In an era of PDAs, smart phones, wearable computers and ongoing miniaturisation, the problem efficiently inputting data looms large - using a stylus pen can be cumbersome and speech recognition has not yet reached maturity in noisy environments. New products due for release this year could be the answer.

A number of innovative solutions are on the way however - Matias Corporation have developed the 'Half Keyboard' for fast one-handed typing and two versions of the 'virtual keyboard' have emerged from Senseboard Technologies AB in Sweden and VKB in Israel.

The Matias Half Keyboard is designed for touch-typing use with the left hand and has a spacebar that doubles as a shift key to give access to the 'missing' half of the keyboard. About the size of a scientific calculator, the Half Keyboard can be used on your lap, wrist or on a desk in conjunction with a stylus pen for faster editing and navigation, delivering input speeds up to 88% as fast as a standard keyboard.

The Senseboard employs another approach by disappearing altogether. It consists of two hand mounted pads that allow measure finger movements and identify the intended keystroke through an artificial neural network and transfer the information wirelessly to the computer using Bluetooth technology.

Like the Half Keyboard, the Senseboard system is based on the QWERTY touch-typing model, posing a problem for those of us who never learned to type. The VKB Virtual Keyboard overcomes this by utilizing an infrared-based detection method and a small projector to provide an optical display of the keys on any flat surface. The detector identifies which 'keys' are being used, allowing you to see what you are typing and also enabling virtual mouse functionality.

The Matias Half Keyboard is available online at for US$99 and there's no word yet as to the availability or cost of the Senseboard or VKB devices, but rest assured there is relief on the way for those SMS induced aching thumbs.

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