Thumbs Up As Researchers Develop New Tablet-Friendly Keyboard, The KALQ

Two thumbs good, eight fingers bad.

Thumbs Up As Researchers Develop New Tablet-Friendly Keyboard, The KALQ

A joint effort by three educational establishments has created a smart new keyboard for mobile devices. The KALQ keyboard–so named because of the sequence of letters on the bottom right of the screen–uses a person’s thumbs to key in the letters, making it much faster to type text than the traditional QWERTY keyboard.

Researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Informatics in Germany, Scotland’s St Andrews University and Montana Tech clubbed together and used “computational optimisation techniques” to decide the layout of the keys. This means working out which letters are used the most, and placing them in the center of the keyboard, with the load spread equally between the two thumbs. As a consequence, all the vowels are on the right-hand side of the keyboard, while the left-hand thumb has more keys to deal with.

With the new system, plus a handy error correction algorithm–a posh way of saying spell check–typists were able to reach the heady speeds of 37 words per minute. Compare that to using the QWERTY keyboard on a tablet or large phone, and the word rate drops to an average of 20 words per second.

The KALQ keyboard will be available as a free Android download from next month.

Do you think the thumb-only system will catch on, given the rising popularity of tablets and the increasing dependence on mobile devices? Or is QWERTY a hard habit to break? Would you be willing to, in effect, retrain your brain to the KALQ system or do you have enough on your mind already, what with the kids, the recession, the shopping, the chores and that funny thing you saw on the way to work this morning and keep meaning to stick on Instagram? Answers please, on our QWERTY system in the comments. Thanks!

[Image via the Max Planck Institute for Informatics]

About the author

My writing career has taken me all round the houses over the past decade and a half--from grumpy teens and hungover rock bands in the U.K., where I was born, via celebrity interviews, health, tech and fashion in Madrid and Paris, before returning to London, where I now live.For the past five years I've been writing about technology and innovation for U.S.



More Stories