David Schneider had a problem; his kids were quick on a keyboard, yet their typing style was hectic and inefficient. To correct this issue, he put together a prototype glove that helps aid the education of proper typing technique.
These DIY haptic gloves were created with inspiration from Thad Starner’s gloves that could teach the wearer how to play Beethoven on a piano. While the task at hand with Schneider’s wearable is less daunting, functionality was still key. The Maker began his project by sewing eight miniature vibration motors into a pair of black cycling gloves.
With four motors installed in each glove, Schneider then wired the device to an Arduino Nano (ATmega168). He programmed the Arduino to activate a given motor for a quarter of a second corresponding to each character sent to the microcontroller’s serial port. “A ‘1’ would vibrate the motor pressing on the left pinkie, a ‘2’ for the left ring finger, a ‘3’ for the left middle finger, and so forth,” the Maker elaborated upon his system.
While the glove now guided correct typing technique, David needed to write an engaging computer program that would ensure his kid’s actually wanted to use his creation. He employed Tkinter to write an interface that would serve just this purpose.
David breaks down the program by explaining, “The program I cobbled together presents the user with a word, chosen at random from a list of the 100 most common English words. It then says the word out loud (in my ever-patient wife’s mellifluous voice) and shows the word spelled out on the screen in blaring 64-point red type, one letter at a time. As it does so, it sends the appropriate character to the Arduino so that the corresponding finger is vibrated.”
“There’s a slider for the user to vary the rate at which the program spews out letters. And the person can see what he or she is typing (again in 64 point), which gives instant feedback. A button allows you to advance to another word. Python and Tkinter made all this easy enough to program with less than 200 lines of code,” Schneider adds.
David reveals that the tool works very well to help teach his children, but will look to install a game of sorts in the future. “I’ve not yet figured out the particulars, but somehow I’ll have to add motivational timers, badges, health points, and bright, flashing ‘game over’ blinkers if I want my 11-year-old to benefit from my high-tech typing tutor.”
Providing an incentive for the children to perfect their technique will certainly prove fruitful in the future!