MAY 08, 2015 02:14 PM PDT

Until the Neural Interface, Try a Micro-QWERTY Keyboard

WRITTEN BY: Will Hector
Functional elegance in a name is not more perfectly illustrated than by the humble QWERTY keyboard. Dating to 1873, the QWERTY is named after the first six letter keys from the upper left corner of a standard keyboard.

And speaking of keyboards, wouldn't it be great if the new wave of wearable devices-from exercise wristbands to smart watches to digital jewelry-included a text entry system? And wouldn't it be even better if that system was the reliable QWERTY arrangement?
An example of the ZShift keyboard
The greatest advantage of these devices-their incredibly small size-is also a deterrent to adding too many features because the screen space is so limited. There's also a one-way quality to the communication since they receive data and transmit it to the user, but feedback from the user has been, to now, inadequate.

Researchers from the University of Stuttgart and the Universitat Politècnica de València got together to change all that.

They have developed a pair of very small keyboard prototypes featuring the standard QWERTY keyboard arrangement. One prototype is referred to as Callout. It is inspired by the soft keyboards found on current smartphones. When the user touches a key, a callout showing the character that has been selected is projected onto another part of the screen. The user can adjust which key they want by slightly moving their finger on the keyboard, then signal that they want a particular character by lifting up their finger.

The other prototype is called ZShift. It is essentially an enhancement of the Callout design by adding a level of zoom in the occluded area, providing visual feedback for the key being touched.

The keyboard being tested are for screens between 16 and 32 millimeters in width. Autocorrect or other error correction mechanisms can be incorporated, according to the researchers, making input more efficient on the tiny devices.

Says Luis Leiva of the Universitat Politècnica de València's Pattern Recognition and Human Language Technology research center: "QWERTY keyboards, despite their limitations, have the fundamental advantage that users are already familiarized with the layout and the text entry technique is very easy to understand."

Market demand for such a keyboard would seem to be strong as long as the QWERTY functionality continues to be the standard. At some point in the future, eye movement (particularly for smart glasses) or gestures-or neural interface, depending on how far in the future you want to project-will probably replace the beloved QWERTY system. Until then, I'm going to continue looking for opportunities to type QWERTY. Try it yourself; it's very satisfying.

Follow Will Hector on Twitter: @WriterWithHeart

(Source: Science Daily)
About the Author
  • Will Hector practices psychotherapy at Heart in Balance Counseling Center in Oakland, California. He has substantial training in Attachment Theory, Hakomi Body-Centered Psychotherapy, Psycho-Physical Therapy, and Formative Psychology. To learn more about his practice, click here: http://www.heartinbalancetherapy.com/will-hector.html
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