Let’s Talk Tech: The Future of Reading, Writing & Typing. Part 2.
From Typewriter to Virtual Keyboard
Last week we had a look at some of the latest and greatest innovations in reading and writing. Now, let’s take a look at typing. The computer keyboards that we use today, were developed from the QWERTY keyboard of the 1870’s. Although some thought went into the positioning of the letter keys for typing efficiency, the main reason for the letter positioning was for mechanical efficiency (such that the metal arms of each letter on the typewriter wouldn’t clash). Now, I’m sure we are all well-acquainted with our QWERTY keyboards and feel that it is the quickest and easiest way to type – but this isn’t necessarily the case, given new technology. So let’s look at 3 innovations that improve the efficiency of our typing.
Let’s have a look:
SwiftKey is a keyboard input device for mobile and tablet touch-screen devices. It is based on the QWERTY keyboard and uses a combination of gestures and predictive text to improve the efficiency and accuracy of typing. Instead of lifting their fingers with each key-stroke, a user can swipe between keys to type a word. The keyboard does the rest of the work – selecting popular and common words from the chosen language and displaying them as suggestions.
Later versions of the keyboard include a feature that learns from each user to create a personalized keyboard that prioritizes frequently used words. This function even goes to the extent of learning how a user types and what sort of words and phrases they use in different apps or with different contacts. For example, it may suggest formal language and work-related words and phrases for a business email with your boss, but more colloquial language and every-day words for a Whatsapp conversation with your best friend. The core idea of SwiftKey has been applied to many other on-board and third party keyboards from the likes of Google, Apple and Swype.
I’ve found this keyboard fairly easy to use and it seems to have improved my typing speed after a bit of practice. You can download this keyboard for your device on the Google Play store, or see it in action in the video below.
The next keyboard is a rather interesting one. Minuum calls themselves “the little keyboard for big fingers,” and embraces the idea of allowing users to hit the wrong key from time to time, but still get their message across accurately. The keyboard (pictured below) is essentially a squashed up version of a QWERTY keyboard, where the 3 rows of letters that we are accustomed to seeing are squashed together in one row, at slightly different heights. It allows users to put a bit of guess-work into their typing to reach a faster speed, using predictive text to correct any errors along the way. Another advantage of this keyboard is the smaller space it occupies on a screen, offering more screen space for the content of the message that the user is typing – ideal for smaller smartphones and smartwatches.
I have briefly tried this keyboard myself, and found it a bit challenging to use at first. However, the accuracy of its suggestions and corrections was very impressive. Once again, download it on the Google Play store, or see it in action in the video below.
Now for a keyboard with an aim to disrupt the idea of QWERTY altogether. The 5-Tiles Keyboard is an unconventional keyboard that groups all letters of the alphabet into (you guessed it) 5 tiles. The letters are grouped alphabetically and phonetically to help users type faster. Gestures are used to type in other characters and commands such as a full stop, comma, space or enter. You can see the general idea in this picture below:
I am yet to try this keyboard for myself, but can see the potential advantages. It seems like a good keyboard for instant messaging on smaller screens and smartwatches. However, I can imagine it would take a lot of getting used to and I’d hate to try and type a long blog post like this one on it! Watch this video to see it in action.
4: Brookstone Virtual Keyboard
Last but not least, we look at something completely different – the Brookstone Virtual Keyboard. Brookstone uses a small Bluetooth projector device to project a QWERTY keyboard onto a flat surface for you to type on. The concept is fairly simple, but could work to great advantage for those who need to type lengthy documents on a smartphone or tablet without lugging a physical Bluetooth keyboard around with them. The keyboard looks something like this:
As you might imagine, I have not tried this keyboard myself, although I’d love to give it a try. It is a keyboard that hints at an opportunity for smartphone and tablet developers to build a similar device internally, allowing for users to type with their smartphone on a full size keyboard wherever they go. It’s a great idea, but I would feel a little bit odd tapping away on a table in a coffee shop. See the video below:
And that’s a wrap on my favourite reading, writing and typing tech innovations. Keep an eye out for our next tech feature, until next time!