8pen – Android Typing App Reinvents The Touch Screen Keyboard
May 12, 2011 in Communication
The keyboard has been around virtually as long as personal computers have. Initially, the keyboard was the only input accessory for the command based systems of old. Then came Graphical User Interfaces such as Microsoft Windows and the mouse and touch pads became key input devices. Even then, the role of the keyboard as the primary input device for most computing devices remained largely unchallenged.
The real threat to the continued use of the keyboard though has not come from new systems but from the popularity of ever smaller computing devices –smart phones and tablets computers. Using an onscreen virtual keyboard on these new devices does not provide the amount of space and comfort for typing that one would enjoy on the much larger keyboard used on a personal computer. 8Pen, an Android app, is a radical solution to the size problem.
8Pen moves away from the miniature virtual keyboard concept that has caught on in smart phones and tablet computers. 8pen turns the entire rationale for the keyboard on its head. 8pen does this by using a four quadrant box with every quadrant containing a specific set of letters from the alphabet. The four quadrants surround a centre circle that serves as a space bar as well as the trigger for the start and end of a ‘character loop’. Each of the 4 quadrants contains 8 characters with 4 along each edge arranged from the centre circle.
A user of 8pen must not lift their finger from the touch screen until they complete a word. Lifting the finger off the screen will automatically be interpreted as a space. Like learning a new language, a first time user may find the application complicated. However, mastery following a few days of use will bring out the convenience the 8pen app provides. 8pen app includes text prediction and access to special characters via long holds.
As opposed to typing away, 8pen makes data input a tad bit easier for smart phone users by allowing them to key in the characters using rotational gestures on the screen. This is one of 8pen’s key strengths in the sense that the gestures closely mimic the hand actions that one would use when writing.
If nothing else, the attempt by 8pen to break the singular focus on the keyboard as the default input interface on computing devices, is commendable. The greatest impediment to 8pen making a major impact is likely to be resistance to change. With the keyboard having been such an intrinsic part of computing devices, it will take substantial effort to wean majority of smart phone users to this new approach to data entry.
This is more so because even though more and more people are using smart phones and tablet PCs, they still have their desktop PCs and laptops where the keyboard remains king. The developers of 8pen can only hope that the widespread use of smart phones and tablet PCs will generate sufficient dissatisfaction that will trigger a gradual move to 8pen and other similar ‘new age data input’ technologies.
|Available on Android 1.6 and up|
- iKeyboard Promises A Better Typing Experience On The iPad (macstories.net)
- An iPad Keyboard That Lays On Top of the iPad [Ipad] (gizmodo.com)
- iKeyboard Enhances Touch Typing on iPad (mashable.com)
- The 8pen (e-clecticism.blogspot.com)