://www.raynauds.org/index.php/about-us/corporate-sponsors/agloves/

Resistive vs. Capacitive Touch Screens – (there appears to be differing views on which is more sensitive resistive vs. capacitive. Some articles state capacitive screens are more accurate different from the statement in this article) http://littlemisslizzyandfriends.blogspot.com/2011/12/resistive-vs-capacitive-touch-screen_18.html

Carol

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About Carol Leynse Harpold, MS, AdEd, OTR/L, ATP

OTR/L with 30 years experience in pediatrics, school based therapy and adult rehabilitation. Masters of Science in Adaptive Education/Assistive Technology with 15 years experience in AT in education of elementary, middle school, secondary and post secondary students. Experience with adults with disabilities in employment and work transition.
This entry was posted in Accessories, iPad, iPod/iPad Accessory, Keyboard, Occupational Therapy and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Touchfire Keyboard

  1. Helpful as always, Carol. It IS hard to type on some of these smaller devices.

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