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A pressure-sensitive keyboard can be used to improve the security of a computer. “The computer not only looks at what you enter as a password, but also how you type it,” says Kayle Knops, founder of the Eindhoven-based start-up Intense Keyboards. Typing styles vary from one person to another. When a computer uses software programs to map these out, the device knows that a certain typing style belongs to a particular user.

“It is enhanced security that can be used in combination with a normal password,” Knops explains. At the moment, the start-up is currently in an exploratory phase with this application. “We are now in discussions with various potential customers in order to best meet their needs.” He does not yet have a specific customer in mind. “Various companies will be able to use this technology,” he says. For instance, companies that require employees to log in to a particular system or website.

Recognizing stress

Aside from computer security, Intense Keyboards is also working on another application for their pressure-sensitive keyboards. They want to gauge the health of the user on the basis of their typing behavior. For example, they are able to recognize stress-related symptoms sooner. “Employers and employees will be able to use a keyboard like this with a view to taking preventive measures in order to address such things as burnout syndrome or RSI. Employees feel better as a result and therefore their work performance improves,” says Knops.

ASML Makers Award

The start-up from Eindhoven University of Technology won the ASML Makers Award with this idea at the TU/e contest earlier this year. This ensures them a place in the pitch round during the 4TU Impact Challenge. Which is a competition where the most innovative and promising start-ups and student teams from the Dutch technology universities all get to compete against each other.

Besides the pressure-sensitive keyboards, the start-up has also developed the associated software. These software programs can accurately map out the way in which someone types. A profile is built of each user, a sort of starting point. This allows for various applications such as extra security measures or stress recognition. “Based on how people type, you are able to see what kind of emotions they are experiencing. We then try to go one step further to see if these emotions can determine if someone is working under stress.”

Software and service

Knops: “Our added value does not rely on the manufacture of keyboards. They do that much better in China. We need to focus on the technology behind pressure sensitivity. And also the software and service that companies will need in order to use that technology to help optimize their employees’ vitality.”

The software has been developed for the most part. Now it’s time for the young entrepreneurs to bring it to the market. “We need a partner for this, a company that wants to help us with the following steps.” A number of companies have shown interest, but there is no real cooperation as yet. Knops is convinced that his start-up will grow faster if he would work together with another company. “Then we can brainstorm about developing the technology further. Also, as a start-up, we can eventually benefit from the team and the processes that our future partner has already set up.”

To market

Knops thinks that the application can be brought to the security market fairly quickly. “Medical applications are subject to plenty of rules. So, many parties are involved as well, “explains Knops. “For example, users must take action if their typing behavior is showing signs of stress. This would have a greater impact.” In his opinion, things are different when it comes to security. “People grant permission just the one time in order to be able to use this option, then they never have to worry about it again.”

Aside from that, he envisages a third application for pressure sensitivity in keyboards. It could be used in e.g. games to operate a puppet or a car. Pressing softly means walking or driving slowly, pressing hard means walking or driving fast.

Everyone should have a pressure-sensitive keyboard

The ultimate goal for Knops is that pressure-sensitive keyboards become the new standard. “A few years ago there was a manufacturer who incorporated colored lights into a keyboard. You see that everywhere now and everyone wants to have a keyboard like that. We want to see keyboards with our technology at every major electronics retailer.”