The murmur of the snarkmatrix…

August § The Common Test / 2016-02-16 21:04:46
Robin § Unforgotten / 2016-01-08 21:19:16
MsFitNZ § Towards A Theory of Secondary Literacy / 2015-11-03 21:23:21
Jon Schultz § Bless the toolmakers / 2015-05-04 18:39:56
Jon Schultz § Bless the toolmakers / 2015-05-04 16:32:50
Matt § A leaky rocketship / 2014-11-05 01:49:12
Greg Linch § A leaky rocketship / 2014-11-04 18:05:52
Robin § A leaky rocketship / 2014-11-04 05:11:02
P. Renaud § A leaky rocketship / 2014-11-04 04:13:09
Bob Stepno § The structure of journalism today / 2014-03-10 18:42:32

QWERTY, your day has come

This just occurred to me, and I’m curious to know if you think it’s even halfway plausible. Let me walk you through my thought process:

  • The iPhone and the iPad both have software keyboards. The underlying assumption is that it’s gross and wasteful to dedicate all those atoms to this thing that you only use 10% of the time or less.
  • As a bonus, a software keyboard makes internationalization easier. Manufacturing is 100% the same; you just change the code.
  • I’ve gotten good at typing on the iPhone, and I expect I’ll adapt to the iPad, too… but something about that wide flat expanse, and the angle at which it sits—you’ll have to rest it on your lap to type, right?—does seem inherently fungly.
  • Wait a minute. It’s a software keyboard. And if you can load up a different language, couldn’t you load up a different keyboard entirely? A different way to type?
  • I’m not talking Dvorak. I’m talking something wacky like chording. I’m talking some serious Minority Report business here.
  • The failure of alternative typing scheme is well-chronicled. But doesn’t the iPad change the equation entirely? You could seamlessly experiment and fall back to a standard keyboard if you got too frustrated, or if you were in a hurry. Other users could switch over to a standard keyboard instead of being stuck with your chorded monster. You could even—this is the cool part—design a chorded keyboard that coached you along the way! The keyboard could be on your team.

Put all those things together, and you’ve finally got an environment where other typing systems could make inroads. I don’t know about you, but the elegance of the iPad’s interface make QWERTY typing seem especially clunky to me. Imagine, instead, a system that actually took advantage of the multi-touch screen. And imagine a system that put tons of intelligence in the keyboard itself.

So all Apple has to do is make the iPad keyboard a modular, customizable element. What do you think? What are the odds?


Great post, and an interesting proposition, however, I don’t know if the iPad will be the device that allows users to experiment with various input methodologies due to it’s locked down nature.

It seems inevitable that, with or without the push from the iPad, Android will be running on a tablet. Android users can already experiment with different SMS themes and the like, so why not keyboards. Users could pick and choose from a variety of community and ‘big business’ developed keyboards to find which one best suits their needs.

It will be an exciting time if this happens! I can’t wait to see what new inputs people come up with.

n.b. I’m not flaming the iPad. I’m an Apple fan boy through and through. I just see android as more of a ‘hackers’ playground for things like this.

Yep, you might be right!

Anton says…

The software keyboard is trivial to swap out on Android, I’ve got a range of text entry tools from gesture based, to ones that analyze how I use language and not only guess the word I’m typing, but a few ahead. Generally though, because I’ve got a hardware keyboard, I’ll swap to that and keep my screen real-estate.

Also, this is already true to some extent. I think both the iPhone and Android soft keyboards surface “.com” and “@” keys based on the context of the field you’re typing into.

Also, my understanding is that modern soft keyboards already use multitouch tech to allow you to start typing the next key before your finger has lifted off of the previous key.

I think this is brilliant, and it ties into an idea I’ve had, using the iPad as an input device for a regular computer. You could do it with a custom VNC setup, and have different modes for different programs, I’m thinking processor heavy things like photos, video editing– think of it as a palette. That alone is enough to entice me to buy one, even if I have to write the software myself.

Jake says…

Looks like Dasher, the pointer-based text-entry system, is on the iPhone at least. Probably needs to be adapted further for iPad, but it seems like the ideal platform for it.

Of course, we do still have that haptic feedback problem. Vibrating the whole phone just doesn’t cut it. I wonder if you could put some sort of matrix of controllable bumps under the screen? I remember the Star Trek TNG Technical Manual (*ahem* yes I read that) explained that the sleek TNG ship console UIs use force fields to provide haptic feedback (the same type of force fields used in the holodeck). I think we’ll have to settle for a more mechanical solution. 🙂

Seems at least Google have thought about some ergo placement for their initial keys, and as theirs will most likely be more open, this could happen there actually.

from The Age:


Zach Seward says…

Seems like it’s part of the app’s UI and not an actual modification to the iPhone keyboard, but Wolfram Alpha’s iPhone app just updated today with specialized keyboards.

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