I tried playing games with this wearable keyboard, but all I could do was jump

Tap Strap

We’ve written about or tested all sorts of wacky and weird PC gaming products, from Gamer Goo that soaks up palm sweat, to keyboard hand warmers, and gaming gloves. So, when something comes around that claims to change your gaming experience, we raise an eyebrow. The Tap Strap doesn’t claim such things, though. It simply says it's compatible with PC gaming—and when it works, it’s as responsive as a regular keyboard. Mechanically, however, it’s not as versatile or as easy to use as a standard peripheral setup.

The Tap Strap, which functions as both a keyboard and a mouse, slips onto your fingers like rings. The size of the plastic rings adjusts with straps that connect the soft plastic together, which makes the whole thing look like futuristic knuckledusters, but not nearly as intimidating. 

Instead of pressing a key on your keyboard, you tap one or more specific fingers on your desk to produce the corresponding input. Left-handed, the pinky finger alone types the letter A, for example, while the ring, index fingers and thumb produce an X, and so on. The number and combination of finger taps assigned to each letter creates a 'map,' and the Tap Strap comes with a pre-programmed map for every letter of the alphabet, numbers, and symbols.

Typing itself is responsive, but learning the tap gestures for the entire alphabet (plus numbers, symbols, and more) is like learning a weird form of Morse Code combined with stenography. The Tap Strap comes with a cheat sheet in the box, and there is an app with practice exercises, but you're learning a brand new alphabet, in a sense.

But we're interested in how it works with PC games. As I mentioned, when it works, it works—except when it doesn’t, which is more often than not. And, depending on the game, it can have a larger learning curve than others.

The Tap Strap is definitely better suited for some types of games, but can work, in theory, with nearly any. The default keyboard map doesn't work with games, but you can create (or download) custom tap maps tailored for specific games. No more wandering your fingers all over a traditional keyboard or contorting your thumb to hit numbered side-buttons on your mouse. 

That’s in theory, anyway. In practice, I wasn’t able to create and test a left-handed map to try with World of Warcraft, for example, because of a bug in their custom map system—nevermind the fact that it’s an unnecessarily time consuming process. 

When I tried to make my own tap map for World of Warcraft, I would set it to ‘left handed,’ but the map would revert to ‘right handed’ after I saved it and exited the editing screen. I’m not sure if this has anything to do with the fact that I was saving my map as a private map instead of a public one, but it killed my ability to play World of Warcraft because you still need a right-handed mouse to play the game properly—any MMO, MOBA, or FPS for that matter. The mouse function on the Tap device, while it works, disables the Tap keyboard, so you can’t move and fight at the same time one-handed. Also, it’s awkward as hell to try to tap the rest of your fingers and glide your thumb around at the same time.

Additionally, while you can create a personal profile on Tap’s website to create your own maps, its phone app does not connect to your profile nor 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 have to, in this order: save the map as a .txt file to your computer; connect your phone to your computer; copy the .txt file to your phone; connect your Tap keyboard via Bluetooth to your phone to activate the profile.

You do have the option to download your custom tap map to Google Drive, which then you can easily upload to the app from your phone, but that's still a few extra steps too many. It would make more sense to login to create tap maps from the app directly.  

You also can’t add more than two map profiles at a time on the app—and one of those is a default profile that you can’t get rid of. So, regardless of whether you're adding a map from the public list or your private list, you have to reinstall it. Every. Single. Time. (Though this appears to be a bug.) I had some luck using a premade map to play Heroes of the Storm, but there were still more bugs in the keymapping system that made it impossible to run through any game smoothly.

For example, the Heroes of the Storm map has a designated, single tap pattern for each ability, mount/dismount, hearth, etc. Each tap is either a single finger or a combination of two, but for some other in-game controls like camera movement and chat, those are not designed in this map pattern. So, the device will automatically assign a pattern, and you’ll have no idea what it is until you perform a series of "button" mashing moves to figure it out.

That’s a shame, because not only did I find it easier to remember the tap maps I created, but I also liked the option to not assign a key to my pinky finger, since it didn’t have the strength to trigger to vibration sensors in the Tap keyboard most of the time. Creating a custom tap map would have solved that issue, but because of the bugs I described earlier, I was stuck using my pinky in every game.

The transition from using a keyboard on MOBAs and MMOs to the Tap Strap is more seamless compared to an FPS. Way more. With a MOBA, at least your fingers are still aligned in the same position as the QWER keys (thought if you’re like me you don’t use your pinky on Q; you use your index finger for both E and R.) But playing a FPS just uses your ring, middle, and index fingers in the WASD keys, with your middle finger moving between W and S—unless you’re like Wes and you use your pinky on the A key.

The most major, glaring issues for using the Tap keyboard to play games involve movement and using in-game chat boxes. It’s impossible to use an in-game chat because you can’t switch from the Tap’s built-in map for typing once the chat box is active. If you type on your regular keyboard, the Tap keyboard can pick up your typing as finger inputs and everything just becomes one huge confusing mess. 

I wish I could tell you what movement is like in a FPS, but I could not get the WASD keys to work on the Tap keyboard with Team Fortress 2, Counter Strike: Global Offensive, and Overwatch. Tapping my fingers to move either did nothing or would move my character slightly. Tapping furiously to move would shut off the Tap Strap or trigger the wrong ability.

I had a similar issue with my custom World of Warcraft map and the premade Heroes of the Storm map, too; attacks worked more often than not, but mounting and unmounting did not. There was no reliability in the taps, even if I was tapping correctly. 

The premade tap bindings are strange for the FPS games on the left hand, as well. For Team Fortress 2, it’s pinky to go right, index finger to go left, which is, well, backwards. Literally. You’d think it’d be pinky to go left and index finger to go right. (Although whoever made the tap map never actually set it for the right hand, so in reality I was using my pinky to jump, and the left and right movement taps would have been reversed.) CS:GO is no better: left is index finger and right is ring finger, with jump as your pinky instead of your thumb. And Fortnite? Fortnite is a hot mess. I was able to make a map for Overwatch, but it flipped from left-handed to right-handed when I saved it, but the left-handed tap bindings still worked in the game. Confusing, I know.

I love the idea of the Tap Strap, and I think with some further tinkering it could get there. For me, it would make playing MOBAs and MMOs a more enjoyable. But as it stands now, it’s too unreliable to justify the $199 cost to use it for gaming. I did try it out for simple typing, but it worked better texting on my phone than typing on my computer. Right now, you’re better off getting one of the best gaming keyboards for a little less.

Joanna Nelius
When Joanna's not writing about gaming desktops, cloud gaming, or other hardware-related things, she's doing terrible stuff in The Sims 4, roleplaying as a Malkavian, or playing horror games that would give normal people nightmares. She also likes narrative adventures.