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. The widespread use of SMS on cellular phones has shown that the age of text-input doesn't end just because it's possible to communicate by voice.

Currently there's many different ways of entering text, each with their strengths and weaknesses. Some of these are voice-recognition, handwirting-recognition, pen-based input, tiny keyboards (Twiddler), reduced-keys-keyboards (cellular phones) ond probably many more.


The project

This project centers about entering text on a mobile device using chord-based buttons coupled with visual "reminding". The visual reminding should provide a mapping between choises and the physical location of the buttons. The reminding serves as a learning-tool for novices and a reminder for experts. It should be possible to enter text without looking at the visual feedback at any time.

An optimal chord-keyboard uses all possible combinations. This isn't possible when combined with reminding, 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 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.

The prototype

Depending on my luck with a soldering iron, the prototype can take many forms:

  1. A Palm-pilot with switches taped on the side, using the Palm-screen to show the reminder.
  2. A plastic (or rather: bakeable play-doh) model with the buttons and a parallel-cable attached to a computer.
  3. A plastic mock-up without usable buttons demonstrating the physical aspect, coupled with a computerprogram that responds to the keys from a normal qwerty-keyboard.

I hope for option 1.