Texting just got a lot easier! Researchers claim to have developed a new
keyboard for touchscreens that allows superfast thumb-typing, enabling
you to type 34 percent faster than on a QWERTY layout.
team used computational optimisation techniques in conjunction with a
model of thumb movement to search among millions of potential layouts
before identifying one that yields superior performance.
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 ergonomically very different from typing on a physical keyboard.
said 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
The researchers from the Max Planck Institute for
Informatics and colleagues from 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 minimising the strain
for the thumbs.
"The key to optimising a keyboard for two thumbs
is to minimise long sequences with a single thumb," lead researcher
Antti Oulasvirta said.
"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
optimisation method," said Oulasvirta.
optimisation process had two goals: To minimise the moving time of the
thumbs and to approximate alternating sides as well as possible.
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.
researchers developed probabilistic error correction methods that took
into account how thumbs move and also statistical knowledge about the
texts users type.
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 for regular users.
Researchers said KALQ will be made available as a free app for Android-based smartphones at the beginning of May.