AppShow 35: A New Keyboard, Three Touch Scenarios

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In this epiosde of the Intel App Show for Developers,  Amy Barton and Wendy Boswell talk about two pertinent articles of interest to the developer community at large: the possible introduction of a new keyboard format, and what using touch on an Ultrabook actually looks like in the wild.

A New Keyboard?

Via Slashdot, we learned about a possible new keyboard iteration that could possibly take the place of the traditional QWERTY keyboard, known and loved since 1878.

Traditional keyboards have a specific layout that lends itself well to typing on a computer or notebook, and it’s what most of us have grown up with and are familiar with. However, worldwide adaptation of the mobile phone, in particular the smartphone, has made that kind of keyboard much more ubiquitous.

Many people find it very easy to type with just one or two fingers, like on a mobile phone or a tablet device. A new keyboard design called Dextr takes that two-finger typing familiarity and adapts it to a keyboard that is much more intuitive for this kind of input.

Basically, instead of the QWERTY layout, the Dextr keyboard arranges the letters alphabetically. The letters are split into five rows rather than three, and can even be “flipped” if needed for ease of use by left-handed people.

People are already used to mobile keyboards, so this could be the next logical step as we move into more sophisticated form factors. However, the real problem with a new keyboard – no matter how adaptable or ubiquitous it might be as far as people already using it in some format – is adaptation. As already mentioned, the traditional QWERTY keyboard has been round for a very long time, and it’s what people are used to. Savvy developers might want to keep an eye on this discussion as it moves forward, since many apps will be affected by any changes in this particular space.

Three Kinds of Touch

Over at Ultrabook News, Steve “Chippy” Paine showed us three different scenarios of how touch works on a touch-enabled Ultrabook. It was interesting to see how touch actually plays out.

The first scenario was easy content consumption with a very easy learning curve. Basically, this is out of the box game play with almost zero orientation. Chippy showed off his Fruit Ninja skills, incorporating multi-touch, pinching, and swiping. All of these motions were natural with very little stretching or awkward arm positions involved.  Basically, the app (and others like it) makes it easy to enter into the full touch experience.

The second scenario wasn’t as basic. A Twitter app was displayed that asked users to use the middle part of the screen for important controls, and as we’re starting to see as the touch design paradigm evolves, the center of a screen isn’t that easy to hit. Developers have to keep in mind basic user postures and screen target zones in order to make the touch experience a productive one.

The third scenario was intriguing. Chippy showed us an app that by his own admission took quite a bit of time to master using touch. However, even though there was a bit of ramping up, he felt that the app was completely worth the extra time simply because using it with touch made such a difference, mostly in sheer speed of use. It was interesting to see how this played out. D

Bottom line with touch-enabled Ultrabooks? Touch is a game changer, and everyone will use touch differently. There are different levels of use, like Chippy showed us, and there’s lots of room for experimentation. As touch-enabled Ultrabooks are adapted by more and more users, we’ll surely see even more ways of using touch that will be surprising and ultimately, innovative.