I love to experiment with new ways to interact with computers, so when I came across a remarkable keyboard simulator that straps on one hand, I had to give it a try. I was skeptical that it would be useful but found out I actually liked it.
It works reliably in AR and VR without a need to see the keyboard and can be used with nearly any device.
With the TapStrap 2, I can enter every letter (upper and lowercase), number, and a variety of common punctuation marks with one or two quick taps on any surface. There is a learning curve, but after a couple of weeks of practice, I formed the required muscle memory.
A hand-mounted keyboard
Table of Contents
The TapStrap 2 looks nothing like a traditional keyboard. I slide it over the thumb and fingers of my right hand, but it could just as easily be worn on the left.
There’s no space bar, letters, or keys of any kind, so I can’t get misaligned and accidentally type gibberish. Instead, I tap my fingers and thumb on a desk, table, or any other surface, including my own leg or the steering wheel while waiting in my car.
Sometimes it’s the staccato firing of individual fingers, similar to touch typing but with one hand. Other times, I tap sequences with multiple fingers as if playing a chord progression on a piano. It might sound crazy, like something that would be impossible to learn, but it wasn’t that hard.
For example, vowels are single-finger taps. From thumb to pinky, each finger equates to the letters A, E, I, O, and U. Consonants require multiple fingers to tap simultaneously. Tapping the thumb and index finger enters the letter N while poking with every digit but the ring finger results in the letter J.
Other finger chords enable capital letters and numbers. Tap supports custom key binds and keeps an extensive library of alternate tap gestures you can install. You can also make your own.
I went with the default settings, and I’m now familiar enough with the TapStrap gestures to type any letter or number and most punctuation without fail.
The TapStrap 2 is comfortable and unobtrusive enough to keep on my hand. It easily fits in my pocket, ready to use anywhere I go, in my usual workspace, lounging outside, or even in the car. Anywhere there’s a surface to tap on, I can use the TapStrap 2.
The battery lasts several days in standby mode and provides up to 10 hours of typing time.
It acts like a Bluetooth keyboard, so I can pair the TapStrap 2 with my iPhone, Android phone, Mac, Chromebook, or Windows PC. It’s great for iPads and tablets since an on-screen keyboard takes up a huge amount of screen space.
For any mobile device, using the TapStrap 2 lets me place the screen at eye level while my hand rests easily on the table. That eases neck strain, an important consideration for everyone, even if you choose a more traditional Bluetooth keyboard.
Learning to tap
Tap Systems provides several games and training tools to facilitate learning how to type with a TapStrap 2. If you’ve ever played a game designed to help with your typing speed, you know what to expect. The variety of TapStrap tutoring apps makes learning quick, versatile, and entertaining.
I spent about 15 minutes at a time, twice a day, for about two weeks. The first couple of days were discouraging as I tried to skip ahead quickly. Once I started following the progression suggested by the TapMaster app, the gestures began to stick.
Muscle memory took over after a few days, providing encouragement to keep learning the TapStrap 2. Repetition builds muscle memory, and I no longer had to concentrate on which fingers were correct. The next task was getting more fluid and reliable with my taps.
Better than a keyboard?
To be perfectly clear, I do most of my writing on a standard, full-size QWERTY keyboard, a layout I’ve used for decades. I wouldn’t attempt to write this article with the TapStrap 2 at my current level of proficiency. It would simply take too long.
My accuracy is good if I go slowly, but errors creep in when I try to tap faster. It’s only a matter of time before my tapping speed increases to a more useful pace.
While my TapStrap 2 skills can’t match my typing speed when using both hands on a standard keyboard, experienced users are quite proficient. Tap’s YouTube video shows a virtuoso achieving 52 words per minute with one hand.
However, typing speed isn’t the best reason to choose a TapStrap 2. It’s a portable, no-look, single-handed alternative keyboard for times and places where a regular keyboard isn’t accessible or when it would be awkward to use.
It can also be used as a mouse, but the implementation isn’t as satisfying. Perhaps I need to experiment with the settings more.
TapStrap 2 and VR
Bluetooth keyboards can be connected to most VR headsets, but seeing the keyboard is often impossible. My Meta Quest Pro can create a virtual keyboard that matches some physical keyboards, but that feature only works in a few apps (read our Meta Quest Pro review for more).
You might not need to see your keyboard if you can reliably touch type and use a keyboard with little bumps to help identify the F and J keys. Everyone else would have to rely on the somewhat distorted passthrough view, possibly in grayscale and obscured by virtual screens and objects.
With the TapStrap 2, I can get physical feedback as I tap to enter text. One hand is used for typing while I move the cursor, select text, and scroll with the other hand. Since the device is attached to my fingers, I don’t have to worry about shifting my hands out of alignment with a separate keyboard.
Tap Strap and AR
AR and smart glasses are see-through. You can see below the virtual screen even when it’s large. That means a traditional computer keyboard can be used in AR.
The TapStrap 2 is a good choice when using AR glasses with smartphones. My workstation becomes an ultra-portable combination of an iPhone, Xreal Air, and TapStrap 2. Keeping my head up while looking at a large virtual screen and typing with a hand-mounted keyboard feels like the future.
Is the TapStrap 2 right for you?
The $135 price is reasonable for such a unique device, in line with the cost of a nice Bluetooth keyboard. Tap Systems has a 30-day money-back guarantee. Don’t order when you’re super busy because you’ll need time to learn the gestures. That’s not something you can rush.
If you’ve played a musical instrument before, you’ll be familiar with using chords. That dexterity gives you a head start. However, anyone can learn to use the TapStrap 2 by playing Tap’s free tutoring apps and games.
If you don’t like the appearance of the TapStrap 2, you might find the new TapXR more interesting. Rather than sliding it onto your fingers, it goes on the wrist like a bracelet. I haven’t tried this variety yet and the technology is different. You can learn more about the TapStrap 2 and TapXR on the company website.
A one-handed keyboard won’t appeal to everyone. You need an adventurous spirit or a love of tech to even consider it. If you own a standalone VR headset or smart glasses and need a small, lightweight solution for portable computing, the TapStrap 2 could be an excellent fit.