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IBM Input Devices Displays Technology

IBM's Morphing Touchscreen Keyboard Interface 45

cylonlover writes "While most people prefer using physical keyboards and only tolerate virtual keyboards on their mobile devices for the sake of portability, onscreen keyboards do potentially offer a flexibility that can't be matched by physical keyboards. It's this flexibility that IBM is looking to take advantage of with the company recently filing a U.S. patent application for a morphing touchscreen keyboard interface that would automatically resize, reshape and reposition keys based on a user's typing style."
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IBM's Morphing Touchscreen Keyboard Interface

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  • However, with that, I'd still prefer a slide-out with a second screen to put the keyboard on, so that it doesn't take up screen real-estate. At least, on a cell phone. A tablet probably has enough size to make that unnecessary. Even so, I still prefer the tactile click. Also, the feel of the edge of the key helps me type more accurately, if my aim is slightly off. Touch screen keyboards don't have that yet, though there are patents/techs that might help that, provided they require a bit of pressure for the

  • I beta tested this a few months ago on my media center. I found it terribly slow and uncomfortable, as one might expect from a virtual keyboard
  • This seems stupid (Score:3, Interesting)

    by xyourfacekillerx ( 939258 ) on Monday July 25, 2011 @08:33AM (#36869410)
    I don't want to have to look at my keyboard to ensure my hands are in the proper placement, and I'm striking the right keys. Most efficiency in typing consists in the textfile feedback, not in seeing what is reflected by the screen (most of us type looking at a document or not even watching the screen, and we let our muscles inform our brains that we've struck the correct key combinations). This isn't the first touch-screen keyboard, and I've used ones that were of adequate size to accommodate both hands (no thumb typing) and the number of errors incurred just as a result.... screw that!

    I mean it reminds me of the new ipod nano's. Ever goto the gym with those and you aren't one of the track-at-a-time generation? Shuffle does no good for most of us who like a whole album. With t hose tiny touch screens, you literally have to look at the screen in order to change songs or browse around different artists. That really breaks your stride when working out, or when smoking cigarettes with a drink in another hand, etc.

    Morphing may sound cool, but touch screen for input devices needs to get out of general purpose computing. It's just slowing everyone down.. that is where our productivity is really going.... The extra time spent manipulating touch screens really adds up at the end of the week...
    • Completely agree, keyboards require keys.
    • You do realize that the entire point of this is so you don't have to look at the screen while typing, right? You just type normally and the keyboard adjusts to you automatically.
      • by Chris Mattern ( 191822 ) on Monday July 25, 2011 @11:17AM (#36871130)

        Uh, and the keyboard knows what you "meant" to type, how? It's psychic? 90% of my frustration in using computers is when it's convinced it knows what I want and it's *wrong*. "No, I don't want that. If you'll just let me specify exactly--no, I don't want that either!"

        • by blair1q ( 305137 )

          Try Swype.

          It's basically running spell-check as you drag your finger across the screen, and does an amazing job even if you're sloppy.

          No need to morph anything.

  • So...they are pretty much building LCARS []. Finally.
  • by Chris Mattern ( 191822 ) on Monday July 25, 2011 @09:04AM (#36869674)

    Let's play "Where's the 'e' key *today*?"

  • Tactile feedback? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Andtalath ( 1074376 ) on Monday July 25, 2011 @09:08AM (#36869712)

    The main reason it's awful with touch interfaces is that you can't touch-type.
    Writing habits depend on how you sit and you can easily adapt between angles by tactile feedback.

    So, get a functioning tactile response system which is morphic.

    THEN, I'm sold.

    At least if it flexes, if not, it's bad for your fingers.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    ThickButtons for Android already does this.

    Here's a youtube video of it: []

    And here's a link on the developer's site to all the articles written about ThickButtons. []

    • by bws111 ( 1216812 )

      No, it doesn't. ThickButtons changes the keyboard layout as you are typing, which would make the keyboard pretty much impossible for a touch typist to use. The IBM method customizes the layout to conform to the user's physical characteristics, making the keyboard easier for a touch typist to use.

  • In some cases (like my dad or old boss) it would have to morph into one giant key positioned under the index finger of the right hand and magically map to the correct letter for each key press.
  • I definitely remember seeing a YouTube video of an app that does this exact same thing.
    • by Rennt ( 582550 )
      This one? []
      • No, it completely changed the size, rotation, etc. of the entire keyboard dynamically.
        • by Rennt ( 582550 )
          Oh BlindType [] maybe? They got bought by Google and nobody heard of them since. It doesn't really as similar to the IBM as patent as ThickButtons to my eye.
      • by bws111 ( 1216812 )

        That is most definitely NOT the 'exact same thing'. ThickButtons is almost impossible for a touch typist to use. The position of the buttons is constantly changing. It is only suitable for one-finger 'hunt and peck' typing.

        The IBM method is designed to make touch pads easier to use for touch typists, by configuring the layout to match the individual's physical characteristics. Once configured, the layout of the keys does not change.

        • Once configured, the layout of the keys does not change.

          Funny, TFA said that it would watch ongoing usage and morph slightly to ensure that it remained efficient and effective. Of course, it won't do massive huge changes, so touch-typing will be interfered with as little as possible.

          • by bws111 ( 1216812 )

            Yes, I missed that. Even so, the approaches are markedly different. The ThickButtons approach is adjusting the keyboard based on an assumption of what key the user will want to hit next, while the IBM approach is adjusting the keyboard based on where the user expects the keys to be.

  • by opentunings ( 851734 ) on Monday July 25, 2011 @10:21AM (#36870530)
    Diehard touch typists using English-language keyboards actually use the little dimples on the F and J keys. Feeling them under your index fingers confirms that your hands are correctly positioned. While this is a noteworthy advance on IBM's part, I doubt that a keyboard which morphs keys - but lacks a way to ensure your fingers are where they're expected to be - will get much traction in the marketplace.
    • by tlhIngan ( 30335 )

      Diehard touch typists using English-language keyboards actually use the little dimples on the F and J keys. Feeling them under your index fingers confirms that your hands are correctly positioned

      Only to be confounded because the pre-OS X Mac keyboards had the bumps over the D and K keys instead. (Nowadays Apple relented and puts them over F and J - probably a Jobs-ian order).

      Though, sometimes when I'm not looking at hte keyboard, trying to type with one hand (other on the mouse), I sometimes land on the wro

      • by Osgeld ( 1900440 )

        I am sure all 8 of you that bought a pre OSX mac and have not adapted in a decade will be just fine

    • When I got my new iPhone, the first thing I did was scratch out 4 impressions onto the screen. Why 4? Well, that's the smart thing. I have markers for both portrait AND landscape orientation. There are so few true diehard touch typists these days.
  • The article discusses a keyboard that makes subtle adjustments to the keys. Take a look at this software though: [] It looks much more interesting, with the keyboard software able to infer the orientation and scale of the virtual keyboard from your keypresses alone. They show how it basically transforms everything on the fly depending on where your keypresses are. Google bought them some time ago, and I've been waiting for it to be integrated into Android.
  • Just because it is stupid, doesn't mean it cant be patented.
  • According to this video [], Apples uses a slightly different approach of just changing the size of the tap targets dynamically, but not changing the size or appearance of the keys.

    I would guess Apple's approach is less distracting than changing the key size or highlighting the keys. Rather, it is just 'magic'.

  • I didn't RTFA, so how is this different from BlindType, a company who made a keyboard that rotated and scaled to account for the user being off. I remember they had patented it and Google bought them in Oct 2010.

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