FAQs about First Generation AlphaGrip

How can I speed up the trackball?
In 2011 we introduced an updated version of the AlphaGrip, a.k.a., the iGrip Ergonomic Keyboard, which now has an optical trackball (replacing the previous version's mechanical trackball). There are 3 speed settings which can be set by generating a number (red shift + corresponding back key) while also pressing the capital shift key as follows:

The default setting is Shift + 2 (500 DPI)

  •       Shift + 1:   250 DPI 
  •       Shift + 2:   500 DPI
  •       Shift + 3: 1000 DPI

My trackball was working fine, but now it is less responsive. What can I do?
There may be some dust in the mechanism. To clean the trackball:

  •        1. Bend a plain metal paper clip into the shape of a U (don't use a plastic-coated one). 
                Or, use the tips of needle point pliers. 
           2. Unplug the USB cable from the back of the AlphaGrip.
           3. Place the AlphaGrip between your knees, trackball side up, for support.
           4. Take the U-shaped paper clip and place each end in each indent located at the 3:00 and
                9:00 position in the band surrounding the trackball.
           5. Turn the band counter-clockwise about 1/5th of a turn. (It takes a little oomph to get it
                to turn. If that doesn't work, try using some needle nose pliers).
           6. Turn the AlphaGrip upside down with one hand and drop the trackball and the band into your
                other hand. (You may have to slightly turn the band clockwise so it and the trackball can
                drop out).
           7. Dip a cotton swab (a Q-Tip) into rubbing alcohol and clean the three metal sensors inside
                the trackball mechanism as well as the clear optical sensor.
           8. Give the alcohol 2-3 minutes to evaporate.
           9. Wipe the trackball with a dry, lint-free cloth.
         10. Replace the trackball and the band and turn the band clockwise until it snaps into place.
         11. Plug the USB cable back into the AlphaGrip and the trackball should be working properly.

Can I remap the characters on the AlphaGrip to different buttons?
Yes. You can use a program called Autohotkey, freely available at www.autohotkey.com, to remap the iGrip's characters/buttons. You can also try theAndersen Remap, written by one of our early customers. It's especially helpful for those who frequently use the Ctrl and Alt keys. It also reduces the load on a user’s thumbs by remapping all characters to the finger keys.

Is it difficult to learn how to touch type on an AlphaGrip?
The answer to that depends on several factors: It takes much less time to learn to touch type on an AlphaGrip than it does on a standard keyboard because your fingers naturally fall on all the buttons necessary to type, unlike the keyboard which requires formal classroom training to learn how to move your fingers from side to side and up and down 5 rows of keys. AlphaGrip users, in contrast, can easily teach themselves to touch type on the AlphaGrip’s Enhanced Qwerty letter layout (for touch typists there is a 70% letter/finger correlation between the AlphaGrip and a standard Qwerty keyboard).

Nevertheless, typing with your hands in a vertical orientation is different than typing with them in a horizontal one, so it does take time to become proficient. It takes only a few minutes to learn to touch type on an AlphaGrip (defined as using the proper fingers on the proper keys to generate the correct characters without looking at your fingers). It is developing the finger memory necessary to speed type that takes awhile. The learning time will vary depending upon your familiarity with game controllers or musical instruments, finger dexterity, and your memory.

When you grasp the AlphaGrip, your fingers naturally rest on practically all the buttons you need to type the letters of the alphabet, major punctuations, and commands. That means you barely have to move your fingers to type. The AlphaGrip comes with decals that can be placed on the front of the device that show you where the characters are located on the back so you don’t have to turn it over to locate them. Regardless, you will likely memorize where the letters are located after just an hour or two of use.

After about 1 - 5 hours of training, you should be typing at a rate of 10 – 15 wpm, which is equal to the average text entry rates of the pen stylus, predictive phone keypad, or miniature thumb keyboard. For each additional hour or two of use, you should increase your typing speed by 1 - 2 wpm, reaching typing speeds of 30 - 60 wpm in 30 - 60 hours. 

Does the AlphaGrip generate every character that you can generate with a keyboard? 
The iGrip generates all the characters of a standard keyboard except for Scroll Lock and SysRq. Punctuations and mathematical characters are generated by simultaneously pressing one of the green or red shift keys located on the front top surface of the AlphaGrip and the corresponding character key. For example, to generate the "&" you would simultaneously press the green shift key with your left thumb and the "i" key (located on the back of the AlphaGrip) with your right middle finger. The cursor control keys are activated by simultaneously pressing one of the red shift keys and the corresponding character key. The period, comma, and space key do not require a shift key. 

I type over 20 wpm on my RIM pager and am very happy with that; why would I switch to an AlphaGrip?
Because you probably don't know what you're missing. If you type faster at a desk, the thoughts that occur to you away from it, probably don't take shape until you're back at the desk. Most of us don't realize just how desk-bound our thinking has become. So, you may be happy now with your RIM pager, but only because your expectations are limited to short text messaging. If, however, you expected to type as quickly on your handheld as you do at your desk, 20 wpm would be unacceptable.

Remember when the TV remote control was first introduced: People said, "I don't need it. I don't change channels that much and don't mind getting up and taking a couple of steps over to the TV when I do want to change them." Now, few of us want to live without our remotes. We didn't know what we were missing. Having said that, the AlphaGrip currently on the market is a USB device and, consequently, it does not work with smartphones. We hope to convince a manufacturer, however, to produce an AlphaGrip-enabled smartphone. 

How easy is it to do Ctrl-C, Ctrl-X and Ctrl–V?
Relatively easy. You reach over with your right thumb to press the Ctrl key and you press the C or V key with your left thumb. For Ctrl-X, you reach down with your left thumb and press the Ctrl key and press the X key with your right thumb. 

Does the AlphaGrip generate F-key functions?
Yes. There is an Fn Lock key on the lower right front portion of the AlphaGrip which remaps the keys on the back to generate the F1-F12 keys. The F1-F10 keys are associated with the keys that have the red numbers 1 through 0. The F-11 is associated with the R key and the F12 is associated with the H key.

One drawback is that you can not combine an F-key with a character that is normally generated when the FnLock is not activated. 

Can you use the insert key in combination with other keys?
You can't use the insert key in combination with most letters on the AlphaGrip. To activate the insert command, you have to simultaneously press the AlphaGrip's green shift key and the delete key. When you press the green shift key, most of the AlphaGrip's keys switch functionality from generating letters to generating punctuations. The only letters that are not affected by pressing the green shift key are the C, K, L, Y, J, V, X, and Z. 

Can you recommend any typing games to help me learn to use the AlphaGrip?
There are links to several games, on our Learning Curve page. 

Where are the left, right, and middle click buttons for the track ball?
The trackball’s left, right, and middle click button functionality is generated by the two buttons located immediately to the left of the track ball. The top button generates the left click and the bottom button generates the right click. You can generate the functionality of a middle click button by simultaneously pressing a red shift key and the AlphaGrip’s right click button. 

Can you generate foreign characters with the AlphaGrip?
Foreign letters and symbols are not coded into the iGrip's firmware, so to generate them you must remap keys through your operating system or through a 3rd party application. In Microsoft Word, you can generate foreign characters on an AlphaGrip with the same short cuts you use on a regular keyboard. For example, if you want to generate an ö, type the letter "F" and the number "6" and then press Alt+X. If you want to generate an £, type 0141 and press Alt+X. To find these shortcuts in Word, click insert and choose symbol. Near the bottom of the message box is a line that reads "Character Code." The letters and/or numbers in that box are the letters and/or numbers you must enter before pressing Alt+X to generate the foreign character highlighted in the box above. 

Which operating system does the AlphaGrip work on? Is it wireless?
The AlphaGrip is, at its core, a USB keyboard and mouse. As such, it can be used right out of the box on a PC running Microsoft Windows and a Mac running OS X. If a PC running Linux is configured to recognize a USB keyboard and mouse, it will also recognize an iGrip. 

When you plug it into your Mac's USB port, your Mac should automatically load the correct drivers and you should be able to begin typing within a minute or two. Your Mac may ask you to press the key “to the right of the left shift key” and the key “to the left of the right shift key.” If so, “trick it” by pressing “z” and “/” respectively (this makes it think you are using a standard 104 key USB keyboard)

We would like to produce a wireless adapter for the AlphaGrip that would plug into its USB port or a next-generation AlphaGrip that is wireless. 

Why did you make the AlphaGrip looks so daunting?
Keep in mind that we had to squeeze almost all the functionality of a keyboard and mouse into a relatively small form factor while still enabling touch typing. We could have used fewer keys, which would have made the AlphaGrip look less complex, but it would have required the use of more shifting or chording (simultaneously pressing 2 or more keys to generate a character, command or function). Thus, while the AlphaGrip might have looked less daunting, it would have been more difficult to learn and use. Once you try an AlphaGrip you’ll discover that it’s fairly intuitive. That doesn’t mean you’ll be typing 50 words per minute in no time. Like mastering any skill, it takes practice. But anyone who puts in the time, will become proficient. 

Do you think people will want to use the AlphaGrip in combination with their desktop keyboard and PC while sitting at a desk?
Yes. ABC News reported that "80% of computer users report some kind of physical problem related to their use of the machines… a big part of the problem is the rapid rise in the use of the mouse…. Because a mouse sits to the side of the keyboard and you must reach out to use it, it puts twice as much stress on your neck, arm, and shoulder muscles as a trackball or pointing device mounted in the center of a keyboard…computer users' muscles start to tense within the first minute after they sit down at the keyboard… after a few hours at the keyboard, many people start to hyperventilate….As a direct physiological effect, the entire nervous system becomes hypersensitive to stress… staying in place too long can be hard on your muscles, nerves, and breathing. The simplest way to avoid most computer-related injuries? Keep moving."

The AlphaGrip allows you to shift your body position frequently or even constantly without affecting your data input. Plus, the centrally located two-thumbed cursor control may eliminate the RSI problems associated with mouse usage. We have not conducted the studies necessary, however, to claim any ergonomic benefits. In fact, the AlphaGrip may cause different repetitive stress injuries than may be caused by using a keyboard and mouse. We expect computer users sitting at a desk to alternate their data entry between an AlphaGrip and a keyboard to achieve the optimum balance between comfort and functionality and to reduce the repititive movements associated with each input device. 

If you need to press the Ctrl key while using a cursor control key, such as pressing Ctrl + End, for example, to get to the end of a document, or if you want to highlight text using keys instead of the trackball, you should first activate the Num Lock, which is located in the lower front portion of the AlphaGrip. The NumLock temporarily locks in the cursor control functions of the thumb keys, thereby eliminating the need to simultaneously press the red shift key to generate cursor control commands. 

You can generate the scroll up or scroll down function by simultaneously pressing one of the green shift keys plus the C or L key, respectively (they have green arrows printed beside them on the AlphaGrip's casing). 

What features does the AlphaGrip offer gamers?
By employing all of a user's fingers on the AlphaGrip's bi-directional buttons, gamers can quickly perform 33 different actions with minimal finger movement. With an AlphaGrip, a gamer plays on a game controller instead of the traditional keyboard and mouse setup without losing the ability to text message. So for gamers who use game controllers to play computer games, the AlphaGrip solves the problem of having to put down their game controller to type. And, for gamers who use a keyboard and mouse, the AlphaGrip gives them a more comfortable form factor without losing the keyboard's functionality. In fact, the AlphaGrip provides more functionality than a standard keyboard and mouse because it enables a gamer to effectively "touch type" 33 different commands, moves, or actions without taking his eyes off the monitor. 

What handheld computers, PDAs, or smartphones work with the iGrip?
Currently, the AlphaGrip only works on a device that recognizes standard USB keyboards. Most PDAs and smartphones do not recognize standard USB keyboards, though some can with an adapter. In the future, we plan to develop adapters for the more popular handhelds, or work with a manufacturer to do so. Small handheld computers such as the OQO, which runs Windows XP and Linux, have USB ports and can recognize the AlphaGrip as a USB keyboard.

Still, to use the AlphaGrip with one of these handheld computers while standing or walking, you would need an adapter that lets you "plug" the computer into the AlphaGrip, using it as a handheld cradle. We plan to build these adapters in the future. 

What’s the biggest downside to trying an AlphaGrip?
Other than the monetary cost, one can argue that the biggest downside is the learning curve. It takes about 30 hours of use to achieve a productive typing speed. But once you make the commitment to learn how to use the AlphaGrip, you'll see that it was worth the effort. If you try to do any real work with an AlphaGrip during the first two weeks, you won't be too productive. In fact, you will probably reduce your productivity by the amount of time and effort you put into learning to use a Grip. Think of it as a daily one-hour mental workout; exercising your brain instead of your bicep. After a month, you will develop “muscle memory” using using your Grip will no longer be a workout; it will be a pleasure. Nevertheless, the biggest downside may be the investment of time, money and mental energy required to learn to use an AlphaGrip. 

Can you use an AlphaGrip if you have large hands or small hands?
The AlphaGrip is designed to work with a wide range of hand sizes. Users with smaller or larger than average hands, however, may NOT achieve maximum comfort or typing speed. 

Is the AlphaGrip programmable?
No. In order to remap the keys you have to use a 3rd party application. For example, if you are running Microsoft Windows you can use a remapping program called AutoHotkey

Why has the keyboard been so uniquely shrink resistant?
Shrinking the keyboard can cause one key stroke to hit two keys which slows down typing, causes time-consuming errors, and makes it impossible to touch type. In order to type quickly, the keys must be large enough to accommodate a user's fingers. 

It seems almost impossible to port an entire QWERTY keyboard over to a game pad device, how did you accomplished this?
Not just an entire QWERTY keyboard, but one with full sized keys and a cursor control device. The keys, pardon the pun, to our solution are: (1) Using the "real estate" on the back surface of the device; (2) using fewer buttons by making each one multidirectional; and (3) applying the invention of "touch typing" to a radically different form factor - a game controller. 

Did you know that touch typing, i.e., using all your fingers to enter text on a keyboard without having to look down to see the keys, was invented over 130 years ago by a Milwaukee secretary the same year that the typewriter was invented? Picture this, for hundreds of years people were writing with quill pens at a rate of 10 wpm. Finally, in 1867, the typewriter was invented, doubling writing, or should I say "texting" speeds to 20 wpm. Then, with the invention of touch typing, texting speeds doubled again to 40 wpm. This brought on the invention of the QWERTY key layout (which was designed to slow down touch typing speeds so that the old mechanical typewriter keys didn't hit each other and lock up). So, today we still use the same text entry technology that our great, great grandmothers used, a technology that has remained basically unchanged despite dizzying advances made in complementary technologies, such as computer and communications capacity, functionality, and miniaturization.

At AlphaGrip, we took this 130 year-old invention of touch typing and applied it to a game controller by positioning buttons on the back of the grips where a user's fingers naturally fall when grasping the device. Some game controllers already have buttons for a user’s index and middle fingers, so we merely added one button for each ring finger and pinky. That makes a total of 12 buttons on the back of a game controller - three for each index finger and one for each other finger. One of the index finger buttons is bi-directional as are the buttons for the other fingers. So, the index fingers can generate 8 characters, without having to simultaneously press any shift keys, and the other fingers can generate 12 characters, for a total of 20 characters (and even more when you employ shift keys). Eighteen of these characters are letters and the other two are the period and comma. You can generate each of these characters by hitting one button with one finger (no chording), and you can go from one character to another with minimum finger movement.

There are two clusters of four buttons associated with each of the user's thumbs, which generate letters and common functions such as enter, tab, space and backspace. Each button cluster is surrounded by five more buttons including shift buttons for capitals, punctuations and numbers. These upper surface buttons, combined with the 12 buttons on the back, allow a user to generate all the letters of the alphabet plus a number of major characters and functions without chording (simultaneously depressing multiple keys) or shifting. 

Why haven't other alternative keyboards been commercially successful?
The vast majority of alternative keyboards were only incrementally better than the standard QWERTY keyboard and they didn’t free you from a desk. For example, some people argue that the Dvorak keyboard only improved a typist's speed by 10 - 20%. Others refute that assertion. Regardless, the AlphaGrip has the potential to free everyone from a desk and so it’s competition is not a full size keyboard, but rather a pen stylus, a phone keypad or a miniature keyboard. At your desk, the AlphaGrip is a complement to your keyboard, not necessarily a replacement.

The AlphaGrip can increase your text entry speed relative to these handheld input technologies by 200% - 500%. That's a huge increase in productivity! This is the level of improvement introduced by the typewriter relative to the quill pen in 1867. And, the typewriter (followed by its progeny, the computer keyboard) has been a tremendously successful product. The typewriter increased productive text entry at a desk, the same way the AlphaGrip will increase productivity away from a desk. 

When will the AlphaGrip ship?
We began shipping AlphaGrips in January 2006. Please check our message page (http://www.alphagrips.com/message.html) for updates. 

Is the AlphaGrip available in different sizes?
Ideally, the AlphaGrip would be available in small, medium, and large sizes -- but for now we are only offering the AlphaGrip in a small-to-medium size. If you have large hands, you may not achieve optimum comfort or speed using the AlphaGrip. 

What is your return policy?
We offer a 30-day money back guarantee, not including shipping costs. There is also a 90-day limited warranty. 

Can I invest in AlphaGrip, Inc.?
At present we are a private company and are not authorized to sell stock to the public. 

Do you plan on developing a combination handheld AlphaGrip computer/game console?
Yes, this is definitely on the drawing board. As an interim step, however, we intend to produce adapters for the AlphaGrip that will allow users to plug handheld computers into it -- this will effectively give the AlphaGrip a computer and screen and it will give handheld computer users hi-speed text entry and advanced gaming capabilities. 

Do you have any plans to make the device one handed?
We have a patent on a "split" AlphaGrip that lets you type two-handed with a device in each hand or, if you prefer, you can switch to a one-handed mode. It will likely take quite some time before we can bring this product to market. There is a company, however, that is currently selling a one-handed typing device that is popular among wearable computing enthusiasts. The name of the product is the Twiddler2 and the name of the company is Handykey. Here's a link to its website. http://www.handykey.com/.