Saturday, January 8, 2011

replace QWERTY with little circles?

Android users can look forward to a new typing layout specifically designed for one handed, hand-held device typing by 8pen. There have long been alternatives to the traditional QWERTY layout, but this one replaces keys with hand motion, so rather than landing your finger on the letter you want to type (the conceptual foundation of most keyboard concepts) this one rests on the idea that you make little circles on the screen while different letters are accessed.
In the words of the horse from Ren and Stimpy, no sir, I don't like it. Why not?

While inefficient and clumsy, the classic idea of touching the letter you want is fundamentally natural and clear. Any child or lazy adult can grasp it immediately. The little circles idea creates an artificial and unnatural interface that puts you multiple steps away from what you want. I'm not trying to make circles, I'm trying to type a frikkin k. I'm sure with practice anyone could get good at this, but I don't wanna practice typing for frik's sake! That's why I've been a clumsy hunt and pecker for 30 years with the damned QWERTY. I could have practiced typing on this damn thing also, but I didn't for the same reason I'm not gonna practice the little circles: I'm lazy. But at least with keys I can just touch the letter I want and get it. It's clear and obvious. I'm sure the little circles would drive me mad.

11 comments:

Matt said...

I'd suggest Swype, personally. It keeps a similar motion as what's already in use, but removes the need to accuracy on a tiny screen or tapping for each letter. I've found it much easier to type on than the default keyboard, and I'm using the actual physical keyboard less and less. It's not going to replace fullsize keyboards any time soon, obviously, but it works very well for mobile ones.

bulbul said...

It's clear and obvious.
And clumsy. And inefficient. Oh wait, you said that. And so error-prone it's friggin' annoying. Almost anything would be better than a QWERTY keyboard on such a small screen.

But at least with keys I can just touch the letter I want and get it.
Sure. It might take two or three tries...

I'm not trying to make circles, I'm trying to type
Ah, but therein lieth the rub: this is not typing. This is, in fact, something completely different, more a new form of writing than just a replacement for a keyboard.

The little circles idea creates an artificial and unnatural interface
Yeah, because the idea of little triangles and circles and lines representing sounds is soooo natural...

Perhaps it is not so suited for children or lazy adults, but still, it sounds like a brilliant idea to. At least in theory. I can't wait to try it out to see whether it holds up.

Chris said...

Yes, I've been meaning to try Swype, it sounds more natural as an interface.

Chris said...

bulbul, I'm certainly willing to be proven wrong. Once the MIT kids get that whole thought-typing thing worked out, it will all be moot anyway, hehe.

Tom Noir said...

Commenter above beat me to it, but in my opinion Swype already solves this problem, and without forcing you to learn a new system.

Matt said...

Believe me, if you use the onscreen keyboard for at all, Swype is completely worth trying out. Additionally, the beta has opened again, so now is the time.

http://beta.swype.com/

Vicky said...

I think this seems a very interesting idea, though it is always difficult to get to a new system. Palm pilots had a sort of 'short hand' way of forming letters, this way seems to be a simmilar idea but the grid is a handy reminder of what you should be doing.

Also, slightly off the direct topic - what accent does the narrator of the video have? It is really intriguing me! Thanks to anyone with a good lang variation background!

Chris said...

Vicky, I had the same question about the narrator's accent. I was thinking eastern European, maybe Polish? But then I looked at their website, patent pending section and noticed the title is in French, so I'm betting on a French accent now, hehe.

bulbul said...

Chris,
oh sure, let's wait for that :)
It's funny, though: somewhere around the death of the original Palm and first generation (i.e. pre-smartphone) handheld devices, handwriting recognition somehow disappeared from view, at least as far as Latin script is concerned. The first time I used it after laying my trusty Palm m105 to rest (*wipes tear*) was when I got an iPod and started learning Chinese.

Vicky,
definitely French. I work with a lot of French people and the accent is unmistakeable.

Vicky said...

Hmm yes I thought it sounded French at points too (others I wasn't so sure) then my friend listened and added South African to the discussion, we compromised on 'French speaking African country'..!?! So thanks for the clarification guys :)

Hmm apparently there are some handwriting recognition apps out there (with terrible reviews!): http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/writepad/id293033512?mt=8 Wonder how much more dev would need to go into them to make it making these good enough to be alternatives to onscreen keyboards? However now considering the detail it would need to read to correctly recognise characters in different writing styles and the level of detail which can be achieved with a fingertip on a small touchscreen makes this prospect seem pretty doubtful. I cannot see people being very interested in returning to using a stylus..So '8pen' seems a pretty nifty compromise; will reserve final judgement 'til I have tested it out though I think.

Chris said...

Interestingly, handwriting recognition has long been at the forefront of computational linguistics thanks principally to the US Post Office sponsoring multiple research projects on the problem going back to the 90s. See here for more info.

NLPers: How would you characterize your linguistics background?

That was the poll question my hero Professor Emily Bender posed on Twitter March 30th. 573 tweets later, a truly epic thread had been cre...