Forget QWERTY – boffins says you can type much faster with KALQ

A group of researchers at the University of St Andrews, the Max Planck Institute for Informatics and Montana Tech, are calling time on the QWERTY keyboard for touch screen devices. They say that the QWERTY layout is ill-suited for tablets and other touchscreen devices.

They claim that you will be able to type 34 per cent faster on tablets if you use new system, dubbed KALQ, and use both thumbs while tapping away.

The team apparently researched millions of potential layouts before alighting on KALQ which will be available soon as a free app for Android devices.

Dr Per Ola Kristensson, Lecturer in Human Computer Interaction in the School of Computer Science at the University of St Andrews, said: “The legacy of QWERTY has trapped users with suboptimal text entry interfaces on mobile devices. We believe KALQ provides a large enough performance improvement to incentivise users to switch and benefit from faster and more comfortable typing.”

While normal users operating a QWERTY on a touchscreen device are limited to typing at a rate around 20 words per minute by rearranging the keys on the keyboard layout it is possible enable faster thumb typing.

Dr Antti Oulasvirta, Senior Researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Informatics in Germany, said: “The key to optimising a keyboard for two thumbs is to minimise long typing sequences that only involve a single thumb. It is also important to place frequently used letter keys centrally close to each other.

“Experienced typists move their thumbs simultaneously: while one thumb is selecting a particular key, the other thumb is approaching its next target. From these insights we derived a predictive behavioural model we could use to optimise the keyboard.”

So the optimisation process focused on enabling the user to use both thumbs while at the same time enabling typing on both sides of the tablet.

The catch though is that to full get up to speed users have to be trained to move their thumbs simultaneously, so while one thumb is approaching an intended letter key, the other thumb moves to its next target.

It sounds intriguing. Will you give it a go? More here.

Ashley Norris