Next-gen Swype keyboard wants to get to know you better

The finger-dragging Android keyboard software will learn your lingo and train its ear to your voice with its next major update.

Swype is growing up and it wants to get to know you better.

Many Android fans will already be familiar with the nifty Swype keyboard -- which lets you drag your finger over letters to form words, rather than hen pecking each individual letter.

Swype comes preloaded on around 200 million phones now -- scores of Android phones and some Symbian and MeeGo devices, either as the full Swype keyboard, or in the form of underlying tech powering a maker-tweaked Swype-style keyboard.

The technology is owned by Nuance, which also recently acquired Vlingo, the Android voice-assistant technology. Nuance's voice smarts are also licensed by Apple for its robo-concierge Siri .

So what can Swype fans expect in the next iteration of the fantastic finger-dragging keyboard?

Firstly, better next-word prediction -- new Swype will learn your lingo and peruse your word history so it can better predict whatever you're typing next, according to Nuance tech architect John West, who demoed the software in a briefing with CNET UK.

Always signing off an email with the world's most patronising phrase, 'thanks in advance'? Swype 'thanks' and -- after a small getting to know you period -- the cunning keyboard will suggest you follow this with 'in' and then 'advance' so you don't even have to Swype the other two words. Almost like it's patronising you.

If you like to make up your own slang, new Swype has your back there too as you can add custom words to a personalised dictionary -- which can be edited to jettison slang that's no longer the shizzle.

New Swype also wants you to talk to it -- for this it's leaning on Nuance's natural language processing and voice-recognition skills.

When you add a word to your dictionary, the software sends it off to the cloud and adds it to the individual verbal arsenal it's building on you. So, in time, you'll be able to successfully dictate the word 'vajazzlified' as well as Swyping it, should you really want to weird out everyone in your immediate vicinity.

To use dictation on the new Swype keyboard you tap the dictation key -- the blue square with the white flame symbol on it at the bottom of the keyboard (shown running on an HTC One X in the photo above) -- then speak your sentence to the phone, which sends your noise off to its cloud-based language processing machinery and then slots the transcribed text back in your message.

The dictation engine is learning, says West -- with only around 300,000 words in the English language system currently. But the more people use Swype, the more words will be added to the system to improve it, he says.

Tablet device users will also be able to resize the new Swype keyboard to make it a more suitable size for finger-dragging action on their slate. This not only means Swyping on tablets will speed up, says West, but the resized keyboard can also be positioned wherever you fancy.

Other tweaks include language downloads so you can change the language you're Swyping in to one of more than 55 supported lingos, improved one-handed Swyping, and tweaks to Nuance's touch-typing algorithms for those who do want to henpeck letters to make words.

New Swype will also check out your social network accounts and email to harvest the names of your buddies to help it work out who you're talking about in your texts and emails.

Nuance hopes the all-new Swype software will arrive in phones hitting the shops before Christmas.

Are you a Swype lover or do you prefer tip-tapping on individual keys? Type your views in the comments below or swipe on over to our Facebook page.

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Phones
About the author

Natasha Lomas is the Mobile Phones Editor for CNET UK, where she writes reviews, news and features. Previously she was Senior Reporter at Silicon.com, covering mobile technology in the business sphere. She's been covering tech online since 2005.

 

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