If you’ve ever typed anything on a keyboard of any sort, you’ll be familiar with the term QWERTY. Initially, the layout was designed to stop frequently used letter arms on traditional typewriters from getting all tangled up. As we moved in to the digital age, people had become accustomed to the standard format and so it was transferred across. For any of us who type all day every day, you eventually get used to the layout enough to not need to look. In fact, to us, the suggestion that the layout needs changing is a little laughable.
However, with changing from actual physical keys to a virtual keyboard on a touchscreen, the possibility to reinvent the way we type is an opportunity worth exploring. Touch typing with no physical and tactile frame of reference on a cramped onscreen keyboard is virtually impossible. So, how do we change it? The boffins over at ASETNIOP.com think they’ve come up with a practical solution, and on first looks, it makes some sense.
The concept behind it is that the most frequently typed letters have their own “button” hence: ASETNIOP. In total, there are ten buttons. 8 for your fingers, and two for your thumbs. Your right thumb, as you would expect is a consistent space bar. The left thumb button operates as a shift/auto-fill activator. With only 8 keys dedicated to laters, you could be forgiven for thinking that it’d be impossible to type every character in the alphabet. But, you’d be mistaken. The other letters and characters are formed by creating “chords” or pressing more than one pad at the same time. It’s an incredibly intriguing concept, and one that’s of particular interest to me as a writer. Give it a look and see what you think.
If you want to try it out your self, hit the following link on your iPad: http://asetniop.com/ipadTutorial.html
If you want to try it on a physical keyboard, hit: http://asetniop.com/keyboardTutorial.html
I’m going to give it a spin, and see what I think. Right now, I’m pretty sold on my ZAGG Keys Flex for iPad typing, but I’m always open to new and innovative ways of thinking. Do you think the keyboard need reinventing for the touchscreen age? Or is QWERTY adequate? Tweet me: @TiP_Cam or comment below.
All modern keyboards work based on a simple principle: an action has to occur at a specific point in space to produce the desired output. For physical keyboards, the “action” is to press down, and the “point in space” is the appropriate key. For virtual keyboards, the action is the same, but the “point in space” is simply a two-dimensional region of space in the shape of a key. With physical keyboards, it’s possible to keep track of where your fingers are in space because you can feel the keys. With virtual keyboards, there are no physical reference points, and it’s impossible to make sure your fingers are in the correct position without visually monitoring them. As those of us who are old enough to have taken a typing class will remember, peering down at your hands is the very first thing you’re taught to avoid. While virtual keyboards have become a common feature of modern tablet devices, the buttons are of these keyboards are cramped, the interface takes up half of the available screen space, and user fatigue sets in quickly. Virtual keyboards are okay for short messages like texts or tweets, but very few people use virtual keyboards to type anything longer than a paragraph.
This problem – the need to eliminate physical feedback from the touch-typing process – has been addressed a few different ways, with very limited success. Some methods (such as 8pen and various handwriting recognition programs) reduce the input to a single point, and interpret movement and shapes to produce text. Others (such as Snapkeys) use several input points, and rely on disambiguation and predictive technology to deduce the user’s intended output. Computing pioneer Douglas Englebart conceived of a keyboard consisting of just five keys, where multiple keys could be pressed at the same time (forming a “chord”) to increase the number of potential output characters. However, Englebart’s original one-hand layout was limited to just 31 potential combinations, and more recent refinements of the chording concept (such as in10did and GKOS) are too different from the familiar QWERTY layout for users to adopt easily. ASETNIOP is a new keyboard replacement method that uses the concept of chording, but adds several more refinements that make it easier to learn, more comfortable, more efficient, faster, and ultimately better than any other keyboard alternative.
In order to touch-type on a physical keyboard, it is necessary for a user to learn two things for each letter: (1) which finger to press, and (2) where the key is located in reference to the “home” keys. With ASETNIOP, it is similarly necessary to learn two things for each letter: (1) the first key in the combination, and (2) the second key in the combination. What makes ASETNIOP unique is that for any given letter of the alphabet, the finger that is normally used to produce that letter on a QWERTY keyboard is part of the combination used to obtain that letter using ASETINOP. For example, on a QWERTY keyboard, the letter Q is normally obtained by pressing the Q key, which is located in the top row, with the left pinky finger. With ASETNIOP, the Q is obtained by forming a “chord” consisting of the left pinky finger pressed together with the right index finger. Similarly, the letter W is pressed with the left ring finger on a QWERTY keyboard, and is obtained by pressing the left ring finger with the left pinky finger in ASETNIOP. For the most common letters that are normally pressed by each finger, a single press-and-release (rather than a chord) is all that is required; hence ASETNIOP.
Most keyboard replacements suffer from the disadvantage of treating the space bar as an afterthought. But the space bar is actually the most important key on the keyboard – that’s why it’s the biggest! It’s used almost twice as often as any other key, accounting for 18% of all keystrokes (compared to 10% for E, 7% for T, 6% for A, etc.). With ASETNIOP, the space bar is unchanged from a traditional QWERTY keyboard – you strike it with your thumb – and it isn’t used to form any other combinations, which eliminates “step-on” errors where you accidentally form unwanted combinations by pressing one key before you’ve released the previous one. And ASETNIOP actually makes use of your other thumb (which is otherwise idle on a traditional keyboard) to activate the shift key, and to activate an autofill feature that automatically predicts the remaining letters in words as you begin typing them.
All of the letters of the alphabet, plus the most commonly used punctuation symbols, are available in ASETNIOP using two-finger chords. But chords consisting of three or more fingers can be used as well, as shortcuts to generate entire words. It’s not complicated to memorize any combinations, however, because each shortcut is formed by the group of keys that would normally be pressed separately to type the word. For example, the word “the” can be produced by pressing the T key (left middle finger), the H chord (right index and middle fingers) and the E key (left index finger) all at the same time. Shortcuts can be used to produce some of the most commonly used words, like “and”, “be”, “of”, “that”, “not”, “with”, “you”, “this”, “but”, “who”, and dozens of others. In order to gain access to numbers and symbols, there’s a special code for switching layouts consisting of the index finger and pinky of both hands (easily remembered as the “devil horns”).