Going Short: The Effects of Short-Travel Key Switches on Typing Performance, Typing Force, Forearm Muscle Activity, and User Experience

in Journal of Applied Biomechanics
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This study examined the effects of 4 micro-travel keyboards on forearm muscle activity, typing force, typing performance, and self-reported discomfort and difficulty. A total of 20 participants completed typing tasks on 4 commercially available devices with different key switch characteristics (dome, scissors, and butterfly) and key travels (0.55, 1.3, and 1.6 mm). The device with short-travel (0.55 mm) and a dome-type key switch mechanism was associated with higher muscle activities (6%–8%, P < .01), higher typing force (12%, P < .01), slower typing speeds (8%, P < .01), and twice as much discomfort (P < .05), compared with the other 3 devices: short-travel (0.55 mm) and butterfly switch design and long travel (1.3 and 1.6 mm) with scissor key switches. Participants rated the devices with larger travels (1.3 and 1.6 mm) with least discomfort (P = .02) and difficulty (P < .01). When stratified by sex/gender, these observed associations were larger and more significant in the female participants compared with male participants. The devices with similar travel but different key switch designs had difference in outcomes and devices with different travel were sometimes not different. The results suggest that key travel alone does not predict typing force or muscle activity.

Coppola, Dixon, Hu, and Dennerlein are with the Department of Environmental Health, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Boston, MA, USA. Lin is with Microsoft Corporation, Redmond, WA, USA. Dennerlein is also with the Department of Physical Therapy, Movement and Rehabilitation Sciences, Bouvé College of Health Sciences, Northeastern University, Boston, MA, USA.

Dennerlein (j.dennerlein@northeastern.edu) is corresponding author.
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