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