The Twiddler 3 is the most flexible single-handed wireless input device that I have ever used. It has some rough edges, and it requires significant time investment to learn, but it’s worth it.
What’s a Twiddler 3?
It’s a handheld chorded keyboard. Instead of pressing down on a single key to make a letter, on a Twiddler you lift multiple keys to make a letter (or sequence of letters).
The Twiddler 3 works as a USB or Bluetooth keyboard. It’s targeted at use for mobile devices and wearables.
Unboxing and first moments
The box contains the Twiddler 3 keyboard, a velcro strap, and a MicroUSB cable. I didn’t take any photos, but there are already unboxing videos on YouTube.
After flipping that little switch to power it up, mine started looking for a device to pair with. I was mashing the keys and typing gibberish into my laptop within a minute of opening the box. The unboxing experience is great.
This is where the polish starts to end, and the mildly rough road begins.
Pairing with other stuff
The next thing I wanted to do was verify that the Twiddler could pair with all of my tiny computers. You know, the mobile
phone kind. This was when I realized that the box didn’t contain any printed instructions. A quick web search turned up the
official docs. They’re a bit disorganized and hard to read, but after a few
minutes of clicking around I learned that I could clear the paired state with the
It paired easily with my Moto X, 2013 Nexus 7, and iPhone 6+. It did not pair as easily with
Google Glass, but that’s a story for another day. (Literally another day: I’m drafting a follow up blog post about using the Twiddler 3 with Glass right now.)
Holding it correctly
This may seem like a no-brainer, but my instincts lead me astray here. Initially I grabbed it with my right hand and tightened the velcro band. The docs have detailed guidance about how to hold the Twiddler. The tl;dr: is to hold it with your non-dominant hand, and leave the velcro band pretty loose.
The recommended grip wasn’t very comfortable for me, so I swapped out the velcro for a strip of elastic and gripped it with my thumb.
One of the coolest things about the Twiddler 3 is how configurable it is. The layout is easily programmable with the tuner web app.
Don’t be afraid to experiment with your layout right away. Your layout is a very personal choice. Lots of people like the default one, espiecally those who type with their left hand, but I found it difficult to learn and uncomfortable.
Try these popular layouts.
- TabSpace, created by Brandon Rhodes in the 1990s and ported to Twiddler 2.1 / 3 by Chris Swetenham.
- Backspice, by Alex Bravo.
If none of those work for you, write your own. I did.
Actually using it to type stuff
Expect to invest a lot of time in being productive. Research indicates that you’ll probably get pretty fast, but expect to practice, a lot.
There’s a tutor web app. It works OK, but I gave up on it for a few reasons.
- Your progress is only saved in a cookie, which is easily lost. You can export your progress, but oddly, you can’t import it.
- It only supports the default layout.
- It does not work on mobile.
Instead, I learned from lots of short practice sessions:
- I kept the Twiddler in my pocket and went through the ABCs.
- I found an ad supported iPhone game called Key Drop that’s reminiscent of word invaders.
- I typed sentences about about quick brown foxes jumping over lazy dogs into a note taking app several times a day.
After a couple weeks, I got up to about 20 wpm.
I know what you’re really wondering, can it type emoji? Can I use a single chord to (╯°□°）╯︵ ┻━┻?
Well, no. The tuner does not approve of table flipping. It gets all scrambled when you save it.
And it might be moot, because I’ve been told that the Twiddler itself may have trouble flipping tables… something to do with the HID spec. Anyway, if I figure out a way to hack around it, I’ll post a follow up.
Becoming awesome with it is hard, but it’s worth it.
Oh, and if you get lonely, drop by the Google+ Wearable Computing community. It seems to be the best place to talk about general purpose werable computing, and input devices like the Twiddler.