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Nuance & Mobience: Death of the mobile keypad?

Ang Chuang Yang recently became the new texting Guinness World Record holder, but two companies are claiming that soon everyone will be texting faster than him

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If you're not familiar with the sentences 'The razor-toothed piranhas of the genera Serrasalmus and Pygocentrus are the most ferocious freshwater fish in the world. In reality they seldom attack a human', then you obviously haven't tried to break the Guinness World Record for the shortest time required to type a 160-character SMS message.

Two days ago, a 16-year-old Singaporean called Ang Chuang Yang managed to text the paragraph in 41.52 seconds, breaking last year's record of 42.22 seconds held by Ben Cook, according to Reuters. What is less well known is that Cook was already beaten by a speech-to-text application developed by a company called Nuance last month.

Indeed, not only was Cook beaten, but the Nuance mobile speech platform managed to spell the Guinness phrase out in a speedy 16.32 seconds, smashing even the new record held by Yang. The speech recognition program was launched last year and Nuance took the opportunity to show off its capability by pitting it against a champion texter.

In a practical situation, however, most mobile phone and voice-recognition users would agree that having to speak into your phone isn't always ideal or even possible. Fortunately, there's another system codenamed MobileQwerty being developed by a company called Mobience that might be the solution we're all looking for.

Mobience, based in South Korea (a hub for all new mobile technology), has redesigned the ABC and Qwerty layout, and come up with MobileQwerty. It's essentially the same three-letters-per-key system as the standard mobile keypad layout, but the letters have been rearranged in a Qwertyesque way to increase efficiency.

According to the Mobience site, the MobileQwerty interface requires many fewer presses and is much faster than a standard keypad layout. In a test sentence containing 160 letters, a standard mobile phone keypad required 308 presses whereas the MobileQwerty interface only required 212 presses. When Mobience tested the Guinness World Record phrase, it did it in only 30 seconds.

Of course this would mean having to learn a new keypad layout, which would be slow at first, but if Mobience tests are anything to go by it would pay off in the end. With more and more people using the Internet on their phones and handset manufacturers trying to figure out better ways of being able to input text, the Nuance and Mobience solutions look interesting.

The question remains, however, if people are prepared to give up the standard mobile phone keypad or full Qwerty keypad and learn new tricks. -AL

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