Apple swipe typing patent

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Apple’s iPhone needs a much smarter keyboard. I have stated it previously, however below’s proof Cupertino itself understands that hen-pecking individual letters is a ‘tiresome job’. Apple’s US patent 8,542,206 (found by AppleInsider) describes an alternative text input approach for iOS that integrates a collection of swipe gestures to make touchscreen typing less of a chore.

Or in patent-speak:

Interspersing the tiresome job of keying in using the small keys with swipes that don’t need a certain point of origin can provide individuals a nice break from the sensorimotor and intellectual lots of targeting really small secrets.

The patent’s innovators are noted as Wayne Carl Westerman, Henri Lamiraux and Matthew Evan Dreisbach. According to LinkedIn, all 3 still work at Apple: Westerman is a MultiTouch Architect at Apple, Lamiraux is Engineering Vice Head of state iOS Apps and Frameworks at Apple, and Dreisbach is noted as a lead software engineer in the iOS Test Automation division.

Interestingly, although it’s simply been released online the patent was filed means back in June 2007, the year the original iPhone debuted, which recommends that although Apple has been taking a look at means to progress the conventional keyboard input approach for the touchscreen, it’s either turned down these alternatives, or remains to attempt to best them – possibly likewise wishing to see to it its individuals prepare to reconsider exactly how they kind.

Over the last 6+ years, however, the rival Android ecological community has allowed a myriad of alternative keyboards to sprout forth – consisting of Swype, which replaces taps completely with swipes to form words (it was preloaded on some 100 million Android devices in 2012). Because Swype, and its big rival SwiftKey, made it big, a raft of other keyboards startups have likewise pushed into the space – offering a smorgasbord of radical alternatives to conventional typing, consisting of invisible keyboards, space-saver keyboards, eyes-free keyboards and (most just recently) a tablet-keyboard with floating primaries.

Even foot-dragging mobile maker BlackBerry, which took far too long to wean itself off physical QWERTYs, integrated some gestures into its BB10 touchscreen keyboard at the beginning of this year – supporting flicks to choose recommended words on its all-touch gadgets (not that BB10 has actually had the ability to restore BlackBerry’s fortunes).

All of makings Apple the indisputable keyboard conservative in the touchscreen typing pool. iOS’s immoveable, tap-thirsty tricks stay the single most bothersome thing about the OS in my view. Cupertino likewise doesn’t permit third party keyboards to be installed – retaining control over that part of its OS, although that indicates its users get left behind all the flick-tastic keyboard advancement (the very best you can do on iOS is make use of an alternative keyboard within an individual app).

Despite its ongoing recognition of traditional, tap-based typing, the Apple patent – which is labelled ‘Swipe motions for touch screen keyboards’ – suggests that Cupertino has actually at least thought about ways to evolve its keyboard software to make keying in on iOS a less old-fashioned experience.

The patent’s primary focus is on describing a hybrid method of text input which replaces a restricted sub-sect of keying in functions (such as placing spaces or punctuation) with swipe gestures:

For example, leftward, rightward, upward, and downward swipes can be appointed to inserting a space, backspacing, moving (when it comes to typing uppercase), and inserting a carriage return and/or new line.

Adding a few gestures to the iOS keyboard could speed up keying in a little however the speed gains would likely be countered by the requirements to enlighten the individual about the new gesture-based faster ways, and possibly likewise provide on-screen signs to keep things streaming. Which might well describe why Apple has not included motions into its keyboard software application, a complete 6 years after the patent was submitted.

The patent document keeps in mind that the swipe gestures it details are planned to be performed ‘across a plurality of tricks on the virtual keyboard while the virtual keyboard is displayed’ – and might be supplemented by ‘feedback’ to suggest to the individual the function has been successfully done.

The patent also recommends individuals could customise swipe motions to develop their own faster ways, and describes how ‘multi-fingered swipe gestures’ could be made use of to ‘evoke added functionality’ – such as word removal, inserting aspects like punctuation and areas, or calling extra keyboards (such as numbers, or special signs).

Although much of the patent concentrates on a set of apparently supplementary swipe gestures – which could most likely augment traditional tap-based typing – the document likewise information a touch image processing system that could make use of ‘finger path tracking’ to input specific letters by equating the finger’s course into a collection of individual keyboard taps. This technique appears significantly like the present Swype/SwiftKey Flow text input systems.

From the patent:

Keyboard tap recognizer 904 can serve to translate taps on the virtual keyboard surface area in to crucial tap events 906. These crucial tap occasions are submitted to keyboard input manager 907. Keyboard input manager 907 translates vital tap events 906 and generates text events 908 that are sent out to the applications, e.g., the entry of letters into text fields as described above. Keyboard input manager 907 also generates feedback popup graphics 909, e.g., the top hats showing which letter has been tapped that were described above.

Again, it’s vague why Apple has not implemented a course tracking system on iOS to permit Swype-style text input, regardless of showing such early interest in exactly what’s because gone on to end up being a very popular text-input method on the Android platform (and in other places).

However, the existence of the patent itself – while fascinating – isn’t in itself evidence that Cupertino was or is major about making such transformations to typing on iOS. Apple often submits patents – the vast bulk of which do not end up going anywhere, not to mention making it into a shipping product. Patents can be filed defensively, or just to cover off exploratory concepts. Patent filings are for that reason at finest just a guide to the locations that a business thinks interesting/have capacity at a given moment in time (in this case, that moment was 6 years ago …).

And, at the end of the day, while a minority of word-loving people (like me) do find iOS’s keyboard irritatingly slow-moving, it’s worth bearing in mind that the business simply sold nine million of its newest iOS items over their launch weekend. So, arguably, the ‘if it ain’t broke, do not fix it’ guideline applies – especially as typing is such an important function to total device experience/performance.