KALQ: Thumb Texters Get QWERTY Replacement

KALQ system designed to replace 'suboptimal’ QWERTY layout for typing with thumbs on touchscreens

A new split keyboard layout for touch-screen devices allows users to type 34 percent faster with their thumbs.

The traditional QWERTY layout is suboptimal for typing with thumbs on smartphones and tablet devices, say researchers, who have redesigned the layout from the bottom up. 

The new system, dubbed KALQ, after the new layout, was created using computational optimization techniques, in conjunction with a model of thumb movement, to identify the optimal layout. 

The new layout will be available as a free android app for smartphones. 

The app was developed by researchers at the University of St. Andrews, the Max Planck Institute for Informatics and Montana Tech.

Dr. Per Ola Kristensson, lecturer in Human Computer Interaction at 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.

“However, before abandoning QWERTY, users rightfully demand a compelling alternative. We believe KALQ provides a large enough performance improvement to incentivize users to switch and benefit from faster and more comfortable typing,” he said in the statement. 

Using a QWERTY layout limits typing to around 20 words per minute on a touch-screen device. Experienced users of the KALQ layout can achieve 37 minutes per word, claim the researchers. 

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 behavioral model we could use to optimize the keyboard,” said Oulasvirta in a statement.

The creators of the layout also developed a predictive error correction method specially tailored to the new layout and the typical typing errors. 



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