Hi there, and welcome to this monthly UHK status update!

TL; DR: We’ve shipped a couple of modules to select testers, and their feedback was very positive, but they’ve also noticed some small issues. PBT keycap and ABS tooling are late, which affects estimated delivery dates. We plan to start shipping the modules around the end of February or March and the UHK 60 v2 around late March.

Module progress

Shortly before Christmas, we finished assembling the following modules and shipped them to select testers.

The feedback we received was very positive but also revealed some new issues. For some testers, the top and bottom parts of the key cluster came apart.

As for the touchpad, some testers pushed the top board into the module case.

Regarding the trackball, we’ve learned during the assembly process that the sealing ring slightly interfered with the ball in some cases, causing the ball to get stuck somewhat. We’ve also noticed that adding a slight pattern to the ball significantly improves optical sensor tracking at high speeds.

We haven’t heard any critiques of the trackpoint, which is unexpected because the spacer that held the top trackpoint part was 3D printed and slightly wiggled. We already had an injection-molded spacer, but we improved it, resulting in lower trackpoint operating force, and the mold hasn’t been modified yet, hence the 3D-printed part. If the 3D printed part was good enough, then the final molded part will be great.

We’re also removing a small plastic part that connects the two case buttons of right-handed modules based on tester feedback. This way, the buttons will be easier to press along their entire surface. The small plastic part was needed for the 3D-printed button prototypes to be sufficiently rigid, but injection-molded plastic behaves much better, and we’re better off without this part.

Luckily, all of the above issues are easy to fix by tweaking the molds, and our contractor is working on the fixes.

It’s fair to say that we’ve learned a ton from the testers’ feedback and the module assembly. I think we’re at a point where apart from the above fixes, the module hardware is excellent and cannot be improved significantly.

Our mold making contractor expects to update the module molds by the middle of February, and UHK 60 v2 mold modifications are expected to get ready by the beginning of March.

Keycap progress

Our PBT keycap supplier has finally sent us samples for approval. The majority of the keycaps’ shine-through performance is excellent, except for a handful of keys, including Space and Mod.

Several UHK 60 v1 owners wanted consistent key cluster keycaps, and as a result, we will also provide ABS keycaps for the key cluster. Our ABS keycap supplier is ready with convex 1U keycap molds, and we’ll ship every key cluster with both PBT and ABS keycaps. We expect to discontinue ABS keycaps for the key cluster in the far future, but now they’re included for free.

Our PBT keycap supplier recently told us that they can only provide the keycap sets in late March, which surprised us quite a bit. Previously, we only used ABS keycaps, which weren’t subjected to such delays.

As it turns out, manufacturing high quality, custom PBT keycaps of excellent shine-through performance is much more time consuming and complicated than making laser-engraved ABS keycaps, hence the delay.

We’re pushing our supplier to provide at least the key cluster PBT keycaps in March, enabling us to start shipping the modules sooner. Unfortunately, the UHK 60 v2 PBT keycaps will have to wait until the end of March despite our best effort.

Module configuration options

Agent’s master branch can already visualize the modules in real-time, and remapping them should be possible soon. The following screenshot is a work-in-progress, but you get the idea.

Remapping the modules, however, is not sufficient to make them live up to their full potential.

It can be difficult to hit small targets or take too much effort to make large motions with the pointer when using the modules. That’s where speed and acceleration settings come in. The speed setting is a linear multiplier, and the acceleration setting is an exponential multiplier. We’ve been already playing around with these values, and they make a world of difference.

When it comes to module usability, another critical feature is navigation mode, which determines what modules do when using their mousing instrument:

  • Cursor mode: moves the mouse cursor
  • Scroll mode: behaves like a scroll wheel
  • Caret mode: moves the text cursor, just like with up/down/left/right arrow keys
  • Media mode: invokes volume up, volume down, previous track, and next track on upward, downward, leftward, and rightward motions, respectively

Speed, acceleration, and navigation mode will be adjustable on a per-layer and per-module basis. So, for example, you’ll be able to make the trackball scroll when the mod layer is active.

By default, the navigation mode of the base, mouse, mod, and fn layers will be set to cursor, scroll, caret, and media mode, respectively, which are sensible and intuitive defaults given these layers’ default behavior.

I can think of a couple more minor options, and I’m sure the community will make further suggestions, but by and large, I’m quite confident that the above configuration options will provide sufficient freedom to achieve excellent usability.

Your tweets

You guys keep sending your awesome tweets, and we're always eager to read and feature them! I’m blown away by Sebastian’s review, Hubert’s chair mount hack, Alex’s custom tenting stand, and all the modded UHKs. Keep it up!

We’ll be keeping you updated on all things UHK and are looking forward to talking to you in late February.