Researchers have created QWERTY soft keyboards to incorporate in to wearable technology devices

QWERTY soft keyboard miniaturised for wearable devices

Spanish and German researchers have developed two tiny QWERTY soft keyboard prototypes, which enable users to manually input text on their wearable devices.

In the study, researchers at the Universitat Politècnica de València and the University of Stuttgart designed and assessed two QWERTY-based soft keyboards for different screen sizes, ranging between 16 and 32 mm.

The first prototype, named Callout, was inspired by the soft keyboards used on current smartphones. When the user touches a key, a callout showing the character that is about to be entered is created in a non-occluded location in the upper part of the screen. The user can refine the key to be entered by slightly moving their finger on the keyboard and then enter the character by lifting up their finger.

The second prototype, named ZShift, improves the Callout design by enhancing the callout area with one level of zoom of the occluded area, also providing visual feedback of the key being touched.

“QWERTY keyboards, despite their limitations, have the fundamental advantage that users are already familiarized with the layout and the text entry technique is very easy to understand”, said Luis Leiva, from the Pattern Recognition and Human Language Technology research centre at the Universitat Politècnica de València.

To assist with texting, the researchers tested different mechanisms to autocorrect typing errors as they occur. “Given their simplicity, these error-correction mechanisms can be easily incorporated into current wearables, thus making them more independent devices”, Leiva said.

The researchers compared their prototypes with ZoomBoard, another tiny QWERTY soft keyboard developed by Carnegie Mellon University. “It works really well for extremely small, coin-sized screens. However, if we slightly increase the screen size, just a few millimetres do make a difference and the text-entry technique becomes a bit frustrating and inefficient. Our prototypes are aimed at solving these issues”, Leiva explained.

The Spanish and German researchers presented their prototypes in the ACM conference on Human Factors in Computer Systems (CHI 2015), held in April 2015 in Seoul, Korea.

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