Researchers design new tiny QWERTY soft keyboards for wearable devices

May 5, 2015, Asociacion RUVID

There is a growing number of wearable devices featuring touchscreens, including smart watches, smart glasses and digital jewellery. These devices can receive notifications in many forms, but usually there is no direct way of replying, since they lack a text entry system, mainly because the space available onscreen is very limited. Now, a team of researchers from the Universitat Politècnica de València and the University of Stuttgart have developed two tiny QWERTY soft keyboard prototypes, which enable users to answer or enter text on their wearable devices.

"QWERTY keyboards, despite their limitations, have the fundamental advantage that users are already familiarized with the layout and the text entry technique is very easy to understand," says Luis Leiva from the Pattern Recognition and Human Language Technology research centre at the Universitat Politècnica de València.

In their study, Spanish and German researchers have designed and assessed two QWERTY-based soft keyboards for different screen sizes, between 16 and 32 mm.

The first prototype, named Callout, is inspired by the soft keyboards used on current smartphones. When the user touches a key, a callout showing the character that is about to be entered is created in a non-occluded location (the upper part of the screen). The user can refine the key selection by slightly moving their finger on the keyboard, and then enter the character by lifting up their finger. The second prototype, named ZShift, improves the Callout design by enhancing the callout area with one level of zoom of the occluded area, also providing visual feedback of the key touched.

In addition, for easy texting, the researchers tested different mechanisms to autocorrect typing errors on the go. "Given their simplicity, these error correction mechanisms can be easily incorporated into current wearables, thus making them more independent devices," states Leiva.

The researchers compared their prototypes with ZoomBoard, another tiny QWERTY soft keyboard developed by Carnegie Mellon University. "It works really well for extremely small, coin-sized screens. However, if we slightly increase the screen size, just a few millimetres do make a difference, and the text entry technique becomes a bit frustrating and inefficient. Our prototypes are aimed at solving these issues," say the researchers.

Explore further: Write timing: ZoomBoard works for smartwatch text entry (w/ video)

Related Stories

Alternative input methods for smart phones

March 28, 2014

Alternative input methods for smart phones, such as Swype and SwiftKey, offer substantial benefits to users and are comparable with common typing speeds found on computer keyboards, according to a report published by researchers ...

Text in on smarter phones

May 22, 2013

Alternative input methods for smart phones, such as Swype and SwiftKey, offer substantial benefits to users and are comparable with common typing speeds found on computer keyboards, according to a report published by researchers ...

Google rolls its own keyboard app for Android 4.0 and up

June 6, 2013

( —Google Maps, Google Drive, Google This, Google That….But there is always room for one more new arrival from Google, and now it is in the form of an app called Google Keyboard. Available at the Google Play ...

Georgia Tech develops braille-like texting app (w/ video)

February 17, 2012

Imagine if smartphone and tablet users could text a note under the table during a meeting without anyone being the wiser. Mobile gadget users might also be enabled to text while walking, watching TV or socializing without ...

Recommended for you

Printing microelectrode array sensors on gummi candy

June 22, 2018

Microelectrodes can be used for direct measurement of electrical signals in the brain or heart. These applications require soft materials, however. With existing methods, attaching electrodes to such materials poses significant ...

EU copyright law passes key hurdle

June 20, 2018

A highly disputed European copyright law that could force online platforms such as Google and Facebook to pay for links to news content passed a key hurdle in the European Parliament on Wednesday.

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

not rated yet May 05, 2015
You are still forcing people to look at something. AR is nearly here. I would rather figure out how to use my tongue to be my primary input method.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.