UIfMD: Topic for prototype

Toke Eskildsen

YA Singlehanded Input Device

The situation

The use of mobile devices is growing fast. A lot of this technology centers around communication between people. Such communication requires some sort of input device on the mobile device. The widespread use of SMS on cellular phones has shown that the age of text-messaging doesn't end just because it's possible to use voice. On a similar note, wearable computers, PDA-emailing and other devices all requires the user to input text.

Currently there's many different ways of entering such text. Some of these are...

[Logitech WebWheel] On the desktop-scene another idea is beginning to get hold: Directional naviation (wheeling) using the mouse. The user activates the navigation-mode and pulls the mouse in a direction. It can be single-level like the Logitech WebWheel or multi-level as used in several games (screenshot pending).

Directional navigation is very intuitive to use but isn't necessarily very efficient when using speed as measurement.

The idea

The widespread use of SMS'ing despite the awkward way of inputting text suggests that a large group of users will tolerate new ways of inputting text if the potential benefit is big enough.

The idea is to combine a chord-based with directional navigation in the hope that it'll be the best of two worlds. By using the wheel as a visual guidance for the chord-keyboard, the input-method can be used without having to memorize all the possibilities.

An optimal chord-keyboard uses all possible combinations. This isn't possible when combined with the wheel-idea, since a visual presentation of all possibilities would take up too much space and be overwhelmind. Thus a compromise is needed: Typing a letter might take 2 or even three chords.

That's still an improvement over the cellular phones ot the Twiddler-approach since

The users of such a product would be owners of mobile communication devices requiring text-input who are villing to try and learn a trick. in return they'll (hopefefully) get more efficient typing with less physical stress.

The idea requires hardware with buttons and a screen. The buttons represent no big problems - except for the difference between left- and right-handers - but the screen is worse. Many people, if not all, like to look at the screen to see what they type. At the same time there has to be space for the wheel to provide the visual clues. Larger screens and intelligent positioning of the wheel might help here. Some sort of overlay using transparency might also usable.