T9 creator unveils gesture-based input

September 11, 2008 // 12:54 p.m.

Tags: #input #keyboard #smartphones #sms #swype #t9 #text

The creator of the T9 predictive text entry system for mobile 'phones equipped with numeric keypads – love it or hate it, you've got to admit it's clever – is back with a new, gesture-based input system for handhelds.

CNet reports that T9 inventor Cliff Kushler has taken the wrapper off a new input system called Swype designed for touch-sensitive screens.

Much like its predecessor T9, Swype relies on an in-built dictionary to figure out what word you're after; unlike T9, rather than pressing multi-use keys you simply swipe – hence the name – your finger over the keyboard so that you pass over each letter in the word you're trying to enter.

The picture, an example of the word 'quick' being entered via Swype, gives a clearer indication of how the system works. Without removing your finger from the on-screen keyboard, a word can be entered. Lift your finger and you're ready for the next.

Where the Swype system is likely to shine is for rapid entry of common words, such as for sending quick text messages: the speed of the entry is literally the time it takes you to slide your finger across a keyboard. That said, for non-dictionary words the system has a fatal flaw shared with its predecessor: the requirement to return to hunt and peck typing in order to 'teach' the system. In other words, it's not going to be great for entering web addresses or odd names.

Kushler is currently looking to develop the system for Windows Mobile-based smartphones and the closely related Windows XP Tablet Edition. He's also keen on getting the system onto Apple's popular iPhone and iPod Touch devices, although there's no official deal in the works yet. The possibility of Symbian and Linux ports hasn't been ruled out yet, either.

Can you imagine the Swype system revolutionising your text-messaging ways, or can Kushler never be forgiven for making T9 the ever-so-confusing default on so many 'phones? Share your thoughts over in the forums.

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