For several years, Outlier Technologies attempted to expand its SansWrite product line into the assessment and survey software markets. With more than 10-years of success selling into the inspection software market, expanding into markets with similar types of forms and workflows was a logical next step. In the inspection software market, SansWrite’s success had been attributed to the pre-written or boilerplate text used to describe common deficiencies. But for the assessment and survey markets, pre-written text proved to be inadequate for describing the multitude of observations or responses associated with people. Despite Outlier Technologies’ best attempts to solve this problem from a software perspective, including the use of handwriting recognition, voice dictation and gesture based typing, existing and prospective customers continued to prefer a keyboard for text entry. In 2010, Outlier Technologies started exploring the mobile text entry problem from a hardware perspective, and in 2012 began investing in an idea called TREWGrip.
The Next Evolution in Typing
TREWGrip is a handheld “rear-type” device that has tactile keys for typing, but on the back-side. The standard QWERTY key layout is split and rotated so the hands gripping TREWGrip can also do multi-finger text entry. By maintaining the QWERTY key layout, typists can quickly transfer competencies from a traditional keyboard to TREWGrip without having to learn an entirely new skill. TREWGrip also provides visual cues on the front-side which helps users, with varying levels of typing expertise, easily locate the typing keys on the back using simple hand-eye coordination. For more details, please visit trewgrip.com.
To introduce the next evolution in typing, Outlier Technologies hosted the Cincy Typing Challenge, an open typing competition to identify the fastest typist in the Greater Cincinnati area. The Finals of the event took place July 25, 2013, on the 125th anniversary of the first ever professional typing competition that took place at the Palace Hotel in Cincinnati, Ohio.
On July 25, 1888, Frank McGurrin, a court reporter from Salt Lake City, challenged Louis Traub, a typing teacher from Cincinnati, to determine who was the fastest typist in the country. McGurrin used the touch-typing method on a QWERTY keyboard while Traub typed with four fingers on a rival non-QWERTY keyboard. McGurrin beat Traub easily, typing 98 words per minute, and at the same time, establishing touch-typing on a QWERTY keyboard as the preferred method of typing that has endured for the past 125 years.
For the Finals of the Cincy Typing Challenge, Mark Parker, the founder of Outlier Technologies and inventor of TREWGrip, threw down a challenge to McGurrin’s firmly established typing technique and speed. Rather than competing on a traditional keyboard, contestants at the Finals were challenged to compete on a new mobile QWERTY device called TREWGrip, a rear-type mobile text entry technology created for today’s modern worker. Parker’s challenge was to convince people that they could type as effectively on TREWGrip, using muscle memory and a few hours of training, as they could on a standard keyboard. The winner of the typing challenge would walk away with $2,500. Beat McGurrin’s 98 wpm using TREWGrip and the prize doubles to $5,000.
At the Finals, Robert Price, who had typed 137 wpm on a standard keyboard at the qualifying round just 5-days earlier, typed 115 wpm on TREWGrip. Price, and Parker, beat McGurrin, launching in a big way, a new typing paradigm to allow the modern worker to be more productive and fully maximize today’s prevailing mobile technology.
Shortly after the completion of the Cincy Typing Challenge, TREWGrip launched a crowdfunding campaign on KickStarter. While the 30-day campaign did not reach its funding goal, TREWGrip received worldwide media attention, solidified product messaging and identified key target audiences. Shortly after the campaign, it was decided to take TREWGrip to the 2014 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES). From September through December, new prototypes were completed, and strategic and financial partnerships were secured to keep TREWGrip moving forward.
In January, TREWGrip participated in weeklong activities at CES. The reception from media, and perspective users and partners was overwhelming. Meetings with editors and reporters produced hundreds of international articles, videos and broadcast media stories, including Ars Technica, ABC, BBC, CBS, CNET, CNN, Gizmodo, Laptop Magazine, NBC, PC Magazine, The Verge, The Wall Street Journal and Wired; to name a few. In addition, TREWGrip was named a finalist for Engadget’s Best of CES 2014. Overall, the event provided additional fuel to take TREWGrip to the next level.