Jan 272011
Screenshot from Linux software KTouch. An imag...
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If you’ve ever tried to transfer your touch-typing skills onto a touchscreen tablet’s virtual keyboard, you’ll know what an impossible task that can be.

Apart from the fact that there’s no tactile guide to tell you where keys are in relation to each other, placing all of your fingers onto the screen almost always causes accidental activation of unwanted keys. Researchers from the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS) claim to have overcome such issues with the development of a QWERTY keyboard interface that should allow touch typists to tap away without needing visual prompts.

Early versions of the LiquidKeyboard system were developed using HTML and JavaScript, and are said to have been inspired by a virtual keyboard from Microsoft that used a split keyboard approach. Creators Christian Sax and Hannes Lau went on to develop the system for Apple’s iOS operating system for the iPad, but say that the software could be adapted for use on other operating platforms. They chose the iPad believing it to have superior multi-touch capability, and because the cost of the hardware met their strict budget criteria.

Touch typing on a physical keyboard is more than just having a mental map of key location, it’s also about getting some sort of tactile feedback from pressed keys, and about getting a sense of where keys are relative to others. While LiquidKeyboard can’t do much about the physical typing sensation, it splits the QWERTY keys into allocatable groups and assigns sets to individual fingers – the upshot being that when the software detects four fingers being placed onto the surface of the display, it creates a fluid keyboard underneath the fingers.

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