Don’t Look at it – Tapit: An Interview with Inventor Rubi Mazaki Tsaig

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What if you could use your smartphone for basic tasks without looking at it? That’s the question Rubi Mazaki Tsaig asked two years ago. The answer developed into what is now being Kickstarted as the Tapit keyboard case. The inventor has agreed to answer a few questions on All Things Ergo, so I’ll let him explain further. Let’s get to it!

What is Tapit and why should anybody care?

Greetings, Rubi, and thanks for giving your time to be on All Things Ergo. I’m an Android user and a big fan of new ergo innovations. (Also a big fan of your home country, so shout-out to readers in Israel.) First, please give us the “100 words or less” version of what Tapit is and what it does.

rubiTapit is the simple most physical keyboard solution for smartphones. Why simple?

  • Not redundant. Unlike Samsung’s physical keyboard for example, which must carried around when not used.
  • Lightweight, Battery-less case and it extends the standard flip cover case in a way that does not interfere.
  • Locking magnets and anchors hold the door hermetically either close or open.
  • Tapit features large physical buttons, designed to comply with the phone’s telephony UI, but ideal for delivering dynamic menus for various apps.
  • Tapit’s lock screen features 18 customizable buttons, which can be programmed to start any app or quick call.

(That was technically 102 words, but who’s counting?)

Wait, we’re back to non-QWERTY typing?

Since the Tapit interface has only 18 keys, there’s no QWERTY typing. Doesn’t that mean a return to “dumbphone” style typing, with multiple key-presses for some letters? What would you say to those who might consider this a step back to the era that gave us “blackberry thumb”?

So, first – no doubt QWERTY typing can be easier for most opportunities, just not when you need to have your eyes somewhere else. “Blind” typing on a physical keyboard allows you to still participate in a conference, or go jogging. It also fits the fingers of elderly people who might not be as comfortable with a small qwerty keyboard. Second – we do hope to have an alternative QWERTY keyboard case in the future.

But will people actually use it?

How much testing has taken place to see if users will actually use Tapit day-to-day as intended? Some might question whether YouTube watchers, for example, will really flip the magnetic keyboard around to watch a video, then flip it back to text or talk on the phone.

Most of our validation was based on other physical keyboard products/technologies, such as:

  • Tactus Tech’s “Phorm” has raised some 30M$ on 2015 –
  • Samsung physical keyboard, published with the Galaxy S6, and continue to be sold with S7 –
  • Spike and typo keyboard cases had some success too.
  • Another factor – The popularity of the standard flip cover cases, and the fact that Tapit does not interfere but rather enhance the standard case.

All the tapitsWhen the Tapit becomes reality, how will it look and feel?

Tell us about the mechanical quality of Tapit, especially the hinge(?) and magnetic closure. If people use it as intended, I would assume those parts are going to get a lot of wear.

Actually, Tapit’s hinge isn’t door like, but just as in the standard case – a plastic/rubber cloth. We don’t expect any special issues here actually – At least the hinge will have quite the same design as the Samsung original cover (or as any other flip cover case does). The magnets are fixed to the back case (side), while the metal (iron) is stitched to the door. So, no special mechanical issues are expected here either.

What do the keys feel like on the device? Hard plastic or more soft and tacky? And if the latter, how does one keep it clean?

The flexibility of the keys (made of TPU) is just between rigid and flex. So clicking on a button presses it as a whole, while it does bend just enough for the finger to push the button face to the surface of the screen. We have put some serious thinking and a considerable amount lot of testing into it! And I believe we found a winning design, that feels right, even when pressed from an angle.

We’ve heard about the invention; let’s hear about the inventor

You and your wife Sharon make and market Tapit as a team, which is really cool. How does it work for you to be business partners as well as a married couple?

Regarding our business partnership – I believe that as in our private life, we do our best to split the workload evenly, and tackle obstacles together. Sharon is great at being collaborative and supportive. If we wouldn’t have that special kind of relation, we wouldn’t survive the last 2 years of a pay-less startup!

Tapit on the go

The Tapit vision

Please share your vision for the Tapit keyboard project. Where would you like to see it go?

Our vision of Tapit:

  • First – I believe Tapit has horizon for at least 10 years from now. At least, as long we keep using smartphones and as long as smartphones are flat, there is a place reserved for physical buttons.
  • Second – Besides calling and texting, Tapit’s buttons brings a big opportunity both for app developers to provide their users with tactile enabled apps. Consider the following: TV remote controls, IoT controllers (Open your house or car with a click of a button. Physical button!), VoIP apps can really enjoy physical buttons (Skype, Tango, Vonage…), and many more apps that can enjoy easy finger access.
  • We currently target only Samsung flagship phones, featuring a very specifically sized keypad, but we do plan to extend beyond that.

Thanks for your time and informative answers, Rubi!

If you’re sold on the Tapit, show the inventors some love by backing them on Kickstarter. At this point, that’s undoubtedly the best way to help ensure that Tapit becomes a reality. You can also follow Tapit or leave comments on Facebook, and check out their website.

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