Some people experience epiphanies in the shower. Jack Atzmon’s “aha” moment, appropriately enough, took place at Best Buy. Three years ago, the Englewood, N.J. chiropractor was examining a Microsoft Natural keyboard, with its curvy, split design that claims to curb carpal tunnel syndrome.
“This doesn’t make any sense!” he thought to himself. “How can a keyboard that’s rigid help combat a disease caused by repetition? It will just cause an injury in another location.”
And so began Atzmon’s quest to design the first keyboard that would prevent painful wrist injuries. Powered by a simple motor, the PRO:Motion keyboard adjusts itself to the user’s unique typing pattern and tilts slightly after a certain number of repeated keystrokes. This minor movement forces typists to adjust the angle of their wrists — naturally, without conscious effort. The keyboard “knows” when you stop typing and moves only then, so there’s no getting startled mid-sentence.
“Companies have been changing the shape of the keyboard, but they’ve never designed an intelligent keyboard,” Atzmon says. “We’re going to replace ergonomics with robotics.”
Atzmon launched his company, Smartfish Technologies, under the auspices of Touro College’s Entrepreneurial Institute and has 15 patents pending. He raised $800,000 in funding and teamed up with the Hospital for Special Surgery, a leading orthopedic hospital on the Upper East Side, where the product will undergo testing. He’s currently in talks with a leading consumer technology company about the possibility of licensing the PRO:Motion concept. If things go his way, the PRO:Motion keyboard will be in stores next year with a price tag of $130.
On a recent afternoon, Atzmon modeled the $180,000 keyboard prototype, which he stores in a clunky metal briefcase when traveling.
He’s one of the few people who enjoys being stopped by airport security, he says. “They all crowd around me and ask, ‘What is it?’”
Atzmon takes the keyboard out of its case and answers proudly: “It’s the coolest keyboard you’ve ever seen.”