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Dvorak's revenge?
January 5, 2011 2:38 PM   Subscribe

8pen, a replacement for QWERTY on touch devices. (SLYT)
posted by CitoyenK (81 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
I found this fascinating when I first came upon it. I don't think it's for me, but I still think it's fascinating.

I might try it out at some point just to see if I could get used to a totally different thing like this, but for now I'll be sticking with Swype.
posted by Stunt at 2:43 PM on January 5, 2011


I think it would have been a better idea to arrange the letters in a QWERTY-ish layout instead of alphabetically.
posted by wcfields at 2:43 PM on January 5, 2011


Cool concept but somehow they managed to not call it arf?.
posted by theodolite at 2:49 PM on January 5, 2011 [4 favorites]


I think it would have been a better idea to arrange the letters in a QWERTY-ish layout instead of alphabetically.

They did, watch the movie all the way through. More Dvorak than Qwery....
posted by njohnson23 at 2:50 PM on January 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Clever. I'd be curious to see how quickly you could type with it.
posted by leotrotsky at 2:52 PM on January 5, 2011


Wait - we're using rotary inputs again?
posted by squorch at 2:53 PM on January 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


If you're going to tell me that this is faster than qwerty show me a video of someone actually using it, not some sped up cartoon hand.
posted by zephyr_words at 2:57 PM on January 5, 2011 [10 favorites]


using multiple presses on the phone's dialpad seems faster than this.
posted by eustatic at 2:59 PM on January 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


I just installed this on my Galaxy Tab and I kind of hate it. I didn't pay much attention to the tutorial, though.
posted by Burhanistan at 3:03 PM on January 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Why embed a video like that and set it for 720p? The embedded player is only 480 pixels high.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 3:06 PM on January 5, 2011


In no way does that 'mimic handwriting'. Unless you write in sanskrit.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 3:07 PM on January 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


If we're doing gestures, why not just let people draw actual letters?
posted by Pyry at 3:08 PM on January 5, 2011 [12 favorites]


My brain knows how to use Qwerty, so even though I hear about people who can use Swype insanely fast, I'm still faster sticking with the ol' tiny keyboard. I do like the question in the video's intro though: "If text entry for mobile devices was invented today without just being a shrunken down keyboard, how would it look?"
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 3:08 PM on January 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


I say this as a person who absolutely loved the Palm Pilot's stylus language and could write in it like a freaking pro: I can't ever imagine "writing" instead "typing" again unless you didn't give me the choice.

But I also like that people are given the choice.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 3:11 PM on January 5, 2011


Little known fact: QWERTY was invented so that slower processors, such as the Samsung ARM 11 in the original iPhone, could keep up.
posted by LordSludge at 3:17 PM on January 5, 2011 [59 favorites]


"What if you didn't have to use your phone's touchscreen at all? What if there were a better way? Imagine if you could fart morse code directly into the microphone."
posted by nathancaswell at 3:21 PM on January 5, 2011 [17 favorites]


I tried 8pen with high hopes when it first came out, because I like it when people think outside the box when it comes to input on new platforms. I wound up getting my money back. I have a hard time believing the 8pen saw any real world testing before release.

You can't lift your finger while you're 'typing' a word, so there's always a quadrant of the interface that you can't see because your finger and hand are in the way. If you don't know the layout by heart, it's intensely frustrating. A frustrating experience doesn't make you more likely to memorize the layout. When you're allowed to lift your finger, how often you have to go back to the center of the interface, etc. all seemed arbitrary and counter-intuitive, too.

It's obvious early on that even if you were a master rotary typist the input speeds you'd be able to achieve are crap compared to a really good predictive word completion system like SwiftKey. Even if 8pen were a faster way to input letters one by one -- and it's definitely not that -- it pales in comparison to a system that, at least half the time, knows which word I'm looking for after only two or three letters.
posted by zjacreman at 3:21 PM on January 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


The big advantage that 8pen has isn't speed, it's accuracy. I bought it when it was first released for android a few months ago (although I believe it is now free), and I must say it isn't for me. When typing a normal email I'm faster with a decent qwerty keyboard with autocorrect such as swiftkey or the new gingerbread keyboard, and way faster with swype. But with both of those when you get to things that aren't in the dictionary you need to slow down and make sure you hit every key exactly. 8pen always gets whichever letter you want exactly.

Now although I still have it installed, I never got anywhere near faster enough with it for that accuracy to make up for how slow I was, but it is certainly a nice feature. The second thing, is it wouldn't take too much effort to be able to type with that accuracy while not looking at the keyboard. So think typing out emails while walking around or that sort of thing. Again, not worth the effort for me, but I think for some small percentage of people it might be.

As I said, I don't use it except to play with every now and then, but I was happy to have paid them a few dollars in order to encourage new and interesting input methods.

As to the keypad layout, my understanding is that it was designed to place common letters on the inner ring, but also to make common chains of letters more convenient.
posted by markr at 3:23 PM on January 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


You can't lift your finger while you're 'typing' a word, so there's always a quadrant of the interface that you can't see because your finger and hand are in the way. If you don't know the layout by heart, it's intensely frustrating. A frustrating experience doesn't make you more likely to memorize the layout.

They seem to have solved this problem by having the layout pop up above the "keyboard" when you're "typing" (which I imagine you can eventually turn off).

I am still agnostic on 8pen but I'm giving it a shot for the same reason you did.
posted by eugenen at 3:24 PM on January 5, 2011


in theory sounds nice - but the idea of doing a bee dance with my finger sounds
1. horrible for somebody like me who can't touchtype
2. perfect way to agravate your blackberry thumb/carpal tunnel
3. way too complex when we should just attach a thought reading electroe on our forehead
posted by wackoacko at 3:24 PM on January 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


re Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug: I think thats the point of Swype though - its a different way of input for people but still with the familiarity of qwerty. Basically, you're just dragging your finger around a qwerty keyboard and its predicting what you mean to type.
posted by jeffmik at 3:25 PM on January 5, 2011


zjacreman: "You can't lift your finger while you're 'typing' a word, so there's always a quadrant of the interface that you can't see because your finger and hand are in the way."

As of current versions you can turn off the auto-space when you lift your finger, and manually enter spaces. It will also place a copy of the keypad at the top of the screen so you can see it (and what letters you are hitting) as you type. Either one of these end the incredible frustration of trying to see where a letter is mid-word that the early versions had.
posted by markr at 3:25 PM on January 5, 2011


I installed this on my Nexus One a while ago, but generally there didn't seem to be a good reason to develop an alternative mode of entry to a system that already worked at least as well. It might have usability or accessibility benefits for others, but I'm not sure it meets a mainstream need, right now - good learning systems on spellcheck and autocorrect seem to be a greater limiting factor on speed of text entry, and the delay of lifting a finger seems more naturally to be addressed by Swype, for those who find it onerous.

Interesting idea, though, and I am sure it will suit some people.

On preview - the finger-blindness issue struck me as well, zjacreman - I guess that the larger your screen, the less that becomes a problem, but on anything smaller than a tablet the pad of the finger is a pretty significant size.
posted by DNye at 3:28 PM on January 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Following the large attention the 8pen™ has received since its launch, we would like to clarify the legal issues involved in copying the 8pen™, either directly or with variations. Please be aware that any form of copying the 8pen™ violates intellectual property, and may result in legal charges.
Ugh, fuck these people. Patenting these input methods is moronic, they are all fairly similar. And in fact I had an idea pretty similar to this back when palm pilots were around. (almost identical, I think. The idea was a entering information based on the angle of a loop. I thought it would be pretty fast.) I was just a college student at the time (actually this may even have been in high-school), and anyway, no one makes much money off these input methods anyway.

Anyway I might as well make a post about the input method I would really like to see before someone tries to patent it: Just a chording keyboard with 4 or 5 buttons on mobile devices. You would just squeeze a couple of keys to enter a character, and with huffman coding you would be able to type common biagrams easily.

It would be hard to learn, but very fast (much faster then even a physical thumb-keyboard, I think. Maybe even faster then a real full-sized keyboard).

Just throwing that out there in case someone tries to patent it a decade from now.

Honestly these input method patents are probably doing more to hold back keyboard innovation then anything. Instead of having lots of different input methods available, or have lots of experimentation and enhancement, people don't bother coming up with new ideas because they might be similar to other ones.
posted by delmoi at 3:30 PM on January 5, 2011 [4 favorites]


After trying Swype, there's no other touchscreen interface for text that comes close. Including this. Although I did see an interesting one some time ago that involved moving your finger up and down to fly through a scrolling set of predictive text, but I don't know what happened to it.
posted by Jairus at 3:31 PM on January 5, 2011


8pen is a really interesting text entry concept, and I say that even though the startup I work for is a competitor (I'm global language solutions dev lead at SwiftKey).

Google has made a very enlightened decision by making it possible (unlike Apple) for third parties to develop custom input software. As a result, developers have taken the opportunity to invent lots of new text entry ideas. Swype, BlindType, 8pen, our SwiftKey team here at TouchType and many others have had a chance to develop new concepts and try them out with real users.

We live in weird and amazing times for text entry, when you can read articles like this one at GigaOm of "top 5 Android Keyboard Apps." And yes, there are many many more than 5 out there.

Why are so many companies working on mobile keyboards? Now is a great time for text input businesses, because touchscreen phones are only now reaching a mass audience (through Android). Because most people will be purchasing their very first smartphone, we have a unique window of time to create better ways of doing basic tasks with devices-- a window that will disappear once people settle into habits.

It's also interesting to see the diversity in competing designs:

* Swype and BlindType (now acquired by Google) both focus on text correction and speed. They applying innovative cleverness to the way you interact with the screen itself, while still keeping traditional keyboard layouts.

* 8pen appears to be a rotary interface to a clone of Dasher, a famous HCI project by David McKay here in Cambridge. Making the Dasher interface a rotary display was a stroke of design genius which required significant out-of-the-box thinking. Once you see see 8pen, it's obvious that it's the superior approach to a Dasher-style interface on a mobile form factor.

* At TouchType, we aren't trying to reinvent the keyboard. Instead, we focus on having the very best text prediction and error correction. By learning your personal language style, and by applying that to predictions and error correction, our software can make keyboard input very fast. Our word prediction library can also be integrated into other, third party input systems (in SwiftKey, we use it to apply predictive text to Google Speech Input, which blew my mind when the devs first showed it to me).

Just a few minutes ago, Google unveiled the new Android OS for tablets. Judging imperfectly from the brief glimpse in the video, we can expect even cooler opportunities for inventive text entry on tablet devices.

That's going to be very exciting.

On preview:

" a really good predictive word completion system like SwiftKey."

Thanks, zjacreman! *blush*
posted by honest knave at 3:33 PM on January 5, 2011 [31 favorites]


Ken Perlin had a very similar idea in 1998. He called it Quikwriting. It's available for the Xbox and other platforms. I coded up a setup for a graphics & haptic setup.

Isn't some character entry on Japanese and Chinese touchscreen text entry setup similar?
posted by sien at 3:34 PM on January 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


Anyway I might as well make a post about the input method I would really like to see before someone tries to patent it: Just a chording keyboard with 4 or 5 buttons on mobile devices. You would just squeeze a couple of keys to enter a character, and with huffman coding you would be able to type common biagrams easily.

Do it!!! Five years down the line, a patent litigator hunting for prior art will hire you as a consultant for $400/hr.
posted by eugenen at 3:35 PM on January 5, 2011


So dotcom boomish. I learned to do Grafitti and it felt like magic. But it got lame, fast.

see also,

The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it.

posted by chavenet at 3:40 PM on January 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,

That. Is. Awesome. Thanks for the fantastic Rubaiyat reference, chavenet! At work, we have a strong interest in poetry, and I am definitely putting that up on the wall tomorrow.
posted by honest knave at 3:49 PM on January 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


Switching to Android made me basically hate texting - the loss in accuracy that comes from a software keyboard drives me absolutely crazy. I tried Swype and didn't find it intuitive at all, but I'm giving 8pen a shot, and I kind of like it.

It's incredibly slow right now because I still don't know where all they letters are, but once I learn that, I think I'll enjoy this. The two big things I miss from my Palm Pre's physical keyboard are accuracy and the ability to text while not looking at the screen; 8pen may, with time, solve both of these issues for me.
posted by JimBennett at 3:50 PM on January 5, 2011


Anyway I might as well make a post about the input method I would really like to see before someone tries to patent it: Just a chording keyboard with 4 or 5 buttons on mobile devices.

There were a few for the Newton and Pilot, this is the only one I could find quickly. It used (uses?) nine keys.

In no way does that 'mimic handwriting'. Unless you write in sanskrit.

Or have an MD.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 3:51 PM on January 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


Try Swype instead if you're on an Android device.
posted by kbanas at 3:54 PM on January 5, 2011


I mostly like how their website uses Google's typeface and color palette to ease the IP acquisition that they're clearly hoping for.
posted by rh at 3:55 PM on January 5, 2011 [7 favorites]


The keyboard on the Galaxy Tab is just big enough to type regularly on without too many errors. Swype is more of a chore since the screen size necessitates more movement than with a phone-sized device.

Depressing news about Android Honeycomb not being supported on single processor devices, though.
posted by Burhanistan at 3:57 PM on January 5, 2011


1. Surprisingly, considering the audience, this video produced a message indicating it was not optimized for mobile devices, as the audio failed to match the video on my droid.

2. I also had the distinct feeling like the author was using, or suggesting we use a rotary phone. For those of you unfamiliar with these, they were prettty inefficient time-wise for making phone calls.

3. This has software implemented product written all over it.
posted by Nanukthedog at 4:00 PM on January 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


I tried this for a few days but it's just too infuriating to learn - my thumb got in the way of the thing I need to see to decide where I was supposed to be putting my thumb.. And taking it off the screen to look properly automatically entered a space. I wanted to like it, but I couldn't.
posted by dickasso at 4:01 PM on January 5, 2011


> I mostly like how their website uses Google's typeface and color palette to ease the IP acquisition that they're clearly hoping for.

I mostly like how the logo at the top is clearly meant to imply "Open", and the "Patent Pending" statement at the bottom.
posted by ardgedee at 4:15 PM on January 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


Graffiti was awesome, and has been out for Android since July. Yay 1999! Boo, future!
posted by 1adam12 at 4:22 PM on January 5, 2011


Yeah, as sien points out, Ken Perlin did this better a decade ago. I purchased the commercial version (software, and a plastic overlay to constrain the pen movement) for my Palm device. And experimented with implementing the algorithm using one of those Xbox-y controllers and the Windows HID API.
posted by orthogonality at 4:22 PM on January 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


I've only just got to grips with the iphones erratic actions... not to mention the fact the English language has been slaughtered by the 'Text' talk that has evolved.
Good theory... but all that for one finger?

[quote ardgedee]
I thought exactly the same thing as soon as I saw the colours... I initialy believed this to be a Google product
posted by Large_Pudding at 4:45 PM on January 5, 2011


Huh, interesting. Now if they had an actual download link on their website, or a mobile version with a download link, that would be grand.

I lol'd at the Google colours, too.
posted by Xany at 4:48 PM on January 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Size of your finger is of no importance anymore.

I've heard this before.
posted by cjorgensen at 4:49 PM on January 5, 2011


delmoi: Honestly these input method patents are probably doing more to hold back keyboard innovation then anything.

I totally agree. For a new input device to be successful (I mean, to really enjoy widespread acceptance and use), it will have to be unencumbered by patents.

I also imagine that a chording keyboard like you describe would be an excellent option, and have thought so for several years. If I wasn't so lazy, I'd have built one by now.
posted by fartknocker at 5:03 PM on January 5, 2011


our SwiftKey team here at TouchType

Is that Dobbie from Peep Show doing the voice over?
posted by PeterMcDermott at 5:04 PM on January 5, 2011


Just a few minutes ago, Google unveiled the new Android OS for tablets.

* Tron interface not included with mockup
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:05 PM on January 5, 2011


Just a chording keyboard with 4 or 5 buttons on mobile devices. You would just squeeze a couple of keys to enter a character, and with huffman coding you would be able to type common biagrams easily.

This sounds like a stenotype, like court reporters use. They're pretty fast!
posted by mendel at 5:16 PM on January 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Swype is genuinely something new. In the last month I've banged together a 12,000-word document on my phone while commuting, much of it typing one-handed when I couldn't get a seat... and I don't have a long commute.

The point that people miss about Swype is that it's fun. It'll take a couple of days of using it to get to that point, and then the big swoopy swirly motions, wiggles and jiggles all come together and it feels like you're playing. This is the first time since I retired my Psion 5 ten years ago that typing on a mobile device has been a joy.

You can make up games too. Can you find words with a Swype path that resembles their meaning? Best so far: 'circle' and 'plough'.

8pen looks like work. If I wanted to use a system that resembled handwriting I'd write by hand, in a nice notebook with a nice pen.
posted by Hogshead at 5:47 PM on January 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


I want the tutorial woman to come to my house and stroke my hair while she reads me a book and I drift off to sleep. What a beautiful voice/accent.

Oh, also - I will probably give this 8pen thing a try.
posted by Pecinpah at 5:52 PM on January 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


the best alternate input system I've ever used was 10 years ago on my Compaq iPaq handheld running linux - fitaly. It irks me to no end that I cannot replace the iphone keyboard with a fitaly layout.
posted by namewithoutwords at 6:02 PM on January 5, 2011


I described something similar to this in a metafilter comment a couple of years ago. Where's my goddamn royalties?
posted by maxwelton at 6:21 PM on January 5, 2011


Making the Dasher interface a rotary display was a stroke of design genius which required significant out-of-the-box thinking. Once you see see 8pen, it's obvious that it's the superior approach to a Dasher-style interface on a mobile form factor.
Well, like I said, I came up with pretty much the same idea back in the 90s. I think it's pretty obvious. Drawing loops is easy, divide the screen into 4 zones and look at the angle of the loop. But, when I imagined it I thought of people using a pen, not a fingertip. I think using a finger would be annoying. And someone linked to this from '98, which is pretty similar.

The fact that these things get patented and locked down means that people can't incrementally improve on them. If this is such a good idea, what if their implementation sucks?
Do it!!! Five years down the line, a patent litigator hunting for prior art will hire you as a consultant for $400/hr.
Um, I did. The post outlines the idea.
Switching to Android made me basically hate texting - the loss in accuracy that comes from a software keyboard drives me absolutely crazy. I tried Swype and didn't find it intuitive at all, but I'm giving 8pen a shot, and I kind of like it.
They make android phones with real keyboards. I can get about 25 WPM on my G1 (according to a typing game called 'txtspeed', which requires accurate entry) I wish more phones had real keyboards, though. The G2 has a real physical keybard, but it's not the top of the line compared to the Nexus S or HTC Evo (I think)
Graffiti was awesome, and has been out for Android since July. Yay 1999! Boo, future!
Does it work well with a fingertip instead of a stylus? Actually, howcome these phones don't let you use a stylus in addition to your finger? Using a stylus for clicking links in websites would be an improvement for sure.
This sounds like a stenotype, like court reporters use. They're pretty fast! yt
Yup, and Douglass Englebart invented a one-hand version along with the mouse so you could chord with one hand and mouse with the other.
posted by delmoi at 6:55 PM on January 5, 2011


I started using this and found myself enjoying it. I find the on-screen keyboard pretty frustrating, this seems less so. But I need to learn where the letters is
posted by the noob at 7:00 PM on January 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


They make android phones with real keyboards. I can get about 25 WPM on my G1 (according to a typing game called 'txtspeed', which requires accurate entry) I wish more phones had real keyboards, though. The G2 has a real physical keybard, but it's not the top of the line compared to the Nexus S or HTC Evo (I think)

They do have phones like the Droid Pro or the G2, but I'm on Sprint, so my options are limited, and even if they weren't, I fell in love with the Evo the moment I saw it. The on screen keyboard is basically the only problem I have with this phone, and I think 8pen might eventually fix that.
posted by JimBennett at 7:14 PM on January 5, 2011


I tried 8pen for a few days (paid for it, even) and could never get over the hand blocking quadrant problem mentioned above. And it was so damn slow for me. I'm a fast fast typist, was a fast sms-er back in the day of t9, and I just could not get used to 8pen.
Swype, on the other hand, is a dream come true. Makes me almost sorry I got a Samsung Galaxy specifically for the keyboard, but I still need it to do crossword puzzles, so there you go.
posted by ch1x0r at 7:26 PM on January 5, 2011


The point that people miss about Swype is that it's fun.

So true. Swype feels like absolute magic to use. I've only been a convert for a few weeks now, but I remain absolutely enthralled by its accuracy and how much more pleasant and fast touchscreen typing is for me. Saw the 8pen video a few days ago and just watching it made my fingers recoil at an interface that seems so unnatural. Still, the opportunity for input innovation is exciting in and of itself, and is yet another reason I'm an Android fanboy.
posted by youarenothere at 7:35 PM on January 5, 2011


My girlfriend has Swype on her Android phone and to me it is indistinguishable from magic.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 7:58 PM on January 5, 2011


Swype is very nice. But I found ShapeWriter even better. It was more accurate and supported more languages, but it disappeared from the Android Marketplace. Anybody know what happened to it? Their web site looks broken.
posted by Triplanetary at 9:04 PM on January 5, 2011


I found 8pen a lot more appealing in concept than Swype, but ultimately I keep going back to the stock Google keyboard. I could see getting good at 8pen but I could also feel it making my thumb ache; the fact that I probably have some permanant damage in my right index finger from excessive double- and triple-clicking at one point in my career makes me wary of trying anything that makes my hand hurt.

I still kinda miss Graffiti. I got good enough at it that I could write stuff on my Palm without looking. But it just didn't work for me when I tried it on the Android - mostly due to the different friction of a thumbpad on a screen versus a fingernail, I seem to recall.
posted by egypturnash at 9:50 PM on January 5, 2011


Nuance bought Shapewriter and has withdrawn it from the market.
posted by bz at 9:52 PM on January 5, 2011


nathancaswell joked about Morse code, but seriously... if alternate inputs are on the table for discussion, wouldn't that be ideal for the limited real estate of a touch screen? Just a single button and glorious dots and dashes. Think about it, people. It's no more complicated than learning a bunch of rotary gesture things.
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 10:00 PM on January 5, 2011


There are a bunch of Morse Code apps in the Marketplace, but none can be set as a default input method.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:10 PM on January 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Wait, there is a Morse Code app that can be set as the input method, but it has shitty permissions issues so I won't link it.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:18 PM on January 5, 2011


bz: "Nuance bought Shapewriter and has withdrawn it from the market."

Nuance released their new keyboard, which incorporates shapewriter and dragon-based voice recognition today.
posted by markr at 10:22 PM on January 5, 2011


God that looks slow and painful. Swype please.
posted by chundo at 10:32 PM on January 5, 2011


I am actually pretty fast on the QWERTY keyboard on my old iPhone and I manage this in several languages. I don't think a new input method is something I need or want. I do it all with my middle right finger which has developed a bump that lets me hit the letters and links I need most of the time.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 10:32 PM on January 5, 2011


I do it all with my middle right finger which has developed a bump . . .

What.
posted by quadog at 11:21 PM on January 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


It takes some balls to threaten legal action against people who produce "variations" of this when—as others have pointed out—this is nothing more than a "variation" on Quikwriting, tweaked for the fact that fingers are fatter than a stylus. If they manage to license this to anyone they owe Ken Perlin a cut, and no way in hell should they ever get a patent for it.
posted by Lazlo at 12:17 AM on January 6, 2011


Delmoi: what makes the 8pen concept special, and different from the examples you cite, is the combination of the adaptive character positions (a la Dasher) with a pie menu. I have no comment to offer on any IP or prior art issues.
posted by honest knave at 1:58 AM on January 6, 2011


Umm, it doesn't have adaptive character positions. It just has a layout chosen for optimal (presumably) writing of English (it's significantly more awkward to use it to type in Lojban).

I've been using it pretty much constantly since the initial release, and I rather like it. It is for the most part far less frustrating than Swype, SwiftKey, SlideIT, Better Keyboard or the stock Froyo keyboard, all of which I've used at some point. Of course that's just me - and this is why we have a choice, and why it's so awesome that Android exposes the hooks for new input methods.

I generally get on very badly with predictive systems. I have no idea why, but they usually get it wrong, and I don't think my phrasing's all that unusual. Swype in particular drove me nuts with its terrible guesses at what I was trying to write. Occasionally it would get it right and it'd be pure bliss, but then five words later you feel like you've run into a brick wall. With 8pen, as was said by other people, the advantage is being able to enter the letters right in the first place. I turned off the entire predictive system it has as that just reduced my accuracy by choosing the wrong things. I'm far from perfect (I keep going a bit too far on three-sector letters and ending up with the fourth instead), but I'm gradually getting used to it.

Does require the learning time of course, and for that reason I think it's doomed as a mainstream success because people don't want to invest the time when there's something that looks like a familiar keyboard that's also available. You'd never get away with shipping 8pen as the default on a new phone...
posted by mathw at 2:21 AM on January 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


mathw, do you type a lot of Lojban? (Not LOLLojban, genuinely curious.)
posted by No-sword at 2:58 AM on January 6, 2011


I don't understand. Where is this tube station with the Victoria, Central, Circle and District lines going into it and why does it make me write more quickly to Alice on my iPhone?
posted by MuffinMan at 3:07 AM on January 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


I am a beautiful person.

For me, it's swiftkey all the way. Tried 8pen (awful), and a swype like input keyboard and although swyping is fast, it's nowhere near as fast as swiftkey.

The thing is pretty much psychic. Some text messages, it feels like I end up pressing the first key, and then various combinations of the middle bar to get a whole complex message out.

What this says about my paucity of expression and vocabulary is not lost on me. So don't go there.
posted by seanyboy at 7:23 AM on January 6, 2011


I liked the predictive text I got on my Razr phone back in the day. I'm not sure if it was faster than the qwerty on my Blackberry, but it was close.

What I need now is a Blackberry style punctuation predictor for my PC. I've become a lazy typist. Why doesn't my computer insert a period when I hit the spacebar twice??

I want the tutorial woman to come to my house and stroke my hair while she reads me a book and I drift off to sleep. What a beautiful voice/accent.

Really? I got a sort of French-Canadian girl after having eaten peanut butter vibe off of it. Whatever floats your boat...

(Maybe it was just me, but I also got a definite "Charlie Brown's parents" waa wa waaaa wa waaa waaa sound off of it.)
posted by gjc at 8:22 AM on January 6, 2011


Seconding recommendation of namewithoutwords (above) for the Fitaly one-finger layout.

This thing looks like it wouldn't be any faster than straight handwriting recognition.
posted by straight at 8:47 AM on January 6, 2011


Stuff like SwiftKey makes me scared for the future.

I imagine us all getting stuck in linguistic ruts as computers rush in and autosuggest that we say the same things using the same words we've used before and we lazily just accept it because, "Yeah, I guess that's what I was gonna say. It's basically what I was thinking, I guess."
posted by straight at 8:55 AM on January 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


I just downloaded 8pen this morning. And I've been doing exercises with it all day: aaaa, bbbb, cccc, abc, abc, cab, cab, dddd, dac, adc, cad, bac, cad.

I'm starting to get pretty good at it.

I fucking love this thing. And this was after I spent five minutes explaining to the other engineer here that it was neat looking, but probably worked like garbage. It doesn't.

For you folks complaining that you can't see through your finger: they've added a preview window that pops up above the finger area. Of course, it means you can't see what you're writing... but, all of that's a crutch until you learn what you're doing anyway.
posted by Netzapper at 12:07 PM on January 6, 2011


honest knave: "Dasher, a famous HCI project by David McKay here in Cambridge. "

I was going to mention Dasher! I had it installed on my old computer, oh, years ago. I never really did anything with it except play around - but it did make typing a fun and kind of hypnotic experience. I would love to be able to use that on my iTouch.

8pen, though, seems like it would be terribly confusing to use. No thanks.
posted by Gordafarin at 12:24 PM on January 6, 2011


Delmoi: what makes the 8pen concept special, and different from the examples you cite, is the combination of the adaptive character positions (a la Dasher) with a pie menu. I have no comment to offer on any IP or prior art issues.
Look up huffman coding, which I did mention.
posted by delmoi at 2:26 PM on January 6, 2011


I imagine us all getting stuck in linguistic ruts as computers rush in and autosuggest that we say the same things using the same words we've used before and we lazily just accept it because, "Yeah, I guess that's what I was gonna say. It's basically what I was thinking, I guess."

Is it suggesting words from the context, or just the predictive "enter the first few letters"?

Because if it is the "enter the first few letters" thing, what you describe would be incredible rare. You have to think of the word you want, start typing it, and then somehow there would have to be another word that means kind of the same thing that you could use.
posted by gjc at 4:32 PM on January 6, 2011


I only skimmed one of the videos, but it looked like it was even suggesting the next word in a sentence for you, which is the part that seemed creepy to me.
posted by straight at 7:41 AM on January 7, 2011


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