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Soon, touchscreens to `learn` your habits for faster and error-free typing

Last Updated: Wednesday, June 6, 2012 - 13:22


London: Researchers including one of Indian origin, have suggested that keyboards that adjust to individual typing styles could ease the frustration and reduce the mistakes one makes as they walk and type on their touchscreens.

Lack of physical feedback makes touchscreen keyboards difficult to use. All parts of the screen feel the same, so it is easy to miss a key, New Scientist reported.

However, they do have an advantage over conventional keyboards as the layout can be adapted to suit different typing styles.

For the study, Leah Findlater at the University of Maryland in College Park and Jacob Wobbrock at the University of Washington in Seattle asked 12 people to type a series of phrases on a screen-based keyboard that logged the position of each tap.

This data highlighted the peculiarity in style that can lead to errors like a user might hit the bottom of a key rather than the centre, making it easy to strike the key below by mistake.

Once the system had identified these peculiarities, it adjusted the layout of the keyboard in an effort to reduce errors.

If a user regularly hit the bottom of a key, its position might be lowered, or the space bar might be enlarged to make it easier to strike with either thumb.

Personalising keyboards had a significant impact – users typed 15 percent faster after three sessions with the adjusted keyboards, however there was no change in accuracy.

A similar approach can help reduce the errors that crop up when typing and walking.

In a second experiment, in conjunction with Wobbrock’s colleague Mayank Goel, the team asked 16 people to type on an iPhone whilst walking.

Readings from the phone’s accelerometer were logged and compared to typing errors, which uncovered the source of some mistakes.

When a person’s foot strikes the ground, for example, their taps tend to shift towards the centre of the keyboard.

The team used the data from the experiments to design an iPhone keyboard that tracks accelerometer data and tap position and corrects those taps it thinks were made in error.

Tests showed that the software, known as WalkType, improved typing speed by 13 percent as compared with a regular iPhone keyboard and error rates fell from 10 percent to 6 percent.

The findings of both the studies were presented at the Conference in Human Factors in Computing Systems, held last month in Austin, Texas.


First Published: Wednesday, June 6, 2012 - 13:18
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