Table of Contents

The primary constraint of hardware is that it should be able to run a fully free software distribution. The secondary constraint is that designs should be specified in terms of units which a multitude of producers could provide, and which have corresponding products which can be purchased off-the-shelf today without any special inter-personal connections. The third constraint is that it should try to be ergonomic and facilitate long-term use.

1. Primitives

Here I list some off-the shelf products which are used in the following designs.

  • compute. A device which is able to run a free software distribution. So far, this has been Librem 5's (when the compute is worn) or a desktop computer (when external).
  • input device. For all of the designs so far, this has been a split keyboard, sometimes with key combinations mapped to mouse input. In the future, I would like to include touchpads to enable easier adoption. In general, it should be possible to swap out an input device, and I am keeping myself open to more radical input devices like controllers or EEG.
  • connector. This can be wireless like bluetooth or WIFI, or wired like USB and/or HDMI.
  • storage. This is usually flash storage, often in a microSD card..
  • battery. This is usually a USB battery backup block.
  • hub. This is usually a USB-C hub with HDMI and a power in port. More generally, it is any nexus of connectors.

2. throne

Though the throne was the first design I worked on, it is likely last one I will return to. It was designed with the goal of finding the optimal method of controlling compute while sitting. I have since come to the conclusion that the optimal method is to not sit. However, humans will likely continue sitting in the future, so I will eventually return to this design concept. The throne is a chair with some input device attached. The throne may or may not be mobile (like with wheels), may or may not have compute, and may or may not double as a toilet. The throne may also have an output device, like a monitor, and is hence the only design at present that has both an input device and an output device.

2.1. throne V1


This version consisted of a rolling chair with two arm pannels. The arm pannels are marketed for mice, but I purchased two and put one on each armrest. I additionally connected keyboards to the arm pads using velcro. The keyboards were connected to each other, and to a bluetooth hub which plugged into a battery pack. The bluetooth hub recieved power from the battery, and passed power through to the keyboard. I was then able to pair my keyboard to my desktop. In the video, you can see me control my desktop wirelessly, and with the ability to move around. In theory, you could

3. techbelt

The techbelt is distinguished by an input method attached to it, especially when that method is attached such that your hand reaches it when hanging at rest (i.e. hanging at the sides). That input method may connect to another compute via solder point, wire, or wirelessly. There can optionally be compute on the belt which may or may not be controlled by the input device. There may or may not be a slot for a battery pack in the belt which may or may not power the compute and keyboard through a hub, like a USB-C hub.

Part of the philosophy of the techbelt is that work should be done while standing with the option to pace while working. It is not expected to be useable while sitting, though sitting support may be added if it can be done without compromising elsewhere.

3.1. techbelt V1


This picture features the first prototype for a techbelt, complete with an acompanying halo. The halo is optional, as the belt can be used to control an external compute with its own monitor. The design is versatile: I used it regularly to control a desktop, as well as a Librem 5 in my pocket.

The design consisted of a USB-C hub glued onto a nylon belt. Attached to the belt are straps which hold up a pair of keyboards. The exact position of the keyboards are calibrated to ensure that when the user's fingers are on home row, that the user's wrists are in a neutral position, and the user has good posture. It feels a little strange to use at first because we are used to our arms being forward twisted in (thumbs down); hence, at first it feels like your hands are pushed back along your waiste, and hands twisted out. Additionally, the belt has a slot for a USB battery hub. I used a 40,000 mAh battery, which was able to power the USB-C hub, keyboard, halo, and phone for 8 hours of continuous use. In contrast, the same block can power just the phone with regular use for a whole day. For me, this meant I could have a supply of charging batteries which I switch out at the beginning and end of work to have constant uptime for all 16 waking hours.

One major bonus to this design is the stealth factor; in addition to the functional parts, I was able to build in a light cardigan that conceals much of the device, allowing it to be worn unnoticed. (Though, the halo is a dead give away.)

One of the main design flaws of this itteration was that it could not reliably hold my compute (Librem 5). I wanted to be able to take off the belt without removing the phone (it should always stay on my person), so I left the phone in my front pocket and connected it from there. Sometimes I would sit down and the USB connector on the phone got pushed forward enough to permanently damage the port. The port still works, but the connection is inconsistent…

4. techchain

The techchain is distinguished from the techbeltbelt in that it may not have a specialized input method like a keyboard, and may instead rely on input on say, a touch screen, but does always have comupute. It is generally more "ad-hock", consisting of pieces which are put together on-the-spot. It also often relies on something to attach to (cannot usually be worn naked, though later itterations may address this problem). The techchain can be latched onto other items, like a belt. Ideally it holds ones' keys (physical and digital). The techchain can double as a techbelt if it wraps around the waist and allows one to attach input methods to the sides. In general, techchains aim to be light, and are able to attach to other things like clothing.

4.1. techchain V1


This version was made on very short notice when the keyboard in the techbelt V1 died. (But boy did I get a lot of use out of it before then.) It consists of a battery in my side pocket, a Librem 5 in my back pocket, keyboards attached via paracord and carabiners to belt loops, and a USB-C hub glued to a retractable keychain. Though I sometimes used the keyboard to operate an external compute, the phone is only really useable in conjunction with a halo. It is much more "flashy" than my stealthy techbelt V1 design, and takes more time to take on and off. It is not one piece, but five pieces that get chained together each time I put it on.

5. halo

A halo is similar to a techbelt in that it need not always include compute. It is complementary to the belt in two ways: the halo wraps around the head and has output method, while the techbeld wraps around the waist and has an input method. It should be able to deliver audio and/or visual information to the user, but may also do things like control lenses or hearing aids or the like that augment the user's perception of the world. A halo is often used as a complementary device to a techchain, throne, or techbelt

5.1. halo V1


Though I often feel like my designs are too simple to warrant sharing, this one is particularly simple. I purchased two Vufine+ HDMI displays with two Vufine Pro mounts. I then consolidated the mounts onto one headand (mount each came with a headband). This gave me two displays which can be moved independently. At the time of this writting, I have only used one display as a display at any point in time. The other display is a glorified eye-patch. The second display has served two functions so far. First, the second display has worked as a backup when the other has failed. Second, the second display keeps the design symetrical {important because otherwise the weight will mess up your neck}, ensures that the other eye is not distracted by what is "behind" the primary display, and allows me to signal to those around me that I am focused on something else, without forcing me to totally lose a sense of my surroundings. (I am always aware when someone comes up to my cubicle.)

Author: Zacchaeus Scheffer

Created: 2023-10-11 Wed 11:54