Category Archives: Innovation

Letters Like Lego With the W10 Keyboard

I’ve found another unique solution to the QWERTY keyboard problem: the W10 Keyboard.

The W10 Keyboard

If you’re like me and think of letters as individual characters, it might be hard to grasp how this keyboard works. It might help to imagine that each letter itself is made up of a couple of strokes. You assemble a letter by swiping the strokes together (or tapping on them in sequence, if that works better for you).

For example:

  • l + c = k
  • c + j = g
  •     –  = e
  • l + – = r
  • c + j + l + – + – + – + l + c = greek

If it still feels greek to you, this video might help explain the concept better.

 

 

The W10 Keyboard adopts the Korean way of texting, which might be familiar to you (or completely alien, depending on what side of the planet you’re on). I’m still wrapping my head around the concept and I’m guessing you are too. I suppose it might work for those not weaned on the Latin alphabet, but for me putting together words using letters is tough enough as it is.

A few of its adopters have sworn to the increased speed and accuracy of their typing though, so I guess it does work as long as you persevere through the daunting learning curve.  And if you want to take a break, you can always cheat by going into landscape mode and using the QWERTY keyboard instead.

If you’re curious and want to try it out, you can get it for free from the Android store here.

Do you think the W10 deserves a 10 for an inspired solution? Or do you give it a 0 for making texting even harder than it already is?

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Filed under Innovation, Interfaces, Mobile, Usability

An iPad keyboard that sits on top of my touchscreen… why didn’t I think of that?

 

This is the first product that actually made me think of trading in my Macbook Air for an iPad. I type pretty fast, the last time I checked it was around 90 wpm, and if there is one terrible compromise in computing over the last 5 years, it’s using a QWERTY keyboard on a touchscreen.

I mean seriously? Isn’t this the 21st century? Thankfully, we have solutions popping up on two fronts: The first, is getting rid of QWERTY and replacing it with something more suited for the touchscreen. And second, is getting rid of the touchscreen part, and bringing QWERTY back to a familiar place.

The latter is the direction that Isaac and Melmon of TouchFire decided to take. I know, I know… there are plenty of USB keyboards, Bluetooth keyboards, and cases with built in keyboards, but if I wanted all that, I would carry around a laptop.

The touchfrire concept is completely different, instead of making something that sits next to the iPad, they made a very simple rubbery overlay that sits on top of the screen — using the touch surface of the iPad as the keyboard itself. This saves a lot of space in your every day carry bag, and also means that there are no batteries or pairing issues… ever!

The beauty of this innovation is that your fingers can actually feel where the keys are – freeing you to look at the screen, not at the keys. Instant tactile feedback – Loving it!

The only downside I can think of is that you’re stuck using a 90 percent scaled keyboard instead of a full sized one, but for those of us on the smaller side of the hand-size spectrum, this is not a major compromise. And it does look a bit fiddly.

So, here are the details: They started out on Kickstarter, which is a platform for funding new ideas by potential buyers and they raised over $200K! Now, you better go pre-order from their website because they’ve already sold out their first production batch.

If you’re sitting in front of an iPad typing on a Touch Fire right now, let us know what you think in the comments, and even if you’ve never heard of it until now, what do you think, yea or nay?

by Elliott Williams

3,065 Comments

Filed under Innovation, Interfaces

7Notes: Turning thoughts into words and pictures

 

All keyboards aside, what are we really trying to do here — take our thoughts, ideas, other people’s thoughts, save them… and share them.

There are two major problems doing that with a set of alpha-numeric keys: First, you are stuck recording all of your ideas verbally. Sometimes an image is worth a thousands words, and when all you have is a set of keys, your stuck cranking out those words instead of a doodle.

Second, when you’re typing, all of your notes are linear. This can be problematic when you want to make an outline of the content and jump around a lot (very difficult). And linear notes also don’t take advantage of our spacial memory.

For these two reasons and many more, pen and paper have been king in note taking scenarios, which is why I’m always on the look out for new “drawing” methods of note taking, especially when they’re digital. A digital drawing environment gives you the benefits of pen and paper, while adding searchability, “savability”, and all the other 21st century “abilities”.

As tablets become more popular, I think we’re getting closer to replacing paper (at least for the ‘haves’ side of the digital divide). And with tablets, i.e. touch screens, we have a whole new market for software based data entry methods.

7Notes is one of these new crop and as Tech Crunch puts it: >Recognizing handwritten text isn’t trivial, which is why a new app called 7notes focuses almost entirely on this problem–and does the job really well.

In addition to doing a good job at recognizing handwriting (check out TC’s review to see how good), 7Notes also offers some extra nifty features including:

  • Predictive typing
  • Formating with color
  • Mixing text with images
  • Annotating images
  • “Social Doodling” which is the ability to share and edit other people’s files

So if this sounds like it’s right up your alley, or you have been looking for an excuse to try out that new stylus that you bought with your iPad, check them out. They have a free and premium version for the iPhone and iPad (sorry, only premium gets you hand writing recognition).

So get scribbling and tell us what you think.

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By Elliott Williams

1,100 Comments

Filed under Innovation, Interfaces, Mobile

Snapkeys: Somewhere between “driving blind” and “using the force”

Well I never thought I would be stumped by a keyboard (or non-keyboard), but there’s a first for everything. After watching the video, I was left with phrases like “imaginary interface” and “faster than a pc keyboard” in my head — strong claims I know, but claims aside, the concept is pretty interesting.

You can’t tell from the video, but there are four keys and the whole alphabet fits into one of those four. You have one key that represents any letter that stands on “one point” (think F or V or T), one key for letters that stand on two points (W or N), letters that stand on a wide base, and letters that have a circle in them.

There are plenty of benefits to having only four keys: The target sized can be so large, that error is almost completely wiped out. In fact, the target sizes can be so big that you don’t even need to see the keys. That’s why they can tout the “invisible keyboard” monicker.

Sounds confusing right? It’s actually not. They have a demo on their website that is pretty convincing. After typing 4 words I didn’t need to look at the keys anymore, but your mileage may vary. And if you ever get confused, there’s always the visible mode.

Despite how fast I picked it up, I’ll have to hold out to see if: 1) this is vaporware, and 2) how good the prediction engine is. With only four keys, the machine needs to pick out of 6 different characters each time you type a letter, so the AI must be strong with this one.

The good news is that this company is trying to get their keyboard onto every smartphone company… The bad news is they have no expected release date.

Stay tuned for more, and if you have any other tastey details about Snapkeys, please leave a note in the comments.

via ubergizmo

Contributed by Elliott Williams

1,745 Comments

Filed under Innovation, Interfaces, Mobile

FrogPad: Turn your Magic Trackpad into a one handed keyboard

Magic Frogpad Frogpad is the one-handed keyboard that keeps on truckin’. It’s a simple sticker that overlays your Apple Trackpad – turning it into a all-in-one mouse+keyboard input device. Brilliant! Here’s the run down of the Frogpad concept:

  • Single handed use – left or right (but keyboards are “keyed” to a particular hand so you can’t switch once you buy)
  • Studies show new users reaching speeds of 40 words per minute in 10 hours, versus the 56 hours (conservative estimate) needed for QWERTY
  • 80 percent of most commonly used words can be typed with the 15 keys that don’t require “cording” (i.e. multi-finger combos)
  • There are multiple letters/numbers/punctuation  on each key, so some “cording” is required
  • On the downside – it doesn’t have that critical “command” key for all those other killer keyboard shortcuts

When I broke my wrist and had to wear a brace for 6 months, this all seemed pretty great. The physical version of the Frogpad was the only major contendor against lefty dvorak. Unfortunately, I wasn’t ready to spend 130USD on a new keyboard considering my condition was temporary.

Since then, they seem to have ceased production of all of their physical keyboards, and have started printing keyboard layouts that you can overlay on your Apple Magic Trackpad. This might suggest that they aren’t getting the traction they hoped for, but despite low levels of adoption, if you still want to give a one handed keyboard a shot, ugly-fying your trackpad with a proprietary sticker at the same time, go right ahead. The sticker and software only cost 14.99USD so it’s a pretty painless way to move beyond the clunkiness of QWERTY.

Have you tried the Frogpad? How do you rate the one-handed typing experience? How long did you take to adjust to the new letter layout?

 via ubergizmo

By Elliott Williams

2,886 Comments

Filed under Innovation, Interfaces

Rewriting the Keyboard: Swype

If yasd;laskd;lasd;lasou have an newish Android phone, you may have already tried Swype: a text input application that promises to make typing via your touchscreen device significantly faster.

With over 50 million installs, Swype is the most popular alternative keyboard for Andriod devices. And with good reason. Swype is a gestural text-input technique specifically for touchscreen devices that represents a paradigm shift in word creation. Instead of trying to replicate the tap-tap-tap of a real world keyboard, you just trace your finger over the keys – just like joining the dots –  linking letters to form words in one fluid motion.

Swype

While there is a learning curve, Swype is a lot more intuitive then you might expect. It adds a space automatically after each word and includes robust auto-correct and text prediction features — de riguer in QWERTY-based keyboard these days. It also includes some neat gestures like moving the traced line above the keyboard to automatically capitalise a letter. And you have the choice of tapping or swyping.

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It is also possible to personalise your Swype experience, from choosing how often the suggestion box appears to setting the balance between speed and accuracy. It may take a while before you find a setting you’re comfortable with but it’s uplifting that such a wide range of options are offered.

But it ain’t perfect. It does require an intimate and intuitive knowledge of the QWERTY key order. And because you’re supposed to maintain contact with the screen while swyping, your finger obscures a sizable chunk of the keyboard – so you can’t always see where your finger should be heading next. And because you swype across a range of letters enroute to your desired letter, the text prediction isn’t always on the money – especially within the “U I O” letter cluster. The larger tablet version is pretty tiresome as your finger has to travel greater distances to complete each word.

It also raises a critical question – in creating Swype, the developers are relegating us from 10-finger texting to just one. Is single digit dexterity really a step forward?

Is Swype as good as it gets?

Could it be improved with a key layout optimised to reduce the tedious horizontal scrubbing back and forth?

Could we increase both speed and accuracy with a more intuitive keyboard layout?

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Textees: A Keystroke of Genius

Say good-bye to embarrasing typos, unpredictable predictive text predictions or incorrect auto-correct corrections. Just roll one of these little rubber numbers onto your errant digit and Robert’s your relative!

YouTube Preview Image

Introducing Textees – a wearable solution to texting on those tiny, squished-up QWERTY keyboards on your otherwise easy-to-use touchscreen device. Both low-tech and low-allergenic, you can finally hit the letter you were aiming for.

Red Textees

Who needs fancy-pants hi-tech wizardry like lexical dictionaries, semantic prediction and pressure sensitive piezo-electric sensors when you can solve the problem with a stylish, go-anywhere mini-fingertip in 6 fabulous flavours? The fact that they look like upside-down rubber bondage undies (with attachments and accessibility options) only adds to the fun.

Thanks Textees!

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Apple’s keyless keyboard: Once more with feeling

A recently published patent application indicates that Apple is finally looking to address the major gripe that people have with touch screen interfaces. They acknowledge in their patent that other touch sensitive devices lack the tactile, button-like reassurance of a traditional keyboard. In other words, you have no clue whether you’ve hit the right key or not.

Apple's keyless keyboard

Apple’s game changing design incorporates “pressure sensitive piezo-electric sensors” which can distinguish between deliberate keystrokes and accidental finger taps. Their keyboard design won’t actually have any individual keys; instead it will deliver one pleasant vibration for an accurate hit and another harsher vibration for a miss hit. Instant fingertip accuracy feedback!

They also note that the new design could incorporate any form of input-surface device for a computing system, not just a traditional QWERTY layout. As there are no actual buttons, any layout can be lit up from underneath the glass.

virtual keyboards can now get physical

So is this the start of Apple opening its doors to the possibility of more intuitive and interesting input methods?

And will all these changes add up to improved user experience while typing – for instance, a keyboard built around the shape of our hands and the differing length of each finger rather than rigid horizontal rows?

And can it deliver the holy grail of truly mobile touch typing?

I for one sincerely hope it’s a yes on all counts!

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Filed under Hardware, Innovation, Mobile, Usability

Mobile Computing. Solved.

Who says you can’t walk, chew gum AND type at the same time?

The Mobile Computing Solution

1,500 Comments

Filed under Fun, Innovation

Rewriting the Keyboard: 8pen

What will the touch screen keyboard of the future look like? The guys over at 8pen think it’ll look like this:

Android phone with 8pen

8Pen is an entirely gestural keyboard available for download free (although it did have to retreat from its initial price of $1.50) from the Android Market. As you can see it takes a welcome departure from the dreaded QWERTY layout, giving you an interesting but altogether unfamiliar input mechanism. To their credit 8pen have realised that the QWERTY layout is completely dated and was never designed to be used on dainty devices like touchscreen based mobile phones (or anything but typewriters). 8pen is designed exclusively with touchscreens in mind and strives to give the users a fast and natural way of writing on small devices.

Take a look at the video below for a detailed description on how the interface works.

YouTube Preview Image

Still confused? …so was I. Even after numerous viewings I still didn’t quite get it. If even 8pen themselves can’t clearly describe how to use their app how can they expect anyone else to use it?

8Pen claims that its advantage lies “mainly in the fact that it is possible to input text faster than using conventional layouts on small controllers”. This may be true with bucket loads of practice, but while using it for the first time there is a very steep learning curve to the point where you may struggle to write this sentence within a couple of minutes!

Once you have gotten over the shock of the first couple of hours using 8pen and you begin to feel comfortable using the new layout, the creators have also given you the option to strip everything back and just type without using any visual cues giving you a clear view of the whole screen. This may sound like a great idea but I think I may need years of dedicated training and perhaps a brain transplant to become that comfortable using this system.

Here’s a video of someone using 8pen on super hard difficulty!

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That said it’s got over 100,000 downloads and some pretty rave reviews with some punters saying the learning curve is flatter than initially thought. 8pen is an admirable idea and I’m all for dedicated touchscreen interfaces and the destruction of QWERTY but I’m yet to be convinced that this is the keyboard of the future. But don’t mind me, give it a whirl. I’d love to hear what you think of this daring new input method.

2,430 Comments

Filed under Innovation, Mobile