Tilt gesture keyboard might maintain promise for typing in VR

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Keyboard nerds like me might develop into a dying breed if the voice-controlled future accelerates at us fairly as rapidly as firms like Alexa-owning Amazon hope. However within the interim, with screens nonetheless loitering within the orbits of our fingertips, texting stays the performed factor (properly, not counting youngsters preferring recording voice messages to ship to every others’ messaging apps — I do know, I do know, path of least resistance and all that…).

In the meantime, there are extra sorts and rising numbers of computing units in play than ever earlier than, from wearables to VR headsets, so interface researchers are discovering further causes to optimize keyboard-based usability kinks.

To wit: a group of researchers, led by postgraduate pupil Hui-Shyong Yeo on the College of St Andrews, has provide you with a tilt-based typing approach designed — at first look — to be another for customers of bigger smartphones (phablets) or tablets; to allow one-handed typing, i.e. when your palm received’t simply stretch throughout the complete span of glass. And lots of a cracked smartphone display screen can absolutely be blamed on an unlucky typing accident.

The researchers have known as their tilt-based entry keyboard SWiM for brief: aka ‘Shape Writing in Motion’. The core textual content entry approach is akin to gesture-based keyboards like Swype, the place customers use fingers to hint patterns over the keys to spell out phrases. (Certainly, they utilized Swype’s interface for this portion of the tech.) However the twist is SWiM customers tilt the gadget with their dominant wrist to kind the shades wanted to kind the phrases. So no finger-dragging obligatory, just a bit wrist dexterity.

“The dominant hand typically exhibits finer temporal and spatial resolutions,” they write in a analysis paper detailing the research, which additionally specifies that their approach solely depends on pitch and roll for textual content enter, as “the dexterity of yaw using one’s hand is very limited”.

“Our tilt-based technique allows one-handed text entry and also lends itself as a suitable text entry method for remote controllers, wearable devices, and for virtual reality text entry, where users cannot see the keyboard input device,” they add.

The researchers discovered that first time customers who examined the tilt-based enter system as a part of the research have been in a position to obtain a price of 15 phrases per minute after “minimal practice”, and a price of 32 wpm after round 90 minutes of observe.

To start and finish phrases utilizing the lean methodology — which makes use of accelerometer/gyroscope tech embedded into trendy mobiles — the researchers got here up with an extra on-screen button they name the “chat head”. It is a semi translucent bubble-like object that may be user-positioned on the display screen. To sort utilizing SWiM the person faucets on the chat head to start out forming a phrase through tilting a pointer ball over the keys, earlier than tapping a second time on the chat head to finish a phrase (which additionally inserts an area).

The chat head additionally helps gestures equivalent to a left or proper swipe which can be utilized for different gesture-based features — equivalent to deleting a phrase from the strategies bar above the keyboard. Phrases can be chosen from the strategies bar through tilting the pointer to a steered phrase and quick clicking on the chat head.

Within the paper, the researchers describe SWiM as “fast and easy to learn compared to many existing single-handed text entry techniques”. The research concerned a small variety of individuals conducting a transcription and a composition activity utilizing the approach (and likewise evaluating their enter to their commonplace typing and commonplace form writing).

The research additionally checked out efficiency enchancment over time through a longitudinal pilot with one participant who took half in six separate typing classes — their SWiM entry price rose from 15.60wpm in the course of the first session to 32.18wpm by the sixth; an enchancment price of 106.three per cent; additionally a a lot bigger acquire on the finish of all of the classes than for regular typing (22.eight%) and regular form writing (29.5%).

Tilt as an enter methodology for typing has been thought of earlier than — not least as a spoof choice by SwiftKey for a 2013 April Fools joke — however experiments have but to show into any prolonged business rollouts. But as computing shifts into extra forms of units — together with these with very small screens or screens that may’t simply be touched — the necessity for different and/or supplementary enter strategies does, arguably, step up.

The researchers particularly see potential for the approach to be helpful in VR. “We believe our technique to be well suited for input in virtual reality (VR) applications. When wearing a VR headset, the user often cannot see the keyboard. Thus, a simple controller that supports tilt (e.g., Google VR controller, Oculus Touch) can use SWiM for text input,” they write, including: “Our studies show that the technique has high immediate efficacy and is reasonably fast.”

Their first subsequent step might be to launch an installable model of the keyboard for customers of touchscreen units. “In the future, we plan to integrate our technique with a gesture keyboard and release it as an installable touchscreen keyboard application,” they write.

“We will continue to investigate which factors affect tilt-based shape writing and hope to improve SWiM over time. Lastly, we aim to use this technique on other devices, such as smartwatches, digital pendants, and head-mounted displays (HMD), which already have built-in tilt sensors.”

The analysis paper, entitled ‘Investigating tilt-based gesture keyboard entry for single-handed text entry on large devices’, might be printed by the ACM SIGCHI within the upcoming Proceedings of the 2017 CHI Convention on Human Components in Computing Methods.

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Désiré LeSage

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