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A View from Erica Naone

Swype's Keyboard Alternative

The days of the QWERTY keyboard may be numbered.

  • February 22, 2011

“It’s amazing to me that we still use QWERTY keyboards,” says Juan Pons, General Manager of the eastern branch of Swype, a company that makes an alternative input system for text. “At Swype, we are hoping to address and change this.”

Though the keyboard is a familiar device, Pons is quick to point out that it was designed for an entirely different scenario than most people find themselves in today. The QWERTY keyboard worked well for typewriters–the layout of its keys optimized to keep the machine from getting tangled when a user typed quickly.

These days, however, people often use touchscreens, type with one hand or even one finger, and hold their devices at odd angles while they enter data. Swype hopes to create a system that fits those devices better, while still offering users enough familiarity to make them comfortable trying it out.

Pons spoke today at Blur, a conference in Orlando focused on the changing nature of human-computer interaction. He was one of many speakers aiming to take down the humble keyboard.

To use Swype, a person rubs a finger or stylus over the letters of the word she wants to type. The software’s algorithms figure out what word the user intends, and inserts spaces and proper capitalization. If the software is uncertain, it offers the user a box of choices.

“You don’t have to be very accurate–you can miss a lot of letters,” he says.

Pons says the software works in 50 languages, and comes preloaded on nine out of ten Android phones today. The company has also made it work on devices ranging from tablets to the Wii.

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