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 December 13, 2000
AlphaGrip's Hi-Speed Text Input Technology for Handhelds

 AlphaGrip, Inc., has patented a touch typing technology for handheld devices such as PDAs, cell phones, game controllers, and TV remotes which allows users to enter text at 50 w.p.m. or better on full-sized keys (one tap per character). While everyone is trying to improve the user experience of entering short text messages on handhelds, AlphaGrip has found a way to enable long messaging anywhere, regardless of the user's body position or the availability of a flat work surface.

Mike Willner wanted to run his company remotely by email without sacrificing functionality to portability so, it was out of necessity that he developed the AlphaGrip technology. Willner and co-inventor, Scott Arnel, created a way to quickly enter and edit lengthy emails and memos on handhelds wherever they happened to be - stuck on a plane, sitting in an auditorium or on a recliner in the family room, walking around a trade show, watching the kids at soccer practice, or laying in bed at night.

Willner says, "Typing is an integral part of my thought process. Once I get an idea, I need to quickly type it into a computer so I can refine it and communicate it to others. Once I get feedback, I retrieve it, modify it further, and send it out again. Without an AlphaGrip, my best ideas can only take shape at a desk."

AlphaGrip's 2-handed touch typing technology is device agnostic and features a vertical hand orientation which allows the fingers to fall naturally and comfortably into position on 8 full-sized, multi-directional buttons located on the back of the device. By requiring only minimal finger movement, users can quickly teach themselves to generate all the letters of the alphabet as well as punctuation marks and functions. A centrally located 2-thumbed cursor control is comfortable and easy to use, and a mode switch button allows users to have the functionality of several (otherwise dedicated) devices (keyboard/mouse, game controller, or TV remote) within one form factor.

AlphaGrip Form Factor: To prove their concept, Willner and Arnel worked with Smart Design, an award-winning industrial design firm in New York, to produce four 4th-generation working prototypes of a futuristic looking AG-enabled game controller (see ) which has all the functionality of a full-sized keyboard and mouse. The inventors chose to incorporate the AG technology into a game controller to appeal to their initial target market - young people - who the inventors believe will readily embrace a device that they've grown up with and associate with fun. After all, the standard keyboard is not only their parents' technology, it's their great grandparents' (and is now known to be injurious). An average user can teach himself to type at 40-60 w.p.m. on an AlphaGrip in far less time than it takes to learn how to touch type on a standard keyboard (which requires classroom training). (Both a QWERTY-compatible and Hi-speed letter layout are available).

These prototypes are compelling and were recently featured in the Brave New Unwired World Fashion Show at the Internet World in New York, Sweden, and Paris. Willner was invited to give a "live" demonstration of the AlphaGrip technology during the Key Note Address and "The Bleeding Edge of Wireless" panel at eDevCon, the leading conference for Internet developers.

Background: Advances in technology have given us small, powerful, lightweight handheld computing and communication devices, but the user interfaces available for text entry (e.g., the pen stylus, predictive keypad, or miniaturized keyboard) are only good for short messaging - not the kind of productive typing and thinking that most people do at their desks with full-size keyboards. The popularity of portable keyboards for palmtop computers is proof that people want a better way to enter text into their handhelds, but, because these keyboards require a flat surface, they fall short of enabling productive anywhere computing. AlphaGrip plans to produce additional prototypes which will serve as cradles for palmtop computers and has plans for embedding its technology into various other form factors. The Company is currently pursuing licensing opportunities with a number of companies to get the first AlphaGrip-enabled device to market quickly.

According to Willner, "Anywhere computing will become a reality when people can create meaningful e-mails on their handhelds as quickly and easily as they can sitting at their desk. The AlphaGrip can let them do this today."