Has the ideal input method been invented?


The evolution of technology is so rapid that the phenomena around us, which only yesterday seemed

fiction, quickly become at first no morethan novelties, then something familiar and ordinary, and then just boredom. We do not notice something, but something continues to attract attention even now. For me, one of these technologies that is always “evolving” past me is the keyboard in the smartphone. Like many, I went through all the stages of its development, from the physical object in the form of buttons to the current moment in the form of a completely virtual version. The perfect end result as it is. And, it would seem, the on-screen implementation of the keyboard should have removed all questions and fulfilled any whim of the most fastidious user, but, nevertheless, I missed the buttons of the on-screen keyboards, and I miss.

Somehow it so happened that when usingcell phone I always liked writing more than calling. That is why, ever since I owned the Nokia 1100, SMS have been the lion's share of spending within my communication budget. Later, when I got my first smartphone (then still a communicator) Toshiba G900, texts finally took first place among the ways to express my thoughts. Add here the flourishing of all sorts of ICQ, QIP, etc.

Image from PC-1 website

However, those who have ever owned a communicatoron Windows Mobile, they are unlikely to be able to praise him for his good work without a couple of dozen "crutches". Unfortunately, for the Toshiba G900, several of these crutches were used just to keep the keyboard working. In particular, the Russian layout. And at one fine moment, one of these crutches broke. It became not only completely impossible to use, but difficult. Since the native on-screen keyboard was very mediocre, I decided to install a third-party one and opted for the Resco Keyboard Pro. The downside of using the on-screen keyboard on the G900 resistive screen was the need to type BY PRESSING the screen rather than just TOUCHing it as we are used to now. Resco Keyboard, of course, offered skin options for working only with fingers (after all, the HTC HD2 had already appeared by that time), but the keys were too small, and when you pressed hard on the resistive screen, any letter was typed except for the desired one. However, a distinctive feature of this keyboard was that it allowed you to create your own skins. And just as I sat down to create my own keyboard theme, I saw the news that Toshiba was planning to release the next version of the K01 side slider.

Image from Akihabaranews website

The company acted in a very unusual way and chose the shape of a honeycomb as the shape of the smartphone keys (in fact, honeycombs are shaped like a hexagon).

I liked the design so much that I decided to implement it when creating a skin for the on-screen keyboard (in anticipation of the release of K01 and its subsequent purchase). No sooner said than done.


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An additional benefit of this design is thatthat by shifting the keys relative to each other, it was possible to reduce the height of the keyboard in landscape mode and fit more keys in portrait mode. But, of course, this is the main advantage:

The fact is that for your version of the keyboardit was necessary to create a kind of button location map with coordinates. At the same time, the button map could be attached to any image. This made it possible to reduce the active "clickable" square area and position it according to the above coordinates inside the drawn diamond-shaped buttons. And it turned out really well. When pressed even with force (on a resistive screen), the fingertip, although flattened, did not touch the neighboring buttons. As a result, I made a skin, but I never bought a new communicator from Toshiba. The company decided that the design was too bold, and released this instead of the announced smartphone:

Image from CNET website

We continued the crusade against offensive typos at Lenovo. Their patent US10126940B2 is obtained for a similar approach to diamond-shaped buttons:

In addition, Lenovo decided to implement more andthe function of adaptive “clickable” zones for different sizes of fingers. And the fact that the company filed this application much later than I drew my “creation” confirms that the problem with accurately hitting the right buttons has not gone away even with the entry of smartphones into the era of capacitive screens, and that this problem haunts not only me.

With the imperceptible passage of time and systematic, fromyear after year, 2017 came with a change of smartphones, and the Samsung Galaxy S8 came out. And then I, who had already lost hope for error-free text input on a full-fledged flagship, and not on some geeky qwerty-exclusive, saw the light at the end of the tunnel. It was patent EP3118712A1:

This is a cover for the Galaxy S8 with an additional keyboard, which, when not needed, is fixed on the back surface of the smartphone cover, and, if necessary, moves to the screen:

No battery.The device worked on the principle of pressing the buttons on the virtual keyboard. By the way, this is one of the fundamental principles of the Theory of Inventive Problem Solving (TRIZ). When functionality is added, but existing resources are used. In this case, already available energy resources are used in the form of a built-in smartphone battery and software resources in the form of an on-screen keyboard.

The product according to the patent looked like this:

Image from Neowin website

And although I'm not a fan of cases, this one not only looked great, but also expanded the functionality of the device, leveling the user (me) curvature factor.

Image from Neowin website

Unfortunately, the popularity of such a case is notearned. The problem being solved, apparently, turned out to be not so large-scale. This indirectly confirms the fact that a similar thing for the iPad, having collected much more than the required amount, in the end did not take off. For me, this meant the need to again look for an alternative keyboard or, recognizing the correctness of my wife, switch to SWYPE.

I think, in one form or another, a similar functionare now in many keyboards, and despite the fact that Swype inc. is the name of a company that has patented a way to enter text without taking your finger or stylus off the screen, in relation to the method the name has become the same household name as Xerox in relation to copiers. Now the Swype keyboard is no more, but we remember it from this slide:

Image from TechSpot

I did not last long on this option.There were two reasons for this. Firstly, I too often sent the wrong words that I had in mind, due to the presence of several options for the search word. In the picture above, a line with word options is located above the upper letter row. And, secondly, while typing with one hand and sliding my thumb across the screen, I managed to drop my smartphone several times when the screen was not slippery enough and my finger stuck on it for a moment during the slide. Further, the curve brought me to another keyboard with gesture control. Only, unlike SWYPE, it was based on short gestures. I didn’t manage to find exactly the one that I used, but a similar method is implemented in the modern Hlider keyboard. Inside each of the enlarged buttons there are several letters and symbols that must be typed by clicking in the center of the button and swiping from the center. The development, by the way, is domestic:

Image from Hlider website

I downloaded, installed, but something is a bit complicated. Although they promise a high typing speed with a small number of typos. Time will come - I will study.


Vladimir Nimin

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Another difficulty in choosing a keyboard is thatoften a smartphone replaces a computer for me in terms of typing and working with documents, and special characters, for example, are critically important to me. Some from the stock keyboard can not be installed. It would not hurt to adjust the layout to fit your ideas about beauty. Paradoxically, I didn’t see the features that were in Resco Keyboard for Windows Mobile in keyboards for Android (maybe I didn’t search well). I'm not a programmer, tell me, is it difficult for an android keyboard to make such a constructor as in the figure below?

However, the problem with erroneous clicks should be resolved soon. Since Google took it up by filing a patent application US20220261135A1:

In which, taking the standard keyboard as a basis, the developers analyzed the touches of the virtual buttons with the fingers and got the following picture:

Next, they evaluated the offset of touches when pressing each of the keys while typing:

And found that, in accordance with the receiveddata, in some cases, when entering text, it is necessary to make the touch-sensitive part of individual buttons shifted relative to their illustratively delineated boundaries. Here's a variant of the offset touch zone for spacebar:

Thus, the keyboard can not onlyremember the most frequently used words (as she already knows now) and suggest them in advance, but it will also help you type more accurately by shifting the invisible touch zone of the buttons for each user. Very convenient, in my opinion. In the meantime, the application is being brought to life, I will continue to type in the old fashioned way on the 1C Big Keyboard (this is not an advertisement, it’s really convenient for me), where I managed to add Christmas tree quotes, an em dash, “Copy” and calling the cursor keys:

If we turn to invention andideal end result, then in terms of entering information, voice with recognition in text is much more technologically advanced. However, there are several complaints about this method. In particular, it is inappropriate to respond with a voice message when you are surrounded by people - this is the time. And the text version of the interaction is much more businesslike and balanced - these are two. I myself noticed that, sometimes by writing a response to some highly inappropriate corporate request, it was possible to defuse the situation with a simple letter. While a return call, I'm sure, would have been much less kind and reserved. And people around have some kind of hellish dislike for voice messages.

I paid attention to text input because it,unlike smartphones, which are already preparing a flexible revolution for us in the coming years, in general, it remains untouched in terms of development, and those alternative options that appear turn out to be unsuitable for one reason or another. And at first glance, it may seem ironic that a more advanced technology with no mechanical elements won, despite the obvious loss in the quality and speed of typing. However, it is also noteworthy that this advanced technology has never replaced mechanical keys in laptops.

Could it be that manufacturers deliberately do notpay due attention to text input from a smartphone because of the belief in its “toy” purpose? Or is there no problem with entering text, and errors and typos are the problems of a few of us? By the way, what about text input? Maybe you know some on-screen keyboard, which is right up there? Or are you using some super handy Bluetooth keyboard? Share your typing hacks.

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