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Researchers develop solution for one-handed texting

Despite being at opposite ends of the mobile device spectrum, the increasingly large screens of ‘phablets’ and the tiny screens of wearable devices have one thing in common – they make it very hard to text with one hand.

One-handed texting
One-handed texting

Now, computer scientists at the University of St Andrews have come up with a solution called SWiM (Shape Writing in Motion), which extends ’shape writing’ gesture keyboards to support input by tilt. Instead of spelling out a word by sliding your finger across an on-screen keyboard, SWiM lets users input text by using the wrist motion of the dominant hand to move a pointer ball across the keyboard.

Professor Aaron Quigley, chair of human computer interaction at the University’s School of Computer Science, said: “When we consider phablets, it’s difficult to hold them firmly in one hand, let alone interact with them. This is due in part to the limited functional area of the thumb, which makes it difficult to reach all areas of the screen. In addition, unintended touches from the palm area may occur.

“These problems will be exacerbated if the trend of larger mobile phone screens continues. Yet, there are many occasions when the user’s other hand is encumbered or not available, perhaps due to a disability or when holding a bag, a cup of coffee or an umbrella.”

In a pilot study, first time users of SWiM achieved a rate of 15 words per minute (wpm) after minimal practice, increasing to 32 wpm after approximately 90 minutes of use.