A touchpad for superfast texting

Texting just got a lot easier! Researchers claim to have developed a new keyboard for touch-screens that allows superfast thumb-typing, enabling you to type 34% faster than a QWERTY layout. The research team 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.

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, researchers said. Thumb typing is also different from typing on a physical keyboard. Researchers said it has been established that normal users using a QWERTY on a touchscreen device are limited to typing at a rate of 20 words per minute, which is slow compared to the rates achieved on physical keyboards.

The researchers from the Max Planck Institute and the University of St.Andrews and Montana Tech initiated the process to develop a layout for two-thumb text entry with the goal of improving typing performance and minimizing the strain for thumbs. “The key to optimizing a keyboard for two thumbs is to minimize long sequences with a single thumb,” lead researcher Antti Oulasvirta said.

The computational optimization process had two goals: To minimize the moving time of the thumbs and to approximate alternating sides as well as possible. 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.

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