I’ve tried gaming with this wearable keyboard, but all I can do is jump
We’ve written or tested all kinds of wacky and weird PC gaming products, from the Gamer Goo, which soaks up sweat from your palms, to keyboard hand warmers and gaming gloves. So when something comes up that claims to change your gaming experience, we raise our eyebrows. Tap Strap doesn’t claim these things, though. It just says it’s compatible with PC gaming – and when it works, it’s as responsive as a normal keyboard. Mechanically, however, it’s not as versatile or easy to use as the standard peripheral setup.
The Tap Strap doubles as a keyboard and mouse, and fits around your finger like a ring. The plastic rings are sized by straps that hold the soft plastic together, which makes the whole thing look like a futuristic knuckles, but not nearly as intimidating.
Instead of pressing a key on the keyboard, you tap one or more specific fingers on the desktop to generate the corresponding input. For example, a left-hander taps the letter A with the little finger, while the ring finger, index finger, and thumb tap the letter X, and so on. The number and combination of finger taps assigned to each letter creates a “map,” and Tap Strap comes with a pre-programmed map for each letter of the alphabet, numbers, and symbols.
Typing itself is responsive, but learning the tap gestures of the entire alphabet (plus numbers, symbols, etc.) is like learning a strange form of Morse code and shorthand. Tap Strap has a cheat sheet in the box, and an app with practice exercises, but in a sense, you’re learning a whole new alphabet.
But what we’re interested in is how it works with PC gaming. As I mentioned, when it works, it works – unless it doesn’t, which it usually is. And, depending on the game, it can have a bigger learning curve than others.
Tap Strap is definitely better for certain types of games, but in theory it can work with just about any game. Default keymaps don’t work with games, but you can create (or download) custom clickmaps tailored for specific games. No more wiggling your fingers around traditional keyboards or twisting your thumb to hit the numbered side buttons on your mouse.
Anyway, this is theoretical. In practice, I’ve been unable to create and test left-hand maps to try out WoW, for example, because of a bug in their custom map system – not to mention it’s an unnecessarily time-consuming process.
When I try to make my own click map for World of Warcraft, I set it to “left handed”, but after I save and exit the edit screen, the map reverts to “right handed”. I’m not sure if this has anything to do with the fact that I save the map as a private map instead of a public map, but it kills my ability to play WoW because you still need a right-hand mouse to play the game properly – any MMO, MOBA or FPS. The mouse function on the Tap device works with the Tap keyboard disabled, so you can’t move and fight with one hand. Also, trying to tap the rest of your fingers and slide your thumb at the same time can be very awkward.
Also, while you can create a profile on Tap’s website to create your own maps, its mobile app doesn’t connect to your profile and doesn’t give you the option to make your own maps within the app itself. You can access public maps from the app, but to get your private maps on your phone, you must do the following: save the map as a .txt file to your computer; connect your phone to your computer; copy the .txt file to Your phone; connect the Tap keyboard to your phone via Bluetooth to activate the profile.
You do have the option to download custom click maps to Google Drive, which you can then easily upload from your phone to the app, but that still requires a few extra steps. It would make more sense to log in to create a click map directly from the app.
You also can’t add more than two map profiles at once on the app, one of which is the default one you can’t get rid of. So whether you add a map from a public or private list, you will have to reinstall it. Every. single. time. (Although this seems to be a bug.) I had some luck playing Heroes of the Storm with premade maps, but there are still more bugs in the keymap system that prevent any games from running smoothly.
For example, the Heroes of the Storm map has a designated click mode for each ability, mount/dismount, fireplace, etc. Each tap is either one finger or a combination of two, but for some of the other in-game controls like camera movement and chat, those aren’t designed in this map mode. So the device automatically assigns a mode, and you won’t know what it is until you perform a series of “button” mashups to figure it out.
That’s a shame, because not only do I find it easier to remember the tap maps I create, but I also like the option of not assigning keys to my pinky finger, which doesn’t have the power to trigger the vibration sensor when I’m hitting the keyboard most of the time. Creating a custom click map would have solved the problem, but I can’t use my pinky in every game due to the bug I described earlier.
The transition from using the keyboard to Tap Strap on MOBAs and MMOs is more seamless than in FPS. Way more. With MOBA, at least your fingers are still aligned in the same place as the QWER key (if you’re like me you don’t use your pinky on Q; you use your index finger on both E and R.) But to play FPS just use the WASD key Ring finger, middle finger and index finger, the middle finger moves between W and S – unless you’re like Wes and use your little finger on the A key.
The main and most obvious problems with playing games with a Tap keyboard involve moving and using the in-game chat box. In-game chat is not available because once the chat box is active, you cannot switch from the Tap’s built-in map for input. If you’re typing on a regular keyboard, the Tap keyboard can take your typing as your fingers and everything will get messy.
I wish I could tell you what motion looks like in FPS, but I can’t get the WASD keys to work on the Tap keyboards in Team Fortress 2, Counter Strike: Global Offensive, and Overwatch. Tapping my finger to move either does nothing or moves my character slightly. Violently tapping the movement will turn off the tapping strip or trigger the wrong ability.
I have a similar problem with my custom World of Warcraft map and the pre-made Heroes of the Storm map; attacks often work, but installs and uninstalls don’t. Even if I tap correctly, the faucet has no reliability.
The pre-made tap bindings are also weird for the FPS game on the left. For Team Fortress 2, the little finger goes to the right, and the index finger goes to the left, which is backwards. Literally. You would think that moving the index finger to the left would be the pinky finger moving to the right. (Though the guy who made the click map never actually set it up for the right hand, so I’m actually jumping with my pinky finger, and the click for left and right moves is reversed.) CS:GO isn’t much better either: left index finger and right hand It’s the ring finger, and the jump is your little finger not your thumb. and Fortnite? Fortnite is a mess. I am able to make a map for Overwatch, but when I save it, it turns from left to right, but the left-hand click binding still works in game. Confusing, I know.
I like the idea of Tap Strap and I think it can be achieved with further tinkering. For me, it makes playing MOBAs and MMOs more fun. But for now, the $199 cost to use it to play games is too unreliable. I did try simple typing, but texting on my phone works better than typing on my computer. Right now, you’re better off getting one of the best gaming keyboards for less.
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