Look Ma, One Hand! (23 Aug 2004)
On most keypads, you have to lift your digits, aim for the next letter or number and click, then lift again and continue. It's not bad on a computer keyboard, but small, mobile devices have itsy bitsy buttons to push with fingers that inexplicably grow to giant-sized proportions when we try to input text or symbols. Touch screens that use a stylus for input are somewhat better, but you still have to look at the screen to use it, and you can lose the stylus, making your device unusable.
This tendency to be "all thumbs" inspired John SanGiovanni, a technical evangelist with the University Relations program at Microsoft Research, to work in his off hours with other inspired Microsoft employees to develop a new type of text input that was fast, easy, and intuitive.
The device, code-named Xnav, combines a conventional telephone keypad with touch sensors that allow one-handed, no-eyes-needed text input. In a rhythmic slide, your thumb waltzes over the Xnav device. It's akin to following footprints painted on the ground in a dance for one. Your basic brain/thumb coordination. Once you learn the kinesthetic patterns, you're in the groove. You don't have to look at the keypad or use anything other than your most basic human tool, the handy opposable thumb. You can lose a stylus, but unless you lose your mind or all your digits, you'll always have the right tools for the Xnav system. Not only will an interface like this be great for modern multitasking, it will help blind users as well.
Article URL: http://research.microsoft.com/displayArticle.aspx?id=395
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