A repetitive stress injury (RSI) like carpal tunnel syndrome occurs as the result of light forces applied many hundreds or thousands of times. The forces involved are usually so minor that they don’t seem like an issue when you feel them, but they add up over time. For heavy computer users, the keyboard is a common source of RSIs as it is common to tap the keys several thousand times every single day. Prevention is key and an important step is learning proper typing technique. To help with that, Chris Borrill developed the Gentle Typing Trainer.
There are a few things you can do to prevent an RSI caused by typing. An ergonomic keyboard can make a big difference, as can a wrist pad that lifts your hands up to the right height for your keyboard. And while we lack conclusive literature, there is anecdotal evidence to suggest that mechanical keyboards can help, as they provide tactile and auditory feedback when you’re pushed a key far enough.
But the most important change you can make is to type with less force. Instead of pushing a key hard and shoving it down as far as it will go, push it gently and only far enough to register. But that is a difficult habit to ingrain, which is why Borrill created this device.
The Gentle Typing Trainer sits underneath a keyboard and detects harsh typing. When it does, it flashes a light to notify the user. That reminder, given consistently, should help to reinforce good typing habits.
This works using a very simple circle consisting of two piezoelectric sensors, a Microchip ATtiny85 microcontroller, an LED, and a button. The button lets the user configure the detection threshold for harsh typing, which is useful for tailoring the device to a specific keyboard and for gradual training. Power comes in via USB and the components mount onto a custom PCB that fits inside of a simple polystyrene tube.
If you’re concerned about RSI — and you probably should be — then Borrill’s Gentle Typing Trainer may be very helpful.