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IBM's Morphing Touchscreen Keyboard Interface

timothy posted about 3 years ago | from the touch-me-where-you-can dept.

IBM 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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That's nice (1)

ByOhTek (1181381) | about 3 years ago | (#36869384)

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 key press, more than just touching the screen.

Re:That's nice (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36872850)

Isn't it obvious that this is NOT for touch typist?

not so hot (2)

CagedApe (1516545) | about 3 years ago | (#36869390)

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

Microsoft Surface (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36869392)

They totally copied it from the Surface table.
Full circle, eh?

This seems stupid (3, Interesting)

xyourfacekillerx (939258) | about 3 years ago | (#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...

Re:This seems stupid (1)

LoneWolfMcQuade (1951352) | about 3 years ago | (#36869524)

Completely agree, keyboards require keys.

Re:This seems stupid (2)

masterme120 (1824062) | about 3 years ago | (#36870478)

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.

Re:This seems stupid (0)

drseuk (824707) | about 3 years ago | (#36870598)

Apparently, for MS Windwoes users, it auto-morphs such that the entire lower left quadrant of the screen has a massive CTRL "touchkey", the lower right quadrant is filled with an ALT "touchkey" and the entire top half with a DELETE "touchkey". Supposedly, those are the only three keys you need under Windows to achieve 90% of the productivity with it that you enjoy today on your desktop ...

Re:This seems stupid (3, Insightful)

Chris Mattern (191822) | about 3 years ago | (#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!"

Re:This seems stupid (1)

blair1q (305137) | about 3 years ago | (#36874944)

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.

Re:This seems stupid (1)

DarwinSurvivor (1752106) | about 3 years ago | (#36877978)

Until you need to type a foreign last name, serial number, activation code, password, etc.

Re:This seems stupid (1)

Chris Mattern (191822) | about 3 years ago | (#36878002)

Try Swype.

It's basically running spell-check

Spell-check? Bleah. A great way of making sure you correctly spelled the wrong word.

LCARS... (1)

CaptainJeff (731782) | about 3 years ago | (#36869552)

So...they are pretty much building LCARS [] . Finally.

Ooh, what fun! (2)

Chris Mattern (191822) | about 3 years ago | (#36869674)

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

Re:Ooh, what fun! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36872332)

Same place as yesterday. It's just a bit larger as you seem to miss it ever so slightly each time you press it.

Re:Ooh, what fun! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36874546)

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

“[M]ost people prefer using physical keyboar (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36869696)

Citation needed.

Like old MS Office (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36869698)

So, this is a keyboard which behaves like the menus in old (pre-ribbon) MS-Office? "Personalized menus" (I think that's what they were called), was the first thing to turn off after installing any Office program. Functions that aren't where you expect them to be is a huge misfeature, the complete opposite of user friendliness.

Doubly so for a keyboard. I touch type. I don't look at the keyboard. I can only do this because I know which key is where. Sure, this is a touch keyboard, so I probably won't be able to touch type, but still, keys need to be where I expect them to be, but then they also need to look like I expect them to look.

Tactile feedback? (3, Insightful)

Andtalath (1074376) | about 3 years ago | (#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.

A Morphic Tactile Physical Touch System (1)

bobamu (943639) | about 3 years ago | (#36870900)

I suspect would have other "data entry" uses too.

ThickButtons for Android (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36869814)

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. []

Re:ThickButtons for Android (1)

bws111 (1216812) | about 3 years ago | (#36870840)

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.

Re:ThickButtons for Android (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36873610)

Thanks for this, I have been looking for a good, free keyboard for Android but searching the marketplace sucks.

Psychic Keyboard? (1)

cab15625 (710956) | about 3 years ago | (#36870268)

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.

Prior art? (1)

masterme120 (1824062) | about 3 years ago | (#36870438)

I definitely remember seeing a YouTube video of an app that does this exact same thing.

Re:Prior art? (1)

Rennt (582550) | about 3 years ago | (#36870606)

This one? []

Re:Prior art? (1)

masterme120 (1824062) | about 3 years ago | (#36870628)

No, it completely changed the size, rotation, etc. of the entire keyboard dynamically.

Re:Prior art? (1)

Rennt (582550) | about 3 years ago | (#36870902)

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.

Re:Prior art? (1)

bws111 (1216812) | about 3 years ago | (#36870662)

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.

Re:Prior art? (1)

snowgirl (978879) | about 3 years ago | (#36871278)

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.

Re:Prior art? (1)

bws111 (1216812) | about 3 years ago | (#36871342)

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.

F and J are "special"... (3, Interesting)

opentunings (851734) | about 3 years ago | (#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.

Re:F and J are "special"... (2)

tlhIngan (30335) | about 3 years ago | (#36871686)

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 wrong bump.

Re:F and J are "special"... (1)

Osgeld (1900440) | about 3 years ago | (#36872574)

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

Re:F and J are "special"... (1)

RivenAleem (1590553) | about 3 years ago | (#36973234)

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.

Blindtype does this better... (1)

Wallslide (544078) | about 3 years ago | (#36870604)

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.

it's been done, and.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36870976)

..Google bought it. See: blindtype

Bring back the Model M (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36871298)

If you're following trends, you might have noticed mechanical keyboards are on a come-back. Originally pressed out of the market by far cheaper, silent but inferior rubber dome keyboards, they are now coming back as quality input devices, with as main driver gamers. So we see the kinds of Razor, Das Keyboard and Filco selling ever larger numbers. Various mechanical keyboard forums are now in existence and growing, such as []
There is logic in this: while for leisure and consumption the ordinary keyboard might go out of fashion in favor of touchscreen, if you type for profession or want the best gear for gaming, you end up with mechanical.

Another proof .. (1)

fractalspace (1241106) | about 3 years ago | (#36872440)

Just because it is stupid, doesn't mean it cant be patented.

Apple's iOS took approach of dynamic tap zones (1)

crashcane (64138) | about 3 years ago | (#36874222)

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'.

IBM is a joke (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36874300)

IBM is bunch of fat losers who sit at their desks all day surfing the internet: I used to work there and was disgusted with the laziness and obesity of the majority of the staff. They would have gone out of business if they weren't spying for the government and if they hadn't broken all their pensions in the late 90's. Now they mostly hire college graduates for "contractual" positions with a fixed time limit so that they don't have to pay benefits or pensions. Shameful that they are still milking the system while contributing NOTHING to Information Technology except buying up innovations, patenting them and then burying them so that nothing new ever comes to light and we are stuck with all the broken, back-doored software that they use to spy on government and industry. It is a failure of leadership that these fat-assed losers are still in business. Spys. I thought the nazis taught us that secret police are more trouble than they are worth!

BlindType Anyone? (1)

doodaddy (92272) | about 3 years ago | (#36877996)

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.

Comming in the next century (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36888526)

I am at IBM, reading /. at work, and typing this on a model KB-9823 keyboard, made sometime in the last century. No, it's not vintage, that's just all the cheap bastards will give us. From what I've seen, the only thing IBM "innovates" is how to wrap everything in ten layers of beaurocracy while ripping off customers and cheating their employees.

brilliant (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36955882)

I think this is a brilliant idea, and IBM is ahead of the curve in seeking to obtain a patent [] on what is certain to become a leading technological tool.

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