3 weeks




Pierluigi Dalla Rosa

Dae Hyun Baek
Sarah Young

My Role

Physical Model



Circuit illustration

5 Keys.
Endless Possibilities.

iii transforms one of the most fundamental parts of how we engage with our personal devices - typing. iii makes typing intuitive, responsive, and satisfying. With clear physical and digital affordances, users are able to speed through the interface and get to typing what’s on their mind with little effort. Our keyboard interface used an ETAOINSHRDLU configuration, organised by the frequency of letter usage in common English words.

Final prototype




A project for our Prototyping class, we received an interesting brief with several constraints. I soon realised that constraints breed creativity.

Make a working keyboard using only 5 buttons and 1 continuous control for ‘Teenage Engineering’.

It should be possible to edit the text on a screen.

Only 3 weeks to learn physical computing and be able to apply it to our prototypes.


We spent some time looking at alternate typing methods apart from the most widely known QWERTY keyboard. This lead us to discovering some very unique inventions. We learnt about Douglas Englebart's Chorded Keyboard, Cy Endfield's Microwriter, the Twiddler and Tap Strap. Each example was for a different use case and it was interesting to learn about why they were not widely adopted.

We were constantly thinking of ways that we could speed up the typing process. This lead us to arranging the letters in the order of the most frequently used letters in the Roman Alphabet - ETAOINSHRDLCU. While this would be a new mental model for people to grasp, we would test our prototype to see how easy it is for people when they spent a few minutes typing.

Keyboard heatmap
The Best Starting Words to Win at Wordle - This article helped us in more than one way.

Flashtag AR
By Dulomo LLC



Connecting People in New Ways
Everyone is familiar with the concept of laser tag, but who knew that you all you needed to play was your iPhone. The developers managed to think about the phone in a new way that provides for an extremely joyful experience.


Poor Marketing
I found this app only after doing deep research in the realm of AR apps. It is made by a small team of developers who may not have much budget for advertising. However, it is important for them to come up with some kind of strategy for more people to find out about it.


Haptic Feedback
Everytime you shoot, get shot, or die, there is some form of haptic feedback. This is particularly helpful because in the middle of an active game in low light, it becomes diffficult to keep track of text on the phone. Haptic and audio feedback provides for a more authentic and successful experience.


In Game Progress
While haptic and audio feedback does give you an indicator of how you are playing, there are other key points of data, such as ammo and health that are not highlighted clearly enough.


New Way of Seeing
This app uses the iPhone as a tool to help people complete their tasks. When in active game mode, the screen assists people by removing focus from uneccessary objects in the environment and highlights the other user’s points.


Success Feedback
Once a game is completed, the celebratory animation is underwhelming and doesn’t match the fidelity of the rest of the app. There could be more cohesion amongst the two.


Constraints Breed Creativity
5 keys to type? The brief seemed bizarre when we first got it. However, this forced us to rethink conventional methods and encouraged us to be creative and experimental in our approach. It was quite liberating.

Tools Define Your Ideas
Understanding the materials we are working with is key to being able to be creative throughout this process. We needed to spend time with the new tools so that we could understand the limitations as well as potential.

Innovation vs. Adoption
It was important for Dennis, Sarah and I to define what success looked like to us in this project. We wanted to reimagine typing and test our hypotheses, and adapt our prototype along the way.



How might we reimagine typing using only 5 keys and still allow for a satisfying experience?


We needed to develop the software and hardware for this project. Each of us came up with five ideas each and we evaluated them collectively. Once we narrowed down on three directions, we quickly prototyped the interface on processing. While for the form explorations we used a combination of rapid prototyping and sketching to inform our final decision.

Interface explorations
Circular Interface

The circular interface we prototyped in processing was easy to understand and fun to use. It performed lower in the speed of typing but the interface was much simpler than our other explorations. We decided to drop the idea because it reminded us of existing typing mechanisms in cars.

Chorded exploration
Chorded Interface

Inspired by the pattern in our research, we developed a chorded mechanism. We recognised the cognitive load it would have on a user, so we tried to devise a new method which had a higher correlation between the letter being typed and the buttons being pressed. Ultimately, we concluded that it would take more effort for people to recall what keys they needed to press rather than being able to focus on what they actually wanted to type.

Tabular interface exploration
Tabular Interface

Our circular layout only used one button, while the chorded keyboard used all five. The tabular keyboard exploration used three buttons and had a unique, but intuitive interface. We prototyped this on Processing and found it to be the most successful option of the three.

Rapid prototyping
Rapid Prototyping

We created several lo-fi prototypes to explore the form of the keyboard. Our final device was a sleek sandwich of opaque and transparent sections that revealed the multi-coloured circuits powering the prototype.

Rapid sketching

Parallel to our lo-fi prototypes, we sketched out a few form explorations to consider the different functions the keyboard could provide and what materials may be required to create it.

Evaluation matrix
Evaluating our Explorations

We created our criteria of success for the keyboard based on four parameters and mapped our 5 ideas against them - physical comfort, typing efficiency, ease of learning and approachable interface. This framework allowed us to be very practical about our work and justify our final choices.



Work in progress
Creating our final circuit on a breadboard and testing it
Circuit illustration
Mapping the Circuit
To scale circuit sketch
To Scale Sketch
Work in progress
Soldering parts to make the prototype more compact
3D printing
3D printing our keys and handle
3D modeling
3D Render created by Dennis for our video


This project was the embodiment of what it means to prototype. We worked tirelessly to think of new ways to make our circuit more compact and more efficient. We made a lot of mistakes along the way and constantly adapted our strategies as we began understanding the materials we were working with more deeply. I would like to claim we became professional solderers by the end of it. This is a tiny gallery of some of our trials that didn’t make it to the final prototype.
Work in progress
The Twister
Work in progress
The Upside Down
Work in progress
The Loop



App dashbord

How Do You Do?

Based on Bill Verplank’s IxD Sketchbook, we learned about the difference between a button and a handle. A handle allows for expression, through continuous control both in space and time. Whereas a button is more symbolic affects precision. For our prototype we used 5 buttons and 1 rotary dial. By using physical computing, we were able to make a working prototype of the software and hardware.

Answer clues screens

How Do You Feel?

‘Designers are continually faced with this choice of suggestion or clarity, metaphor or model, poetry or law.’ The choice of the senses we considered will determine how people experience our prototype. We wanted to focus on ‘seeing’ and ‘touching’. We accounted for the average hand size when considering the positioning and size of keys.

Notification alert on iPhone

A Balancing Act

Just as Marshall McLuhan divided all media into cool and hot, we tried to balance both types in our prototype. The orange handle we designed and rotary dial both allowed for the user to manipulate and play with the angle, while the keys invited participation but were more fixed in nature.

AR animation on building

How Do You Know?

Through clear physical affordances on the keyboard, people would be able to understand what tasks each button performs. For example, we had a dedicated space bar that was longer than any of the other keys. This follows the current mental model people have of typing and would be easy for people to understand. We also had a dedicated red button for ‘backspace’. The colour and positioning of the button on the keyboard were both indicators to informing users of the function it would perform.

We had the rare opportunity to present our demo to Ken Kocienda - the creator of the iOS keyboard (and much more).

Dashboard of Scavenger Hunt AppAnswer clues screenNotification on iPhoneAR animation around building

Think less, Type more.



Constraints Breed Creativity

Through this project I realised how important it is to have constraints in your design work. By adding or acknowledging constraints, we are able to think even more creatively. When the world is open to us, the possibilities are endless. And sometimes, instead of exploration, ironically, we feel isolated. Nothing to bounce ideas off of. Nothing to make connections with. Alone in the wild, our minds gets easily lost. With constraints, focus is what sets us free.

Energy is Contagious

We were fortunate to have a professor who pushed us. The minute we got the brief and the teams were formed, we were nervous, but extremely excited. We were learning new tools and felt a rush of joy even when we managed to get one LED to blink. I am grateful to my team for not loosing hope, even after we spent 3 hours soldering, only to find that our circuit didn’t work. It was the drive and passion of each of us that kept us going throughout this project and helped us push each other.

One Step At A Time

As beginners to Arduino and physical computing, it took us countless rounds of trying and failing to land at our final circuit. We started small, by trying to make one LED work, then moved to multiple LEDs. Once we got the LEDs down, we followed the same process with buttons. When we got multiple buttons to work, we wrote code in Processing to map individual buttons to the alphabet. The final step was for us to incorporate the rotary dial as a controller to select specific a specific row. Not getting overwhelmed with the tasks at hand allowed us to move forward. And the joy we felt after successfully making everything work was unparalleled.

There Are No Shortcuts

Being in a Masters programme is a lot of self-guided learning. I am extremely grateful to good folks on the internet for helping us learn the basics of Arduino. There were times when I wished it was easier, or that I was smarter. However, this project showed me that there is no replacement for hard work. We genuinely put in a lot of time and effort on this project (almost to the extent of neglecting our other coursework), and were overjoyed with the final outcome.

Auto Suggest
In order to speed up the typing process we want to add a feature that lets people easily select the word that they are typing without having to type the entire thing.
Form and Material Explorations
Having successfully created V1 of the prototype, I would love to spend more time exploring different forms it can take. Since we were beginners at Arduino, we could not make the design more compact than we had at that time.
Universal Design
An important consideration that our team discussed during ideation was that we want our prototype to be used by people who are left or right handed. Since the focus was to first make a functioning prototype, we can now incorporate these decisions too.
What is Satisfaction?
I would also like to explore the different mechanisms of keys. The audio feedback they give and what makes gamers use a specific kind vs. everyday users. It would be interesting to see how the experience changes based on the mechanism we use.