Onscreen Keyboards: KALQ Could Be The New QWERTY

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International university team says its design offers faster two thumb typing than QWERTY

KALQ, a touchscreen keyboard app that promises to enable much faster typing on tablets and make embarrassing typos a thing of the past, has been unveiled by a group of researchers.

The team claims the standard QWERTY configuration is not suitable for two-thumb typing and users are limited to a rate of 20 words per minute – much slower than if they were using a physical keyboard.

The team, consisting of academics from at the University of St Andrews, the Max Planck Institute for Informatics, and Montana Tech, searched through millions of potential layouts, using computational optimisation techniques in conjunction with a model of thumb movement, before identifying one that provided superior performance.

Suboptimal QWERTY

“The legacy of QWERTY has trapped users with suboptimal text entry interfaces on mobile devices,” said Per Ola Kristensson, lecturer in Human Computer Interaction at the School of Computer Science, University of St Andrews.

“However, before abandoning QWERTY, users rightfully demand a compelling alternative. We believe KALQ provides a large enough performance improvement to incentivise users to switch and benefit from faster and more comfortable typing.”

Faster typing can be enabled by simply rearranging keys, but the team recognised this would not provide a significant improvement or reduce strain on the thumbs. The computational optimisation process aimed to minimise moving times of thumbs and make typing on alternating sides of the tablet as easy as possible.

With KALQ, all vowels, with the exception of y (which can be both a vowel and consonant), are placed in the right thumb area, whereas the left was assigned more keys. Participants in the user study were trained to move thumbs simultaneously so that when one thumb is approaching a letter, the other moves to the next target.

The researchers will present their findings at the CHI 2013 Conference in May, while KALQ will be available as a free app for Android devices.

This first appeared on TechWeekEurope UK. Read the whole story here.

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