I am another new TREG tester and have been a forum lurker for a long time. I have been using the unit consistently for a couple of days now doing general computing work, including writing this post ("typed on a TextBlade!").
Other TREGgers have posted a lot of good first impressions -- I find most of that to be pretty accurate. It is indeed ridiculously small, but with the horizontal key spacing actually being larger than a standard size keyboard, it does not feel cramped at all. The key feel is very nice.
My four hour evening call with Mark was very interesting and a lot of fun. Mark is clearly proud of what he and his company have built, and it shows in his enthusiastic explanations of all the details of the TextBlade. There is no question I was excited to put the TextBlade to work after the call with Mark, whereas before I have to admit I was a bit intimidated by the anticipation of the learning curve.
Why did Waytools build it? Mobile devices are becoming ubiquitous and more powerful by the day. However, typing on glass, while with experience (or youth) can be quite fast, still requires too much cognitive overhead as it directly involves and requires the visual system of the brain. Physical keys, at least until brain-computer interfaces can be built (Mark thinks Elon will build this in a decade or so), represent a direct physical and tactile connection to the machine, which reduces the cognitive overhead of using the device, and allows one's full concentration to be on the content being typed rather than on the typing itself. The validity of the concept of cognitive overhead of an input device was made clear to me as I initially struggled to type on a new device -- the TextBlade itself.
In addition, according to Mark the ergonomics of the TextBlade are outstanding, and he has seen several people with RSI injuries succesfully use and gain relief from it. I can believe this as well.
Mark spoke at length about the various iterations involved in getting to the TextBlade as it exists today. Some of these details may be incorrect, as I am trying to recall the conversation, but as I recall many technical innovations and capabilities were required to build it, ranging from the hardware design of the keycaps, the controller area network used by the blades to communicate, the dedicated connections between each keycap and the blade processor. They tried using off the shelf capacitive sensors found in today's smartphones, but found they didn't work well enough. The capacitive sensors in the TextBlade are two orders of magnitude more sensitive. The software in the device can predict when a key will hit bottom by extrapolating from the acceleration of the key, and it understands physiological concerns: for example, a key press on both u and j probably meant to be u, despite the capacitance on j being slightly higher. In short, its an amazing little device in design and technology.
The other side of the coin: the device intimidated me before the call with Mark. After GA -- it must be soon, its pretty rock solid -- not everyone is going to have the benefit of Mark's wisdom and passion. Waytools will have to do an excellent job of producing assets and documentation which gets people over that hump. My uninformed guess is that this is one of the remaining big items to be done before release, and when they start bringing on testers that don't have a call with Mark after they get signed up because they are testing their onboarding assets, we'll know things are getting close.
For prose and mobile use, the learning curve is quite reasonable. My normal 80-90 wpm speed typing prose was down to about 35 with the TextBlade, though now it is back to around 45. The end result seems to be worth it -- it really is a pleasure to type on. For advanced desktop use (programming and shortcut-based actions and navigation), the learning curve is significantly steeper, and practical use will depend on significant effort spent creating keyboard maps, allowing key combinations with mod and function keys that are awkward (or impossible) to type on the Textblade using the default map, to be mapped to simple gestures (at some point user created maps will be shared in the app, which will be useful). When using an extensive array of desktop and IDE shortcuts, this is a big task, and requires remembering a whole new set of keys from the one's you already know. Waytool's on-screen keyboard display showing the keyboard state is a great help to learning both the default and custom keys -- however, this is currently only available for iOS. I suspect that, at least for now, the TextBlade will replace my desktop keyboard for general computing, but I'll still fall back to my full-size keyboard when programming -- so I'll need to think about the best setup that allows me access to both keyboards. When I originally purchased the TextBlade, it was for purely mobile use, so it has already greatly exceeded my expectations. I can't wait for everyone here to get one in their hands.