Skip to comments.Computer scientists design new keyboard layout on touch screen devices (w/ video)
Posted on 04/18/2013 10:46:06 AM PDT by Red Badger
The research team of Antti Oulasvirta at the Max Planck Institute for Informatics has created a new keyboard called KALQ that enables faster thumb-typing on touchscreen devices. They used computational optimization techniques in conjunction with a model of thumb movement to search among millions of potential layouts before identifying one that yields superior performance. A user study confirmed that, after a short amount of practice, users could type 34% faster than they could with a QWERTY layout.
Typing on today's mobile phones and tablets is needlessly slow. One limitation is that the QWERTY layout is ill-suited for tablets and other touchscreen devices when typing with the thumbs. Two-thumb typing is ergonomically very different from typing on a physical keyboard.
It has been established that normal users using a QWERTY on a touchscreen device are limited to typing at a rate of around 20 words per minute, which is slow compared to the rates achieved on physical keyboards. The researchers set out to create an alternative to QWERTY that offers substantial performance advantages for users. The researchers incorporated models of thumb movement into a computational optimization algorithm.
The researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Informatics and colleagues from the University of St Andrews and Montana Tech quickly realized that slight changes to the layout, like exchanging a few keys, would not be sufficient for a significant improvement. Words like "on, see, you, read, dear, immune, based", frequently used in texts, have to be typed on a split-QWERTY layout with a single thumb only, making the typing burdensome. This initiated the process to develop a layout for two-thumb text entry with the goal of improving typing performance and minimizing the strain for the thumbs.
Antti Oulasvirta says "The key to optimizing a keyboard for two thumbs is to minimize long sequences with a single thumb. We also want to place frequently used letters centrally close to each other. Experienced typists move their thumbs simultaneously: While one is typing, the other is approaching its next target. We derived a predictive model of this behaviour for the optimization method."
The computational optimization process had two goals: To minimize the moving time of the thumbs and to approximate alternating sides as well as possible. The result achieved by computational optimization was rather unexpected. In the new keyboard KALQ, all vowels, with the exception of the letter "y", are placed in the area for the right thumb, whereas the left thumb gets assigned more keys. To fully benefit from this layout, the users were trained to move their thumbs simultaneously. While one thumb is typing, the other one can move to its next target.
Per Ola Kristensson says "The legacy of QWERTY has trapped users with suboptimal text entry interfaces on mobile devices. However, before abandoning QWERTY, users rightfully demand a compelling alternative. We believe KALQ provides a large enough performance improvement to give users the incentive to switch and benefit from faster and more comfortable typing." Finally, the authors developed probabilistic error correction methods that took into account how thumbs move and also statistical knowledge about the texts users type.
Their error correction method enabled trained users to type more quickly while retaining an acceptable level of errors. With these improvements, users were able to reach 37 words per minute, which is the best ever reported for two-thumb typing on touchscreen devices, significantly more than the approximate 20 words on a split QWERTY that regular users can achieve. The researchers will present their work at the CHI 2013 conference in Paris on May 1st. CHI is the principal international forum for outstanding research and development in human-computer interaction. KALQ will be made available as a free app for Android-based smartphones at the beginning of May.
The new KALQ keyboard. Credit: MPI for Informatics
The tap keys on screen technology will be obsolete before this keyboard is adopted. More natural human computer interaction (HCI) devices are on the horizon.
Good luck with that, Dvorak keyboard anyone?
Oh, goodie! More distracted people on the road and bumping into me in the mall!
We’ve got a guy at work that uses Dvorak. He probably has the most secure computer on site, even if you know his password you can’t type it in.
I can type 110+ wpm on a qwerty. Match that with 2 thumbs only with *any* keyboard layout. I dare ya.
yksy lrunpstf od fpp,rf yp gsil!
Good on ya!
Good on ya!
Drum roll ...
And, for example, some of those devices are ...
Vulcan mind melding...
I thought he was a Classical composer.
I bet this bombs because no one is going to want to learn a new system. It was hard enough to learn to type the normal way.
Hunt and peck. An addictive game for all ages!
I get splitting the keyboard in two. I don’t get why the letters are re-arranged from traditional keyboard. That part makes no sense.
Putting all the vowels, except ‘y’ on the right side along with the most used consonents on the left side gives a more ‘equal use’ or ‘ambidextrous feel’ to it.
There was a story in one of the ancient computer mags (Computer Shopper?) back in the 80’s about the origens of the ‘QWERTY’ keyboard layout.
It seems that the original typerwriters had a different letter layout than is now standard. But the typists of the day could type faster than the mechanics of the early typewriters could handle, getting keys jammed and slowing up productivity. So the engineers of the time came up with the QWERTY layout in order to effectively slow down the typists instead of making the typewriters faster! But that layout has been lost in history...........
Those are just the start.. there are a variety of other takes on the emerging technology. People won't be smudging up their screens much longer.