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.

Uh oh–you've read all five of your free articles for this month.

Insider Premium

$179.95/yr US PRICE

More from Intelligent Machines

Artificial intelligence and robots are transforming how we work and live.

Want more award-winning journalism? Subscribe and become an Insider.

  • Insider Premium {! insider.prices.premium !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Our award winning magazine, unlimited access to our story archive, special discounts to MIT Technology Review Events, and exclusive content.

    See details+

    What's Included

    Bimonthly home delivery and unlimited 24/7 access to MIT Technology Review’s website.

    The Download. Our daily newsletter of what's important in technology and innovation.

    Access to the Magazine archive. Over 24,000 articles going back to 1899 at your fingertips.

    Special Discounts to select partner offerings

    Discount to MIT Technology Review events

    Ad-free web experience

    First Look. Exclusive early access to stories.

    Insider Conversations. Join in and ask questions as our editors talk to innovators from around the world.

  • Insider Plus {! insider.prices.plus !}* Best Value

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Everything included in Insider Basic, plus ad-free web experience, select discounts to partner offerings and MIT Technology Review events

    See details+

    What's Included

    Bimonthly home delivery and unlimited 24/7 access to MIT Technology Review’s website.

    The Download. Our daily newsletter of what's important in technology and innovation.

    Access to the Magazine archive. Over 24,000 articles going back to 1899 at your fingertips.

    Special Discounts to select partner offerings

    Discount to MIT Technology Review events

    Ad-free web experience

  • Insider Basic {! insider.prices.basic !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Six issues of our award winning magazine and daily delivery of The Download, our newsletter of what’s important in technology and innovation.

    See details+

    What's Included

    Bimonthly home delivery and unlimited 24/7 access to MIT Technology Review’s website.

    The Download. Our daily newsletter of what's important in technology and innovation.

You've read of free articles this month.