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This Tiny QWERTY Keyboard Promises To Bring Accurate Typing To Smartwatches

May 6, 2015 - Written By Ricardo Trevizo

Wearable devices are heading fast to a spike in popularity, this recently increased adoption rate has made wearable hardware engineers work harder to always provide an innovative and functional device; but not only hardware is evolving in an accelerated pace. With wearables (namely smartwatches), now including touchscreens, developers are also doing their best to keep up with what customers demand and hope to see in their wearable gadgets, one of these demands has been the inclusion of an alternative to voice input. This has led a team of researchers from the Universitat Polit¨cnica de Val¨ncia and the University of Stuttgart, to develop a tiny digital QWERTY keyboard that is both accurate and responsive.

Smartwatches are able to receive notifications in numerous ways, but currently there are not a lot of ways to respond to said notifications. As of today, voice one of the only ways to interact with incoming notifications; sure, some apps give you the option to reply by selecting one of several basic pre-made messages, but that doesn’t quite do the job. According to Pattern Recognition and Human Language Technology researcher at the Universitat Polit¨cnica de Val¨ncia, Luis Leiva, QWERTY keyboards have a basic layout to which users are already the most accustomed to and that virtually does not require any previous experience, trying to change this design would only confuse the user; although some alternatives, like the Minuum keyboard, have also been somewhat accepted by users.

The first prototype of this tiny QWERTY keyboard is called Callout, and it’s design is, as Luis Leiva said, the same to which people are used to, but in a much tinier presentation. The Callout keyboard, bases its functionality around a pop-up bubble that acts like a magnifier glass, when the user taps the keyboard, the little bubble shows the which letter was the tap directed to. If the keyboard didn’t successfully detect the letter the user was trying to type, he or she can slide their finger until the desired letter is highlighted, at first this feature was not polished enough, so the team of researchers created a new version of the keyboard, called ZShift, which had improved zoom capabilities. When made available publicly, this new tiny keyboard will most likely be used by users in places where speaking out loud is not an option; and unless researchers find a way to make the keyboard’s input detection, a lot closer to being completely accurate, the user will be more frustrated when using the tiny keyboard than not.