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April 20th, 2011

gfish: (Default)
Wednesday, April 20th, 2011 02:52 pm
Keyboard design is a contentious thing. Everyone knows qwerty kind of sucks, but very few people use alternative mappings. Most of these are designed to improve typing speed by putting common letters on the home row, and keeping letters which are frequently found next to each other in words assigned to different fingers, to optimize typing motions. This is a very sensible, very 20th century approach to solving the problem. I think it's all wrong.

We should switch mappings, mind you. But as more and more typing is done on mobile devices, the criteria for optimization is changing. I doubt Dvorak is noticeably better than qwerty if you're thumb-typing, for instance. More important than just changes in the physical act of typing, though, is the fact that typing on mobile devices is almost universally aided with automatic correction tools. This works great if you typo 'hst' for 'hat', as 'hst' isn't a word. But if you typo 'pot' for 'pit', it's not going to help much. (Unless they start doing higher level semantic correction, which isn't impossible but does raise certain interface issues.) I would like to propose the need for a new keyboard layout which optimizes typing speed on smart devices by minimizing the number of off-by-one typos which can turn a valid word into another valid word. Keeping vowels well away from each other would obviously be the most important thing. Not clustering uncommon letters like X and Z next to each other would also help. Q shouldn't be banished to the edge of the keyboard, it would be much more valuable acting as an enigmatic wall between two higher frequency letters.

That should work pretty well until we get a real mind-computer interface working. Hopefully with advances like this we can skip over the horror of widespread voice input entirely.