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Input Devices Displays GUI Software

Triangular Buttons Make On-Screen Keyboards More Usable 287

Posted by timothy
from the anything-that-helps dept.
As someone targeted for perpetual failure by the designers of most keyboards, I'm happy to read The Register's report that "A British inventor has submitted a patent application for a wacky touchscreen keyboard design which, he claims, could spell the end for accidental key presses."
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Triangular Buttons Make On-Screen Keyboards More Usable

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  • Maybe (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 02, 2009 @01:07PM (#28184421)
    Illt maek wruting furst psost easzier
  • The Best Thing To Do (Score:5, Interesting)

    by sycodon (149926) on Tuesday June 02, 2009 @01:07PM (#28184425)

    Is to get rid of the damned, usless, pain in the ass keycaps key.

    As for the keyboard itself, seems I've seen that in some si-fi movie.

    • And make the backspace key three times bigger with nothing over it...
      • by sycodon (149926) on Tuesday June 02, 2009 @04:02PM (#28186901)

        Some might find this interesting. This is the moderation email I got for the orginal comment. Not a political comment, not calling anyone names. Sure as hell not dissing Linux or Macs or Windows or Obama.

        A user has moderated your comment "Insightful" (+1).
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        Further moderations that I have not been notified about have reduced the score to 0.

        Just as sure as I say I don't really care someone will say I obviously do. But WTF ever.

        What is reallying interesting is that some people appear to have some serious emotional investment in the caps lock key.

    • by sakdoctor (1087155) on Tuesday June 02, 2009 @01:15PM (#28184569) Homepage

      The Logitech wave keyboard has a little "moat" around Capslock and Numlock keys, making them far less easy to accidentally press.
      You can also disable those keys in software, which I did straight away.

      Best keyboard I've ever owned.

      • by Jurily (900488) <jurily@NETBSDgmail.com minus bsd> on Tuesday June 02, 2009 @01:28PM (#28184787)

        You can also disable those keys in software, which I did straight away.

        Both X and XP/Vista can do that with any keyboard.

        • Mac OS X can do this as well, in fact you can map any of the modifier keys to any other modifier key or no action. You also can map the function keys as straight function keys or as the media, expose, screen&keyboard dimming keys on the newer keyboards.
          • by e4g4 (533831)
            Damn straight - caps lock is a worthless key anyway. I map caps lock to control, handy given how addicted I am to emacs key bindings - when you fix a transposition typo by typing ^t, rather than a double backspace - retype, you know you've got a problem...(for those who don't know, most of the basic emacs navigational shortcuts work in all Cocoa applications on OS X)
            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              I use it for switching keyboard layouts. Much more convenient with Caps Lock than with Ctrl-Shift or Alt-Shift (damn you Windows for not allowing Caps Lock to toggle layouts!).

            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by LWATCDR (28044)

              It isn't totally worthless. Some data entry apps require that some or all fields are in all caps. It is simpler for the clerks to use a caps lock then hold down the shift.
              Of course if the programmer wasn't an idiot they would just convert the field to all caps but sometimes people have to live with old software.
              Or I guess somewhere somebody used a lower case entry to be a sentential value to end data input.

        • by gbjbaanb (229885) on Tuesday June 02, 2009 @01:56PM (#28185185)

          so can most keyboards, when you use the (not supplied) screwdriver tool. :)

      • by spydabyte (1032538) on Tuesday June 02, 2009 @01:31PM (#28184825)

        Baker told Register Hardware today that each triangular key has significantly more dead space around it than youâ(TM)d find on a standard Qwerty layout. Consequently, users are more likely to press the correct key each time they tap.

        Significantly more is right. It's about the same size as the buttons themselves, doubling screen real-estate.

        From my minimalistic POV, that's horrid.

        • Don't you mean halving screen real estate?
      • by CarpetShark (865376) on Tuesday June 02, 2009 @01:53PM (#28185139)

        The Logitech wave keyboard has a little "moat" around Capslock and Numlock keys

        Excellent. So then, the formula I need will be:

        (num_users * keyboard_price) + (num_users * large_reptile_price * crocodiles_per_moat)

        ?

        • by Red Flayer (890720) on Tuesday June 02, 2009 @02:27PM (#28185579) Journal
          I think you're missing a few factors.

          How many users can each crocodile kill or maim?
          How many users can attempt to cross each moat at a time?
          Can the users access the drawbridge controls? What is the cost of the security on the drawbridge controls?
          What is the value, in crocodiles, of a moat-bound kraken?
          Have you considered ill-tempered sea bass as an alternative to crocodiles (they are much cheaper than sharks WFLBs)?

          In short, I'm not sure you've thought through the moat implementation in depth. My firm, Moats and Goats, LLC, would be happy to offer our moat consulting services for a small fee. If you sign a contract by the 15th of this month, I'll throw in free goat lawn trimming for your castle courtyard (please note that goat disposal is not an issue; the crocs or kraks will need to be fed, after all).
      • by Hadlock (143607)

        You can also disable those keys in hardware, on practically any keyboard ever. Wedge anything from a pen cap to a screwdriver under one edge of the offending key and pry it off. My 108-key keyboard is now a 101 (well actually 100 - its missing the caps lock key)-key keyboard.

    • by Mordok-DestroyerOfWo (1000167) on Tuesday June 02, 2009 @01:17PM (#28184605)
      So now one can patent shapes? I need to get the paperwork rolling on a new idea I have for a tetrahedron mouse!
    • by geekoid (135745) <dadinportland@ya ... m minus math_god> on Tuesday June 02, 2009 @01:19PM (#28184621) Homepage Journal

      As someone who sues it, I would say do NOT remove the caps lock. kthxby.
      In fact, serious data entry users use it regularly.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by hoytak (1148181)

      I thought the caps lock key made things easier? http://www.bash.org/?835030 [bash.org]

  • by pz (113803) on Tuesday June 02, 2009 @01:10PM (#28184491) Journal

    From the article:

    Baker told Register Hardware today that each triangular key has significantly more dead space around it than youâ(TM)d find on a standard Qwerty layout.

    Assuming the keys have the same pitch, then that means the active triangular zones are SMALLER than normal keys occupying the same overall keyboard area, making it even HARDER to type accurately, or, in other words, this trains the user to be more careful with their finger placements. It isn't magic (like standard rollover logic in keyboards), it's behavioral modification.

    Funny, I was always taught that programs and computers should be designed to make things easier for the user, not harder.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Funny, I was always taught that programs and computers should be designed to make things easier for the user, not harder.

      Um, yes but not easier to make mistakes...

    • by Nursie (632944)

      On the one hand it does change user behaviour by making them hit a different key area, but OTOH it also reduces the liklihood of hitting the wrong key because the sense area for the next key across is not right next to what they're trying to hit.

      Of course this may make it frustrating to use compared to a more intelligent keyboard, as you miss the key totally if you're a bit off centre... hmmm.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by droopycom (470921)

        So I guess:

        - It increase the likelyhood of hitting NO key.
        - It decrease the likelyhood of hitting the WRONG key.
        - It decrease the likelyhood of hitting the RIGHT key.

        So the design fails, since my goal is to hit the RIGHT key.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by maxume (22995)

      It's like peeing on the fly; having something to aim at makes it easier to aim.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Brigadier (12956)

      I understood the design differently. since the use of triangles allows more neutral space the chance of overlapping to another key is lessoned. He also figured out how to do this without making the keyboard itself bigger. Not sure it has anything to do with behavioral modification. if this was the case palms graffiti would be king of the world.

      • by pizzach (1011925)

        Not sure it has anything to do with behavioral modification.

        Not 100% sure, but what I think the parent poster was assuming is that the spot that a finger makes contact with the keyboard is an infinitely small point.

    • It may lead to behavioral modification, but the immediate result is to lower the amount of false positives. It errs on the side of not registering a key press rather than registering an unintended key choice.

    • by SQLGuru (980662) on Tuesday June 02, 2009 @02:08PM (#28185329) Journal

      Back in the early 90's (92, I believe), I was co-op'ing for IBM and was lucky enough to get to go to COMDEX provided I man a booth for a while. The product I was demo'ing was voice independant voice recognition (it was all the rage at the time). There was no training required, random guy from the street could walk up and interact with the computer by voice, regardless of dialect or accent. I got pretty good with it, but I noticed that some people did have to repeat themselves (but not more than twice) to get it to work -- again, early times in terms of speech recognition. But the reason I was good at it was that repeated practice actually trained ME to speak the way it wanted instead of it being able to adjust to how I spoke. Speech recognition has become more prevelant since then (BING 411 anyone? http://www.discoverbing.com/mobile/411/ [discoverbing.com] ), and I'm sure you've made adjustments to how you speak to computers just to get past the voice prompts. You speak slower with more distinct pauses between words.

      Behavior modification is an effective way to improve computer input.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Belial6 (794905)
        I agree with you, and have actually had a problem with voice recognition because of it. When I got my bluetooth earpiece, I tried to use the speech dial. I just couldn't understand me. Every time it got it wrong, I would speak slower and enunciate better. It just wouldn't work. It turns out that I had to slur my speech to get it to understand me.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by noidentity (188756)

        Speech recognition has become more prevelant since then (BING 411 anyone? http://www.discoverbing.com/mobile/411/ [discoverbing.com] )

        Goog-411 [google.com] anyone? Been around for years too...

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        I just swear at computers until they put me through to an operator.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by kwiqsilver (585008)

      that means the active triangular zones are SMALLER than normal keys occupying the same overall keyboard area, making it even HARDER to type accurately

      There's an easy solution to that: Make the visual deadspace around the key part of the input for that key, in say a rectangular shape.</sarcasm>

      Really what he's trying to patent is the idea of putting more space between two things to avoid accidentally hitting the wrong one, which should make it a nominee for the "duh!" patent of the year. The shape o

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by JaredOfEuropa (526365)

      in other words, this trains the user to be more careful with their finger placements. It isn't magic (like standard rollover logic in keyboards), it's behavioral modification.

      Exactly, and it just might work. They recently pulled a similar bevavioral trick in my apartment's car park: instead of painting white lines to separate the car slots, they painted grey rectangles on each space, more or less the width of a car so that there's seemingly a lot more dead space between slots. The result? I notice that

  • I'll consider... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by sleekware (1109351) * on Tuesday June 02, 2009 @01:11PM (#28184501)
    I'll wait to upgrade to a touch screen when my Model M ceases to function. Seeing as that will be never, I suppose touch screens will be an upgrade that just won't be happening for me.
  • Stupid (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Roadmaster (96317) <roadmr.tomechangosubanana@com> on Tuesday June 02, 2009 @01:12PM (#28184533) Homepage Journal

    Actually it misses the point, since "significanty more dead space between keys" is only a feasible solution if you have a physically larger screen. He's effectively making the keys smaller, thus harder to hit, and the "dead space" is just space where nothing happens = confused users.

    Next thing we know, someone will be inventing a "capacitive stylus" touting "higher precision" while using your iPhone. Well yes, but that's SO not the point of a capacitive, finger-friendly touchscreen.

    • Re:Stupid (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Idiomatick (976696) on Tuesday June 02, 2009 @01:21PM (#28184645)
      It forces users to have better aim BUT if you do have shitty aim then you don't get a 'false positive?...' It won't type anything. Think of it as graceful failure.
    • Re:Stupid (Score:5, Insightful)

      by geekoid (135745) <dadinportland@ya ... m minus math_god> on Tuesday June 02, 2009 @01:21PM (#28184653) Homepage Journal

      No one presses a single point, the press an area. By putting the spaces there you are more likely to get the correct key as opposed to fat finger the next key by imstake becasue it got a larger area pressed.

      It's pretty clever.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        Then why outline the 'keys' at all....just use rows of letters.
      • It's the exact same thing as expanding the current key size, the shape has nothing to do with it unless the user has a subconscious difference. There's still a range that each key takes. If you press in the middle of the two buttons, you still have the same case as if you pressed in the middle of the two on the last keyboard.

        I don't see anything clever with the shape at all. Unless it just doesn't respond when you hit outside of the shape, which I can only see as an annoyance, taking up so much space but n
    • Re:Stupid (Score:5, Informative)

      by Brandee07 (964634) on Tuesday June 02, 2009 @01:23PM (#28184689)

      Next thing we know, someone will be inventing a "capacitive stylus" touting "higher precision" while using your iPhone. Well yes, but that's SO not the point of a capacitive, finger-friendly touchscreen.

      You're late to the party: http://www.thinkgeek.com/gadgets/cellphone/a31f/ [thinkgeek.com]

      Also, you can get gloves with capacitive tips on the fingers, for iPhone use when it's too damn cold outside (less relevant in summer...) http://www.tavoproducts.com/ [tavoproducts.com]

    • Re:Stupid (Score:4, Insightful)

      by HTH NE1 (675604) on Tuesday June 02, 2009 @01:30PM (#28184803)

      No, it prevents users from hitting two keys at once, preventing the need for the software to decide which one the user hit (the one hit first in time or the one hit most by area).

      And then maybe it will remove the predictive typing that prevents users from typing "kewl" by presuming the fourth letter should be a "p".

      If it was made up of triangles in alternating directions (like a Pegasus Galaxy DHD) then you'd have no benefit for Fat Finger Syndrome.

    • I disagree. The size of your finger has not changed. This just means that when you press 'w' there's less chance of your finger spilling over into 'q' or 'e' because they've been moved away. And 'more dead space between the keys does not require a 'significantly bigger screen,' he achieved this by making the keys triangular instead of square.

  • by RyanFenton (230700) on Tuesday June 02, 2009 @01:14PM (#28184557)
    Just add unique bumps/shapes to the edges of the triangles, and you don't have to look while texting either. It would be quite a bit better than rectangular buttons, because as you slide your thumb around, the triangular gaps would make the shapes rather easy to "read" by feel. There - now if anyone wants prior art on the inevitable patent dispute over this basic idea, this post is the prior art you can say you derived your product from. Ryan Fenton
  • by jeffb (2.718) (1189693) on Tuesday June 02, 2009 @01:15PM (#28184563)

    ...based on the IP they acquired from FingerWorks [fingerworks.com]. You can do really sophisticated error-correction if you're getting not only a stream of characters, but the exact location of the press, contact area, dwell time, and possibly more. So, with a virtual multi-touch keyboard, you can say "Okay, that looked like an R, but the contact was actually most of the way over toward E, and the previous two letters were T-H, so I'm going to go ahead and make it an E."

    I know it'll rankle the manual-transmission crowd, but I've been using a FingerWorks keyboard for years, and most of the time, it's absolutely spooky how well the autocorrect works. (Just don't try high-intensity vi work.)

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by moon3 (1530265)
      Also contrary to all the claims, you can't mistype on iPhone virtual keyboard, once you learn that release-key trick, you just can't. Lots of people is under-informed about this. I do not need 'real' keyboard on the phone anymore, even I thought iPhone virtual keyboard would be pain and useless.. well, I was wrong.
      • by aaarrrgggh (9205)

        Release keys don't work as well now with the accented characters as they used to. If you dwell long enough for an accent, you must select one of the options presented, even if you meant the next key over.

    • by C10H14N2 (640033) on Tuesday June 02, 2009 @01:47PM (#28185051)

      most of the way over toward E, and the previous two letters were T-H, so I'm going to go ahead and make it an E.

      That is the single most aggravating "feature" of the iPhone keyboard. To he'll with that ducking shot.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by jkoke (1112287)

        Settings > General > Keyboard > Auto-Correction

        Been there since v. 2.2

    • Does using such an auto-correcting keyboard make it harder to type correctly when you move to a "normal" keyboard? Something bothers me about devices that train me to make more unaware mistakes.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        Does using such an auto-correcting keyboard make it harder to type correctly when you move to a "normal" keyboard? Something bothers me about devices that train me to make more unaware mistakes.

        A little. But it's completely overwhelmed by the rich tactile feedback that you get from a physical keyboard. Without that tactile feedback, even the recovered-from-alien-spacecraft-level intelligence in the FingerWorks TouchStream keyboard only gets you up to about half the typing speed you see on a conventional keyboard; that, and the $300-400 price tag, made it a commercial failure.

        But I'm much happier typing half as fast and having zero wrist pain. (No reaching for the mouse or modifier keys; they're

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by goodmanj (234846)

      Agree. Anyone who thinks this is a cool idea hasn't used an iPhone keypad much.

      The inventor's still stuck on the notion that each keypress must map onto a single character somehow, but the iPhone is smarter than that. It resolves ambiguous keypresses based on the letters that came before, and *also* the ones that came after. For instance, typing "THI", it assumes I'm on my way to "this", "thin", or "thick", but if I follow it up with "MAS", it changes the I to an O for "THOMAS".

      And if I really did want t

  • by Chris Pimlott (16212) on Tuesday June 02, 2009 @01:26PM (#28184745)

    For a physical keyboard, this seems reasonable - if you eliminate edges where the keys touch, each other, then you're less likely to accidentally press two keys at once. But for a virtual keyboard like on the iPod, it doesn't matter if you "touch" two keys at once with your finger - the software can determine which one you were actually closer to, and only register that.

    While there are certainly drawbacks to a touchscreen, such as lack of tactile feedback, this is one area where they have an advantage - a larger percentage of usuable surface area, as touches that would be a multiple button mash on physical keyboards can be unambiguously mapped to a single key in software.

    • by jez9999 (618189)

      Where it might have been a multiple button mash on a physical keyboard and you'd know about it and correct it, it may be a WRONG single button press on a touchscreen. Give me a physical keyboard ANY day.

    • by burris (122191)

      You get tactile feedback on a touchscreen when you touch it.

  • by dbcad7 (771464) on Tuesday June 02, 2009 @01:28PM (#28184781)
    Is the area designated as a button always the same size as the graphic of the button ? .. why couldn't you do the same thing showing square buttons but sensing triangular or smaller circular areas ? .. You could also use color in the button graphic to target the hotspot, fading to the buttton edges.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by RobinH (124750)

      Quick, you'd better patent that idea so nobody else can use it.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by goodmanj (234846)

      That's exactly what the iPhone does. You can be really sloppy when typing common letters like "S", but you have to be more precise for nearby uncommon letters like "Z". Not that that's a problem, it'll autocorrect if you miss.

      Supposedly the sizes of these sensitive areas can change based on what you're in the process of typing, but I can't tell if it's actually doing that.

  • Hah! (Score:4, Informative)

    by beadfulthings (975812) on Tuesday June 02, 2009 @01:32PM (#28184833) Journal

    They may make commercials about butt-dialing. But on the day after I got my iPhone, I hung up on a customer and dialed the veterinarian's office all without being aware I was doing it--with the side of my face. I therefore invented face-dialing. It took several days to get used to the keyboard, but it took longer to accustom myself to not mashing down on crucial icons while talking. I can use the keyboard efficiently now, but I suspect the learning curve would have been less with the keyboard described in the article. And it's not a mental learning curve. It's a physical skill like typing on a full sized keyboard.I'd also like to see them add a very slight lip around the perimeter of the screen where the silver metal is located. It would be a tactile reminder to keep the damned thing away from my face.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by BattleApple (956701)
      there's a photo reflector or something that's supposed to shut the screen off when it's close to your face. maybe yours is faulty? Either that, or your face has the ability to absorb the infrared light
    • by aaarrrgggh (9205)

      I think that was fixed in the first OS update; the proximity sensor by the earpiece de-activates the touchscreen...

  • by jomegat (706411) on Tuesday June 02, 2009 @01:35PM (#28184857)
    With all that space between the keys, there's room for even more buttons!
  • Klingon Keyboard? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by RandomChars (1455331) on Tuesday June 02, 2009 @01:37PM (#28184895)
    This reminds me of the klingon displays from startrek
  • ... wouldn't diamonds be better?

    • by mikeee (137160)

      Or hexagons? Come to think of it, although the keys on a standard QWERTY keyboard are square, adjacent rows are actually slightly offset.

  • I tried it (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Inda (580031) <slash.20.inda@spamgourmet.com> on Tuesday June 02, 2009 @01:38PM (#28184917) Journal

    I made the image [regmedia.co.uk] fit the screen (CTRL + [+]) and, well that was it. It felt no different. It looked no different.

    Surely it's just a matter of practice when using large on screen keyboards?

    Aim for the top of the triangle? Why bother outlining the keyboard letters at all?

  • Sceptical (Score:3, Insightful)

    by dethndrek (870145) on Tuesday June 02, 2009 @01:40PM (#28184947)

    As a programmer, any time I hear hype like this ". . .could spell the end for accidental key presses." I laugh a little.

    We will NEVER spell the end for accidental use of technology by using more technology.

    It kind of falls into the old maxim "Try to make anything idiot proof, and the world with generate bigger idiots".

  • I'm more upset... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by PJ1216 (1063738) * on Tuesday June 02, 2009 @01:51PM (#28185115)
    I'm more upset that he got a patent for changing the shapes from square to a triangle. This doesn't show any real creativity to even constitute a design patent. Its like a themed keyboard. Like if someone decided to make a keyboard using various shapes just for style. I doubt that could be patented either.
  • Lazy programmer (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Guysmiley777 (880063) on Tuesday June 02, 2009 @01:54PM (#28185159)
    Interesting idea until a lazy programmer decides that detecting a triangular shaped area from a set of coordinates is too fussy and just divides the key areas up into boxes.
  • Missing the points (Score:3, Insightful)

    by 192939495969798999 (58312) <info@NoSPAM.devinmoore.com> on Tuesday June 02, 2009 @01:56PM (#28185181) Homepage Journal

    This has nothing to do with the main reasons that people like me cannot use tiny keyboards.
    0. When I press down, my finger pad overlaps way more than one key. therefore, I am prone to make mistakes.
    1. I can't see through my finger to the keyboard if my finger covers 2 or more keys, therefore I am prone to make some more mistakes.
    2. No, I don't need to see the keys, but I at least need to be able to feel their delineations in lieu of that, and since the thing has no tactile measurable quality like a real keyboard, I am prone to make yet more mistakes.

    I can work a blackberry keyboard a little because at least i can feel the difference in the keys vs. spaces. Without some physical delineation or press-from-behind type capacity, I don't think any tiny touchscreen keyboard will be any more for me usable than any other one.

  • Seriously, this shouldnt not be considered a patentable design.

    • Edit: In my comment above, in my rush to express my outrage at such an abomination of a patent application I used a double negative in my comment. It should read "Seriously, this should not be considered a patentable design."

  • If it's just for the deadspace, then smaller keys should work the same, right? So what's special about the form of triangles? The article doesn't mention that. Also not how the odd layout comes about. With a triangle layout, I would've expected them to have alternating directions, because only then is is really less likely to hit the other key, because the broad end you're trying to hit would be bordering small ends, if you get what I mean.

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