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Cellphones Handhelds Input Devices

8pen Reinvents the Keyboard For Mobile Devices 214

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the good-luck-with-that dept.
An anonymous reader submitted linkage to a company called 8pen that has a new take on one-handed input. I've attached the video if you click the link below, but it's a strange idea using outward spreading swipes that somewhat mimics handwriting. It ships for Android tomorrow, but even if you don't want to try it out, it's an interesting idea for anyone who is tired of finger tapping on a tiny screen.

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8pen Reinvents the Keyboard For Mobile Devices

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  • Learning curve? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by acnicklas (1740146) on Monday November 01, 2010 @11:22AM (#34089642)
    My parent's generation is still trying to figure out 3-3-3 for F, despite having an alpha-numeric keypad since the days of rotary phones. How are they supposed to learn this?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Wiarumas (919682)
      Forget the parents - I'm thinking to myself, how long is it going to take ME to learn this to the point where it is competitively fast as chicken pecking a QWERTY.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by brainboyz (114458)

        I think when compared to the size of the keyboard when in vertical screen mode, it might be quick. May not be competitive with the horizontal layout for a while, but won't be hard to beat vertical.

        • I agree, my baseball bat sized fingertips are unable to use the on-screen keyboard in vertical mode.

    • How are they supposed to learn this?

      When their interest level is high enough it'll come quick enough.

  • More keyboards (Score:2, Insightful)

    by muppetman462 (867367)
    All these different types of keyboards for the android devices are making my head spin. Next it will be brain waves to text! I'll stick with SwipeIT, thank you very much....
    • by Chrisq (894406) on Monday November 01, 2010 @11:41AM (#34089960)

      All these different types of keyboards for the android devices are making my head spin. Next it will be brain waves to text! I'll stick with SwipeIT, thank you very much....

      I think that I hope my boss doesn't see me posting on slashdot brain waves wow that girl from HR walked by, look at her tits to text is the Jesus how much coffee did that moron bob put in this cup? way of the future What else should i write. Uhm ... I guess thats it

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by poetmatt (793785)

      while swype is nice, I think this (8pen) reflects on the fact that the original qwerty keyboard isn't necessarily the best layout in town or the worst, and that maybe it's time people start looking into full on alternatives.

      I'm not saying Dvorak, but since we can rearrange keys by choice, maybe it's time people look for something that might work better.

      • by toleraen (831634)
        I'm not opposed to new input layouts, I've tried several for smartphones over the years, but this doesn't seem to be that alternative for me. The amount of gesturing required for a single letter is ridiculous, especially compared to something like swype. It may be more accurate, but looks extremely time consuming. Maybe a combination of swype and T9 (or whatever recognition (not keyboard layout) blackberries use for their Pearl style keyboards) would work better?
  • Future steps (Score:4, Insightful)

    by BRSloth (578824) <julio@@@juliobiason...net> on Monday November 01, 2010 @11:27AM (#34089704) Homepage Journal

    You know, you could add a pen to the device, so you don't have to deal with, say, something that makes it hard to swipe your finger across the screen and reduce the grease in the screen.

    Then, after that, you could make the movements more like handwritting, since people are used to that.

    Then, maybe, to help people write things faster, put split areas for letters and numbers.

    You know, I think I saw that somewhere else before....

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by shadowrat (1069614)
      Graffiti was great. I still think it was the best input system for screen based devices. Once you learned it, i think speed an accuracy were far superior to todays soft keyboards and natural handwriting recognition. The palms also had this fun game to help you learn it. After a couple days of playing that game where letters fell down the screen, i was a pro.

      I was going to post about how graffiti was the best ever and 8pen probably sucks, but after watching the video, i think i'm kind of intrigued by it.
  • Interesting (Score:5, Interesting)

    by stoolpigeon (454276) * <bittercode@gmail> on Monday November 01, 2010 @11:28AM (#34089712) Homepage Journal

    Reminds me a bit of Swype [swypeinc.com] though watching the video, it seems like it would be slower than Swype.

    I'll probably try it out though. My anticipation is that I would need to learn the positions of all the letters to know how many sectors to cover for each. Counting them on the fly would really slow it down. And then there would be those words I'd hate because they involved lots of swirls. Like how we hated people with 9s in their phone numbers during the days of rotary phones.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by ozgood (873183)
      For anybody that hasn't tried swype, give it a shot. Very quick input. The tutorial takes 2 minutes and you'll be an expert in half a day. I love it.
    • Reminds me more of Quikwriting, actually...
      http://slashdot.org/hardware/99/04/29/1734246.shtml [slashdot.org] ...yup, 11 years old. Ken Perlin dabbled with input methods for a while there...
      http://cs.nyu.edu/~perlin/ [nyu.edu]

      • by K8Fan (37875)

        That's what I immediately thought of.

        Personally, I thought Quickwriting could adapt very easily to a IBM trackpoint type device [wikipedia.org] (what one lesbian friend dubbed the "clit mouse") to allow text input via a device small enough to fit on the end of a device the size of a pen.

    • Based on the video this is the same idea as QuickWriting that I played around with on my PalmPilot a number of years ago. See: http://mrl.nyu.edu/projects/quikwriting/ [nyu.edu] The Quikwriting site says it has a patent on the method. So are we in for another litigation in the handheld area? Or is this the same technology under a different name?
    • by Bigjeff5 (1143585)

      Swype is awesome, I'm faster with one finger in portrait mode than I ever was with two in landscape mode.

      All I gotta say.

    • Re:Interesting (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Asmor (775910) on Monday November 01, 2010 @01:29PM (#34091656) Homepage

      The issue with swype is that, no matter how good you get at it, you still have to pay attention to the screen.

      With this, you could type without looking at the screen, finally allowing smartphone owners to text and drive as efficiently as the luddites with their old-school keypads. ;)

    • by Compaqt (1758360)

      Anybody know if Swype is only for Nokia phones?

  • Useless (Score:4, Informative)

    by eln (21727) on Monday November 01, 2010 @11:28AM (#34089718) Homepage
    Those of us who have been on the Internet since puberty have already mastered the art of one-handed input with a standard keyboard and mouse. With the proper motivation we can easily adapt this skill to a regular on-screen keyboard.
    • by 517714 (762276)

      Those of us who have been on the Internet since puberty have already mastered the art of one-handed input with a standard keyboard and mouse. With the proper motivation we can easily adapt this skill to a regular on-screen keyboard.

      Mobile devices by their very nature tend to be used in public areas. Your "motivation" is unlikely to be considered acceptable behavior.

  • The process assumes that a keyboard is less handy than a touch-rotate-touch-release. In short, this is doomed to fail because I must memorize things. It's probably easier for us to all learn Morse, and just have a deet da dee deet festival.
    • by OzPeter (195038)

      The process assumes that a keyboard is less handy than a touch-rotate-touch-release. In short, this is doomed to fail because I must memorize things. It's probably easier for us to all learn Morse, and just have a deet da dee deet festival.

      Nah, I think its more along the lines of a Carlos Mencia "Deet de Dee"

    • But (full-sized) keyboards are only fast once you've memorized the layout and don't have to hunt down specific keys...
      until you reach that point, you're down to hunting letters every time, with either system.
      • by drumcat (1659893)
        Yes, but I have 10 fingers to do that with. Sometimes 26 letters each need a "button", touch or otherwise. There will be no "intermediate" input layout. We will go from qwerty to voice. All the rest is just .wma
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          We will go from qwerty to voice.

          Hell if I'm going to be composing my text messages by voice in public; at that point, I would just.... you know... give the person a fucking call.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Why would you have to memorize anything? In the video they have a very cool animation where the letters are magnified as the finger moves. Presumably the same kind of interface could be (or has been) developed to aid in memorizing the gestures. I absolutely cannot stand virtual touch keyboards on mobile devices--this on the other hand would actually make me consider a touch-screen device. (I currently have a e71x with a tiny little physical qwerty keyboard that I can almost tolerate.)

    • t's probably easier for us to all learn Morse, and just have a deet da dee deet festival.

      An L festival?

    • "In short, this is doomed to fail because I must memorize things. "

      I agree. It is common knowledge that we are all born with an innate understanding of the location of the keys on a QWERTY keyboard. If we had to memorize things it would have never taken off!

    • by Fumus (1258966)

      It's probably easier for us to all learn Morse, and just have a deet da dee deet festival.

      While quickly tapping with your thumb could lead to strained muscles, I think it would be the perfect solution for voice input!

      No more complex voice recognition algorithms. Just ask the user to say "dee" and "daa" so that the phone knows what's a dot and what's a line and off you go. You'd sound like a total nerd, but I'm sure it would have better accuracy than current voice recognition :P

  • Wrong adjective. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by ArAgost (853804)
    “Intuitive”? Looks like a nightmare to learn.
  • Is it a big coincidence, or is there someone at 8pen who's a Neo-Geo [gstatic.com] fan?

    • by CAIMLAS (41445)

      Take a look at the Android logo. Look at the Chrome logo. Look at the Simon Says logo.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Yvan256 (722131)

        The Android logo is a green robot...

        The Chrome logo looks like Samus in morph ball mode.

        Simon says blue-blue-red-green-yellow-green-yellow-blue-red.

      • by Yvan256 (722131)

        Simon games are red, blue, yellow, green. Not the same order.

      • by Bigjeff5 (1143585)

        Perhaps you should try it first - you know, so you don't look like an idiot so much.

  • by jdgeorge (18767)

    One-handed input without an appropriate name? I'm sticking with my Twiddler [handykey.com].

  • Using almost letter like gestures to type in text.
  • Palm recognition (Score:4, Insightful)

    by CAIMLAS (41445) on Monday November 01, 2010 @11:38AM (#34089896) Homepage

    This seems like a bit of an awkward kludge - capacitive touchscreens are evidently not terribly well suited to such precise inputs.

    It's been about 10 years since I've regularly used a Palm Pilot. Handwriting recognition on those devices Worked. I could get quite consistent input, at roughly the same speed as I could writing by hand.

    To this day, my written "T" still looks like a "7" on occasion. It felt quite natural and, as far as I know, no handwriting mechanism has come close to rivaling it for effectiveness/consistency.

    Do the WebOS devices still have this capability?

    • by Tharsman (1364603)
      Even in the tiny keyboards, I always found writing by hand is extremely slower than typing. Mini-keyboards (touch or physical) for cellphones and PDA will still be the best option until someone comes up with a mental link that will recognize thought words, because let's face it, you don't want to be dictating text messages to your wife in a meeting.
  • Instead of hitting the right spot, you have to "draw" something around those sectors. But drawing letters requires a not so different effort (if you want, old palm simplification of letters instead of "correct" ones) and this seem to have a steep learning curve. Still prefer my old N900 keyboard, if you can write complex shell commands and regular expressions with it, it must be good.
    • by hitmark (640295)

      I suspect one benefit of this is the ability to input text using only a thumb, much like one can on a numpad.

  • This seems like a really complex solution to a simple problem. It seems to me the premise for this is it's hard to type on a touch screen with your fingers. If only we could decrease the area of contact with the phone. Maybe a short, thin, plastic rod you could use to tap the screen...
  • just watched the video. even if i memorized every gesture (quite a feat mind you) how could making a gesture be faster than one single press, which is what i have today?

    the only possibly advantage is success rate. for an on screen keyboard my success rate varies between 80-60%. depending on how tired i am and how much attention i'm paying. could this do better? it seems possible since you only need to move your finger from the center to 2 of the four large sections ... that are much larger than a key on an

  • by slasho81 (455509)
    There's too much hassle in learning the system and becoming proficient in it. I use Swype [youtube.com] which is phenomenal - it's fast and hardly requires any learning if you know the qwerty keyboard.
    • by dubbreak (623656)

      There's too much hassle in learning the system and becoming proficient in it. I use Swype [youtube.com] which is phenomenal - it's fast and hardly requires any learning if you know the qwerty keyboard.

      The trade off is a steeper learning curve for a system that doesn't require direct attention to use. With swipe you must look at the keyboard. The theory with 8pen is that once you are proficient you can do it without looking at the screen (much like touch typing).

      Imagine this scenario: you are chatting with someone and also typing on your phone at the same time. Contrived but I do that on my computer when someone comes into my office (finish what I was typing while talking to them). With 8pen you should

      • by nschubach (922175)

        Finally, I can text while driving! /sigh

      • by slasho81 (455509)
        I agree 8pen is a superior input method. However, I assert it won't catch on due to the difficult transition from the familiar methods which are not ideal but are still pragmatic enough.
  • The speech recognition on my G2 is fannn-tastic. faster than i can peck out with the hardware keyboard. People look at you funny(er) at first, and it won't work well in a noisy environment, but definitely my preferred method of entry when possible.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    It uses the same kind of gestures but with a different layout.

    http://www.google.nl/search?hl=&q=quikwriting

  • This reminds me of the input method used on the Palm: Graffiti. With Graffiti, you had to learn how the Palm expected you to write the letters. Most was just uppercase versions of the letters, but some were quite different. It took a while to learn.

    It's easy enough to learn, but there was a case reported of someone saying that handwriting of those people using Graffiti was suffering. Sometimes they'd write a Graffiti version of the letter they were writing, or somewhere between the letter and the graffiti v

  • If someone comes up with a device that uses something like this - but with the input at the back of the device - I'm sold. Just make some dints and bumps so that my finger knows where it is.

  • Absolutely... an efficient one-handed input system. That'll be absolutely perfect for surfing porn^H^H^H^H^H^H reading Wikipedia articles...

  • by MCRocker (461060) * on Monday November 01, 2010 @01:49PM (#34091908) Homepage

    Why not just use Graffiti. I think it would be much easier to learn and provides visual feedback. It's also now available for Android platforms [access-company.com].

    Although very cool at the time, the original Apple Newton handwriting recognition recognition was somewhat weak and suffered from too much emphasis on predictive dictionary lookup. So much so that even a perfectly formed "falafel" always resulted in "father" until falafel was added to the dictionary. The solution was Graffiti. Later Newtons had much better handwriting recognition and Graffiti was no longer needed, but the Palm Pilot, a Newton competitor, adopted Graffiti and was, thus able to run on much cheaper hardware and take over the PDA market. After many years, legal wrangling [engadget.com] put the ownership of Graffiti in the hands of Access, which has made it available for Android.

  • The usage demonstration in the video reminded me of an old rotary telephone. It seems very slow and awkward to use.
  • Really, this makes me think of chorded keyboards like the Twiddler. Sure I could learn it eventually, but I think it'd still be slower than Swype or even than hunt & peck on a reasonably-sized on-screen keyboard. The main thing I think this is addressing is inaccuracy in hitting keys on an on-screen keyboard, and it's doing it in what feels to me like a very Rube Goldberg-esque manner.

    Hell, I'm not even programming for Android and I think I could reimplement Graffiti faster than I could get comfortable
  • While keyboard has its problems, this thing is so foreign that it makes the learning curve too steep to even consider by a busy person.

    On the other hand, Palm's Graffiti system is simple and effective. Back in the day, I was using graffiti quickly and easily. It should be used here as well.

    Further, what about foreign entry? Not so sure their "commonly used characters" notion works as well when used in a non-English scenario. So while keyboard style entry is not the most appropriate method for mobile dev

  • If it gets close or even hits the speed of handwriting, that's nice. But we type, in part, because typing is faster than hand-writing.

    This is not going to be as fast as a keyboard.

  • i thought that keyboards where around long before the age of computers...

  • First off, this looks like a nightmare to learn... Why do" hunt and peck" typists type so slow? It's not the "peck" part... Completely rearranging a keyboard is a sure way to give yourself a 100 meter sheer cliff of a learning curve... If you've used a keyboard frequently for a couple years, qwerty is so hard coded in your muscle memory that switching to a simple alphabetical layout is painful. I say this as a dual dvorak/qwerty typist, who has extensively used (not just toyed with) a great many small-

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