We’ve all done it – in a rush, on the move or under the influence of a small sherry or two, we’ve bashed out a text message to someone, paying scant regard to what the predictive text is translating our words to, and only stopped to read through after send has been pressed. Most of the time the only real result of such a misfingering is slight confusion on the part of the recipient, but sometimes, sometimes, those auto-corrected words can be seen as a slight, a slight that leads to irreparable damage and, ultimately, atomic annihilation at the hands of a neighbouring nation.
The problem is often that the small size of keys on a smartphone’s virtual keyboard married to the increasing chubbiness of the average human digit results in a ‘mashing’ of QWERTY keys, with seemingly no solution… until now!
This is KALQ, an Android-only alternative to QWERTY confusion created by researchers at the University of St Andrews, the Max Planck Institute for Informatics and Montana Tech, which allows far faster thumb-typing for phones and an incredible increase of up to 34% faster for tablets. Devised using a combination of computational optimisation techniques and a model of thumb movement, millions of potential layouts were searched before the unified institutes identified the one that allowed for more efficient thumb bashing, and KALQ was born.
“The legacy of QWERTY has trapped users with suboptimal text entry interfaces on mobile devices,” said Dr Per Ola Kristensson, Lecturer in Human Computer Interaction in the School of Computer Science at the University of St Andrews and convoluted word-user. “However, before abandoning QWERTY, users rightfully demand a compelling alternative. We believe KALQ provides a large enough performance improvement to incentivise users to switch and benefit from faster and more comfortable typing.”
Apparently, Captain Average using QWERTY on a touch-screen is limited to typing at a rate of around 20 words per minute, but by rearranging the keys on the keyboard layout to KALQ it’s possible to enable faster thumb typing, upping the ante to 37 words per minute – the highest ever reported entry rate for two-thumb typing on touchscreen devices!
The researchers are to present their work at the CHI 2013 conference (the ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems) in Paris on May 1st, with KALQ becoming available as a free Android app shortly afterwards, ensuring we all end up saying what we mean and leading to far fewer cases of Armageddon-inspiring autocorrected confusion; which has got to be a good thing.