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TrewGrip reverse engineers the smartphone keyboard

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TrewGrip's Kickstarter campaign failed to reach its $100,000 goal, but that doesn't mean its founders have given up on their dream of bringing "rear typing" to the masses. TrewGrip today debuted its titular product, a keyboard for smartphones that very literally turns the idea of a QWERTY keyboard on its head. Whereas other Bluetooth keyboards aim for portability or more natural-feeling tactility, the TrewGrip asks you to type backwards — on the bottom of the device itself. As you type, corresponding lights illuminate on the device's top, letting you know you've pressed the correct key.

Tab, enter, space, and back are the only buttons on the front of the TrewGrip and can be pressed using your thumbs. The TrewGrip uses Bluetooth to connect to your smartphone or small tablet, which it holds in place using a sticky pad on its front, but the device can also connect to TVs and computers. An accelerometer inside the device acts as a mouse, and the company is working on gestures to help you "flick" to the next page or field in a document. "The learning curve for TrewGrip is virtually the same as a split fixed-angle ergonomic keyboard, which equates to about 8–10 hours," the company says.

"You need to stop thinking about it and let your fingers move the way they‘ve been trained."


Unlike the Grippity, a competing rear-typing keyboard, TrewGrip's keyboard isn't laid out horizontally in conventional QWERTY fashion. Instead, the TrewGrip splits the keyboard in half then flips it inwards. The top row of keys on the TrewGrip, for example, is NHY7–6TGB. The effect is startling and will make you feel as if you're a kid again, hunting and pecking for keys one by one. I felt even dumber when I witnessed TrewGrip's Robert Price typing away like a pro. "You're using the same muscle memory, because the fingers are making the same movements," he says. On the Grippity, in contrast, keys are laid out differently and require you to re-master both muscle memory and recall for which keys are where, he says. Price claims to have mastered typing on the device in just five days.

"You need to stop thinking about it and let your fingers move the way they‘ve been trained," says CEO Mark Parker, but it's easier said than done. Using the TrewGrip feels like typing on an accordion, which for many, might not be worth learning. "We want to focus on the healthcare industry," Parker added. "They hate the concept of having to hunt and peck on a tablet or sit in the corner [while they type]. They want to maintain eye contact with the patient." Parker expects to ship TrewGrip for about $250 in the second half of 2014.