Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Kay Overcoming Arthritus with her BulletTrain eXpress Keyboard Platform

...A Heartwarming Holiday Story...

Kay Overcoming Arthritus

with her 

BulletTrain eXpress Keyboard Platform

When I originally built the first prototype of the BulletTrain eXpress Keyboard Platform back in 2010 that reconfigured the Bluetooth Apple Wireless Keyboard and Magic Trackpad into a keyboard tray or platform, my goal was not to make the best looking desktop keyboard, or to free up more than 50% or your precious desktop real estate. 

My goal was to create the most ergonomic and comfortable keyboard. Having previously suffered from Repetitive Stress Injury (RSI), I was on a mission to figure out how to stop RSI, as well as Carpel Tunnel Syndrome. Ironically, I developed RSI by using a Microsoft "Natural" ergonomic wave keyboard along with a Kensington trackball.

Over the years I have spoken with many, many customers who have told me that by using the BulletTrain eXpress Keyboard Platform, it not only reversed their RSI, but cured it–permanently. I should know, because I am one of them. It is hard to believe something so simple works so well, and it does.

Whenever I speak with a customer on the phone, I ask them two questions. First I ask them what Mac they are using their eXpress with, and I ask them how they found out about the BulletTrain eXpress Keyboard Platform? Customers most typically answer the later question by saying something like, "I bought an Apple wireless keyboard and trackpad, and the trackpad was way too difficult to use, and felt awkward having it located next to my keyboard. I did an internet search and looked at all the different solutions, and ended up concluding that the BulletTrain eXpress Keyboard Platform was by far and away the best, and I couldn't fine anything else that even came close."

Real Customer Care

Printed on the inside of every BulletTrain eXpress Keyboard Platform box it says "We Really, Really, Really Care." This is absolutely true. There is nothing more rewarding as a designer than knowing I significantly helped improve the quality of a person's life, particularly when it comes to how they use or benefit from using a computer. I believe that computing devices, coupled with the internet, and world-class search engines are the key to unlocking mankind's full intellectual potential. As a designer, I not only want to make certain that nobody is left behind, but that every person is able to optimize their computing experience. I coined the term "friction-free computing" many years ago, and this phrase is my guiding light with BulletTrain design.

Over the years I have spoken with many of my customers who suffered from all kinds of physical handicaps they were able to overcome with the BulletTrain eXpress Keyboard Platform! This includes not only people who suffer from Repetitive Stress Injury (RSI), and Carpel Tunnel Syndrome (CTS), but also people who suffer from severe Motor Neuron Disease (MND), as well as Tendonitis and Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA). I have also spoken with customers who are paraplegic and are confined to a wheelchair who have personally thanked me for bringing the BulletTrain eXpress Keyboard Platform to life, and sharing with me how profound of a positive effect the eXpress had on their ability to use their computer.

Ergonomic Issues

How serious are the ergonomic issues? Very Serious! I strongly believe keyboard and mice usage will become the new cigarettes of the 21st century. In other words, as the computer generation advances, and more people develop cumulative trauma disorders, the world will look back and point the finger at old-fashioned keyboard and mice.

I believe there is a still tremendous room for improvement on the keyboard and pointing device front. If you examine an original Mac from 1984 to a 2012 iMac, they could not be more night and day. One has a tiny black and white screen and the other has a super high-resolution screed with super-vivid colors. Same thing with every other computer attribute including RAM and storage capacity, as well as CPU speed. But the keyboard and mouse is almost identical. The only real difference is that they went cordless. This is ironic because the keyboard and pointing device are probably the most important part of the computing experience, because this is the primary mechanism by which we interact with the computer. At BulletTrain, in the upcoming years, we intend to continue to revolutionize the keyboard and pointing devices in deeply profound and meaningful ways.

A Superb Solution

Last week I was talking to a customer and he mentioned he had an elderly friend named Kay who was 82 years old and really smart and sharp, but suffered from severe rheumatoid arthritis in her hands. He mentioned he took her to the Apple store and helped her purchase and iPad. Kay brought the iPad home and tired desperately to use it, but in the end she had no choice to return it, because her sever arthritis stopped her from being able to use the touch interface effectively.

Kay's and her friend were able to setup a Mac Mini with a big screen so she could sit in front of it in her favorite recliner. Using a mouse was obviously not an option, so Kay tried to use her Apple Wireless Bluetooth Keyboard and Magic Trackpad by balancing them on her lap, but it was impossible to use, and she could not click on her trackpad because it kept falling off her lap onto the floor, so Kay did what many of our customers do out of desperation and necessity–they attempt to build their own BulletTrain eXpress Keyboard Platform. The photo below shows Kay with her "DIY" Do it yourself BulletTrain eXpress Keyboard Platform, which consists of a her Apple keyboard and trackpad being balanced on top of a coffee table book.

Kay's self-made solution allowed her to overcome her challenge and finally be able to use her mac. The only challenge is she had the keyboard hanging off the edge of the spine of the book, and the trackpad still moved around, not to mention the added weight of the book. 

When Kay's freind saw her self-made solution, he decided that somebody had to have addressed this same issue. I spoke with him on the phone and he told me he did an internet search and had looked at every other solution, which would not work, so he called me on the phone to discuss if the BulletTrain eXpress Keyboard Platform might allow Kay to completely overcome her solution. 

First he asked if Kay got a BulletTrain eXpress Keyboard Platform, would she be able to press down on the trackpad and receive the positive tactile-feedback click to which I positively answered, yes. His second question was, would it be comfortable on her lap? I mentioned the BulletTrain eXpress Keyboard Platform is extremely light-weight at just over a pound, yet very strong and stable. I also mentioned I designed the bottom chassis to ergonomically fit perfectly in your lap.

The photo above shows Kay with her dog sitting next to her, with her BulletTrain eXpress Keyboard Platform on her lap, which allows her to completely participate in the digital age–which most people take for granted. Since Kay has sever arthritis, the BulletTrain eXpress Keyboard Platform gives her an ergonomic wrist and palm rest so she can navigate the screen with her trackpad and type comfortably. Apple claims to go out of their way to create solutions for handicapped people, which they refer to as "Accessibility" features. 

I know Apple is well intentioned and does much great work, but there is much, much room for improvement in this area. I am calling on Apple to please open up the API on the iPad, iPhone & iPod Touch so it can be used and controlled with the Magic Trackpad. Doing so would allow many, many handicapped people to be able to much more effectively use their iPads. 

I am also calling on Apple to do the same by opening up the API on the Apple TV to be able to use the Bluetooth Apple Wireless Keyboard and Trackpad as well. Doing so will open up a whole new world of possibilities for everyone. For example, Kay could simply plug in an iPad or iPad Mini via HDMI to her flat screen TV and use the BulletTrain eXpress Keyboard Platform to do everything should she can't do on an iPad because of her arthritis, not to mentioned, it would be much easier for her to see everything on her large flat TV screen than on a tiny iPad screen. Everything would be better including her ability to watch movies on the big screen. 

Also, by using her Apple Magic Trackpad to navigate her iPad she could not get fingertip oils rubbed all over her iPad screen, which she would have to constantly clean off. Apple, it is time to make the "Magic" Trackpad live up to its name and full potential!!!

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