Move Over, QWERTY, KALQ Keyboard Offers 34% Faster Thumb Typing

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By Vittorio Hernandez | April 19, 2013 11:17 AM EST

The QWERTY keyboard uses in mobile phones and computers was an adaptation from the typewriter, which assumes the use of the 10 digits on both left and right hands to type words and numbers.

It did not take into account people typing with just their thumbs, which was mostly used for the space bar on typewriters.

Researchers announced on Thursday a new design for touchscreen devices called KALQ which offers 34 per cent faster typing of text messages and tweets.

With the QWERTY keyboard, the average speed of touchscreen device use is about 20 words per minute. The faster speed from the KALQ keyboard comes from its split design that places all the vowels on the right side, made up of 12 keys, including the letters K, A, L, Q on the bottom row.

The left side has more keys at 16, divided into 4 columns and spread into 4 rows. It was designed based on the recognition of most frequently used letters, minimal repetitive use of one thumb and the realisation that people think ahead when typing.

Dr Antti Oulasvirta from the Max Planck Institute for Informatics and Dr Per Ola Kristensson from the University of Saint Andrews, the developers of the KALQ keyboard, said those who would shift to the new design would need about 20 to 30 hours of learning to acquire the faster typing speed using their thumbs only.

"The key to optimizing a keyboard for two thumbs is to minimize long sequences with a single thumb. We also want to place frequently used letters centrally close to each other. Experienced typists move their thumbs simultaneously. While one is typing, the other is approaching its next target. We derived a predictive model on this behaviour for the optimization method," DNA India quoted Mr Oulasvirta.

They said the new keyboard will be presented at the CHI 2013 conference in Paris on May 1, 2013 and would be available to Android smartphones at the start of the same month.

 Besides the KALQ keyboard, the company 8pen has two different keyboard designs discussed in this video.

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