September 17, 2010

Keyless Keyboard Could Be In Mobile Computing’s Future

A newly formed Israeli company has launched a system that could make mobile computing easier by allowing users to type on invisible keys instead of an actual keyboard that typically takes up much of the screen.

The "keyless keyboard" was developed by SnapKeys, who has formed a deal with Philips Electronics to market the product, according to company officials. The two companies will split revenue 50-50.

"There is a fundamental problem in entering data on mobile devices," SnapKeys Chief Executive Benjamin Ghassabian told Reuters. "Keyboards were meant for fixed devices, not mobile."

The success of Apple's iPad shows that people want more mobile devices. At least 40 companies are seeking to market the popular tablet computer, he said.

"The market is moving toward mobile computers -- that's why tablets are coming out," said Ghassabian.

SnapKeys and Philips have already started seeking out mobile device and computer companies about using the keyless keyboard. "We are in the phase of closing deals ... It will take a few months to get to the market," said Ghassabian, adding that the system works on Windows, Symbian and Android devices.

The keyboard works by using four invisible keys - two on each side of the device's screen - each consisting of 6 to 7 letters. There will be other keys for numbers, punctuation and symbols. The location of the keys will first appear on the screen, but as users learn the location of letters, they probably will not need the overlay for long, the company said.

Users tap the invisible keys with their thumbs and the system will predict the words. The English version has about 100,000 words and is 92 percent accurate. If the word is not correct, it can be changed.

Ghassabian said the system is also available in all European languages as well as Chinese. An Indian version is also in the works.

"The only competition for us will be voice recognition and that's not working well yet in mobile devices," he said.

He discarded the idea that most people will not want to change their typing habits from a keyboard that has been around for more than a century.

"People used to have horses but when cars came out, not everyone wanted to switch to cars. But when they started driving cars, they didn't want to go back to riding horses," he told Reuters. 


On the Net: