The inventor of the T9 keyboard technology for numeric keypads, Cliff Kushler, is back in the game with a new alphanumeric entry technology for today's devices: touch-screen laptops and smartphones. His new technology, Swype, is quite simple to use, although beneath the user interface there's a lot going on.
Swype works with an on-screen QWERTY keyboard like you have on the tablet version of Windows and on the iPhone. But instead of tapping letters out, you press your finger or stylus on the first letter, then, without lifting it, move it to the remaining letters in the word. When the word is done, then you lift.
We tried it. It works. Even on tiny smartphone keyboards, it is intuitive and fast, and we didn't even run the tutorial. Basically, it's an amazing new input method.
A built-in 65,000-word dictionary corrects obvious and even creative spelling errors. A word menu pops up if the correction is somewhat ambiguous; in our tests, the top choice was usually correct, and it can be selected with a simple swipe upward.
Little tricks make it possible to capitalize words (jerk the stylus up and down) or select double letters (wiggle the pen over a letter).
Kushler says he can type 55 words per minute on his product. Discount the developer's advantage: Real human beings should be able to motor along at about half that, we estimate.
The development team is focused on Windows Mobile (smartphones) and also the tablet version of XP and Vista, and Surface. However, Kushler mentioned how great the iPhone hardware was for his method. While no deal with Apple is pending, I do agree with Kushler that his technology would improve the iPhone experience.
The company may also develop Swype for other platforms such as Linux and Symbian.
Challenges for the company: Selling the technology. For it to work best for users, it should be embedded at the operating system level. I really do hope Swype gets those deals.