The QWERTY keyboard has remained the preferred input method for well over a hundred years. In fact, it's so familiar that we've modeled virtual keyboards after it, even though it's not necessarily the most efficient layout. DVORAK, speech recognition, and gesture based keyboards are potentially faster, but as Leo Laporte noted during his weekly podcast (This Week in Tech), QWERTY has prevailed because it's easy. The alternatives have large learning curves - particularly adaptive speech technology. Yet, as wearable computing (such as Google Glass or the rumored Apple iWatch) become more mainstream, it will be necessary to implement a more efficient input method.
Natasha Lomas (in Tech Crunch) writes about the future of text input. The considerably smaller screen sizes on wearables will likely lead to a push for new and innovative input methods
Wearable technology is waiting in the wings to put new demands on text input technology. Sure you can talk to Google Glass but what if you want to send a message without dictating it to the room? And what about an Apple iWatch? A wrist-mounted screen is going to be highly space constrained — and no one wants to go back to the days of alphanumeric repeat-tap keypads. So it’s pretty clear there’s going to be pressure for keyboards to evolve, for layouts to get a lot more flexible to keep pace and fit the new places we want to put devices.
One such alternative is called MessageEase
[MessageEase is] an alternative keyboard that uses a mixture of taps and gestures combined with a radically different keyboard layout designed to speed up text input by minimising the movements typists have to make to reach the keys. MessagEase’s method compacts the keyboard space required into a small square — which could easily fit on a wrist watch, say, or even enable a Glass wearer to type in the air with minimal finger movements, once they have the muscle memory to do so.
This unique input method was invented by Saied Nesbat, an electrical engineering PhD. The technology was developed in response to cellphone number pads.
The basic mechanism of the MessageEase keyboard involves taps for the most commonly used letters (ANIHORTES), which get pride of place on the grid to comply with Fitts’ Law, and then directional drags to reach the rest of the keys — either up, down, left, right, up left, up right, down left, down right and so on... [Capitalization] is done by circling a letter or swiping up on the R key once or twice to lock caps lock on and reversing the gesture to return to lower case. Additional keyboard layouts that add in punctuation and numerals can be accessed by swiping up over the space bar or via a toggle key. The flexibility of the MessagEase keyboard extends to [customizing] its language, shape and layout, plus the ability to create macros for particular word combinations — for example you could preset “td” to expand out to write “Today’s date is Sunday 2 June”.
It is unlikely that MessageEase will dethrone the traditional QWERTY layout anytime soon. Nevertheless, it is interesting to entertain the notion that better alternatives exist. With the prominence of dictation (with Google Now and Apple's Siri) it remains to be seen if "typing" will be necessary in the future.
Check out Natasha Lomas' full article below.