Keyboard technology may not seem as exciting as faster microprocessors, massive displays, or ever-decreasing form factors, but in many ways it's just as important to computing. Seattle-based Swype is trying to leave its mark on the evolution of user input by making "pecking" at keys obsolete.
Instead of having to find and press on-screen keys one by one, Swype simply has users slide (or swipe) their fingers across the screen. Its algorithm does its best to figure out what you were trying to write, then fills it in for you. With a growing number of handsets shipping without a physical keyboard, this software could boost typing productivity and data usage by mobile phone users. Best of all, it doesn't have to replace the existing keyboard paradigm, meaning users can still peck if they like.
However, one big hurdle in the race to get Swype on every new handset is competition from all sides. Big companies like Apple, Palm, Google and RIM have invested in their own software-based keyboard solutions, while some competitors have working versions that accomplish what is effectively the same thing. Those companies also have their own patents and algorithms that help the software figure out what word you were really trying to type in. Swype's creators think they have found the sweet spot of having a product that's ready for mass market now, and that can evolve with its users over time.
Touch and go Swype's technology was originally envisioned as a way to improve text input for disabled users. Those with limited dexterity are able to use Swype's system more easily than a traditional on-screen keyboard. It's also set up to support gesture tracking using Web cams, and with pointing devices like infrared remote controls, meaning it can be used on most hardware built within the last 10 years.
Swype's co-creator Cliff Kushler concocted it as an out-of-retirement project, and a follow-up to his previous co-invention T9--the text prediction algorithm that can be found in more than three billion mobile phones. Swype is trying to go beyond that though; following mobile phones the company has set its sights on tablet PCs, in-store kiosks, gaming devices and even televisions--basically, anything without a physical keyboard.… Read more