I thought I'd document my reaction to receiving the Textblade, my first week of hands-on experience, and the 4-hour phone call I had with Mark. I will interleave comments and information from Mark with my description of the packaging and Textblade.
This is the package that was inside the FedEx envelope.
Mark told me that Waytools originally planned on a package half the size of this one, but when Waytools spoke to FedEx, they said it needed to be twice the size to be optimised for shipping. The size of the package is about 9.5 inches by 7.5 inches - according to FedEx, this was the minimum size they recommended.
Inside the bubble wrap envelope, which is more rigid than you'd think just by looking at it, you will find the following.
The small box to the left helps fill out the bubble wrap envelope and contains a spare nano charger, a spare nano stand and some butterfly thingies that go under key caps (I presume). It is balanced by a 3D-printed end cap on the right side that protects the right side of the main box,
The two rails that protect the top and bottom of the main box are made from high density polyethylene. They are incredibly rigid - impossible to bend. They are manufactured not from oil but from natural gas. The carbon content is not released during the process that converts the natural gas to polyethylene.
Here is a picture of the contents of the smaller package. Note the triangle on the left side.
Apologies for the reflection of the kitchen island lighting on the CaesarStone bench tops!
I mention the triangle because that form is present in a number of elements of the packaging. The rails are triangular, the left side of the smaller package is triangular and there are triangular elements inside the main package. These shapes help deliver a torsional rigidity to the packaging that protects the instrument inside.
The extra nano charger is helpful - having the spare means I'm not constantly removing and replacing the nano charger in the space blade. The spare nano stand is useful too - by sliding it on the other end of the folded up Textblade, it creates a case for it, completely protecting the Textblade.
Here is the main box.
And here is the main box with the sticky tape seal removed.
And now the open box.
I have used one of the rails to cover the message that details what the early adopter gift is. The Textblade is magnetically held on to a small sheet of stainless steel that is about 0.5mm thick. When you remove the TB, you can see the stainless steel.
The Textblade is very firmly held in place by the magnetism. Note too, the triangular pieces of packaging to the left and right of the slot where the TB is/was. When the box is empty, it is almost impossible to crush it. It's very sturdy packaging. The material for the box is derived from France where it is used for high-end perfume bottle packaging. It has a velvety texture created by a lamination process. The paper is sourced from Finland the USA. Mark says it's a "solid paper", not a fluted paper.
Now to the Textblade.
First off, Mark says the Textblade is designed for your hands, not to be matched to a computer, or some other device. You'll have seen that laptop keyboards are the same width as the laptop. Similarly, the logitech keyboards designed for iPads are the same width as the iPads. Why does a keyboard need to be much bigger that the four fingers we used when we touch type?
"...(design) perfection is finally attained not when there is no longer anything to add, but when there is no longer anything to take away... "
― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince
The Textblade is the minimum-sized instrument that is required to fulfil the function of a keyboard without compromising the size of the keys. The keyboard has not changed significantly since the manual typewriter. Why do we have staggered keys on most keyboards today? Because on an old-fashioned manual typewriter, the keys had to be staggered so that the hammers don't interfere with each other as they come forward and strike the ribbon and paper.
Think of the Textblade in the context of an iPhone and an iPad. With an iPhone you have to hold the thing in your hands and (usually) use both thumbs to type on the glass. You are looking down at the phone, so if you are in a meeting, you have disconnected from the rest of the attendees. For all they know, you're messaging somebody. The Textblade preserves the convenience of the iPhone, yet gives you a means to take notes without having to look at the keyboard (assumes touch typing).
With the iPad, I've been using the iPad mini with an accompanying Logitech keyboard that more than doubles the thickness of the iPad. My light and thin iPad is cumbersome, but now with the Textblade it preserves the integrity of the "sheet of glass."
My overwhelming experience with the iPad so far, is an overwhelming sense of freedom. I now walk into a meeting room with nothing in my hands. I have an iPhone in my pocket and my Textblade in the other front pocket. I take both out and set up in 30 seconds. I open the OneNote app and I'm ready to go. My phone and Textblade are my go to combination for portable note-taking. OneNote lets me take pictures of a white board discussion and embed them into my notes.
I have a feeling that, as I get used to touch typing, another sense of freedom will be my being able to take notes without looking at the keyboard. I can be taking notes and being a participant in the meeting. Touch typing on the Textblade will allow me to truly capturing thought and ideas without needing to be distracted by the mechanical means of doing so.
Mark went into a lot of detail about "getting it right." He said that taking an object of great ubiquity and enhancing it is hard to get right. Way tools is "putting a lot of love in the details." Waytools wants the Textblade to be a companion to the iPhone and iPad - a better keyboard than any other alternative. Any little thing getting in the way of people "getting" the experience of satisfaction, high quality and injury-free (RSI) - well that thing had to be fixed. No stone will be left unturned in achieving that experience. During testing and the TREG process they are finding plenty of things that don't matter in terms of releasing the product. But they are only concentrating on fixing those things that would make a significant difference.
When I mentioned that I have set up Jumps for the iPhone, the iPad and my Mac OSX environment, but that I couldn't get paired with Windows 7, he agreed that, while there is Bluetooth 4.0 support in Windows 7, that it seems to be difficult to get there. He suggested either going to Windows 10 - which works easily - or getting a dongle.
I asked whether the Textblade I was sent reflected the new keycaps and the new nano stand, he said no. The strengthened key caps are now more than an order of magnitude stronger than before. They have a testing device set up that hits the key caps with a hammer. The old key caps cracked after 50,000 times. The new ones? One million times.
In terms of folks becoming concerned that Waytools is aiming for perfection at the cost of not delivering product, he said they are trying to achieve the right balance on the continuum between "good enough" and "perfect." With a device like the Textblade where there is an intimate connection between the human and the device, the slightest nuance is sensed. Way tools is trying to get that point right - when they have built a device that has those nuances right. After all, this is not just a keyboard, but a reinvention of the keyboard.
I got a sense of what that means when Mark took me through demonstration of the Sense element of the Textblade app Test function. The Sense function presents two representations of the Textblade. The top representation is called Character and the bottom one Signature. When your finger presses a key, that character is shown on the top representation showing where you pressed as well as the character selected. The Signature representation shows the degree to which that location was sensed by the hardware and software underneath the keys. I pressed a "K" and the k showed up in the Character section, and on that key in the Signature section, it showed 57 where the "K" is and 0 above it and 5 below it. The sensor and software figured out that I clearly meant to type a "K". We played around with deliberately mistyping, and Mark showed how the sensor and software used AI to determine my INTENT. I can't emphasise how impressive this kind of capability is.
When I draped my finger over, say the "i" and the "k", and the sensor got a much higher value for the "k" than the "i", it still selected the "i" because the AI figured out that there was no way I intended to type the "k". Otherwise, I wouldn't have put my finger so high on the key.
Mark says TREG has been an incredibly productive experience. Waytools didn't expect the TREG testers to find as much and to suggest as many changes. TREG testers have come from both the Corporate customers as well as regular customers (e.g. Forum participants). The app now has 10 times as much capability than was originally intended. Jumps has the capability of totally remapping the keyboard. Telling the app that Slot 1 is for Windows 10 with QWERTY remaps the keyboard to be the same as a Windows keyboard.
Using the Post function in Textblade instantaneously sends things between the customer and Waytools. However, for me to allow Waytools to see exactly what I'm typing, I have to perform 3 separate functions. I have to turn on Flight Recorder. Then I have to select a little airplane symbol that is a second confirmation that I know I'm going to be sending Waytools some data, then I get shown exactly what Waytools will see before confirming again with hitting Post, that I want to send it. That will allow them to see up to 2 minutes worth of typing.
Mark said that Waytools never advertised the Textblade. They issued a 500-word press release, and that press release generated the orders.
He also took me through all the combinations of keys for things like numeric keypad, arrow keys, edit, media, cut, copy, paste, undo, redo and so on. It's very cool. For those who just want to use a simple keyboard, they can do that. For those who want to exploit many additional functions, they can discover those to.
Waytools wants to change how keyboards work and how people use them.
I am determined to change how I use keyboards. I want the freedom of never having to carry "stuff" into a meeting room. I want the freedom to have the keyboard be an extension of my thoughts, so I will learn to touch type. I can see this being the only keyboard I ever use - for everything.
I hope I haven't been too verbose.
“A rock pile ceases to be a rock pile the moment a single man contemplates it, bearing within him the image of a cathedral.”
― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince
Another piece of philosophy that Mark used with Textblade.
Happy to answer any questions!!