How do you build a touchscreen keyboard that is comfortable to use, minimizes errors and enables you to quickly and efficiently enter text on a mobile device? Ask Microsoft.
With the impending launch of Microsoft’s touch-enhanced Windows 8 operating system and the company’s first tablet, the Surface, the company has spent a lot of time and resources developing a virtual keyboard that meets and hopefully exceeds its users' expectations.
Microsoft user experience developer Kip Knox says that at first look “the [touchscreen] keyboard seems very simple and sort of obvious. This comes partly from having worked on it for a while, but also because keyboards are familiar to us. But there is more here than meets the eye (or, fingertips).”
The main goals Microsoft worked towards when developing its touchscreen keyboard were the ability to enter text quickly at speeds close to those achieved on a physical keyboard, avoiding errors (and making it easy to correct mistakes), and designing an onscreen keyboard that is comfortable for people to use “in terms of posture, interaction with the device, and social setting.”
It will be interesting to compare Microsoft’s virtual keyboard with those used on Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android platforms and to see if consumers notice a difference.
In the future, touchscreen devices may be able to provide a physical keyboard alternative, with keys that sprout up from the screen and provide haptic feedback to users, like Tactus Technology’s microfluid keyboard.
You can read all about how Microsoft overcame hurdles and developed features like “multi-touch view peek” and adaptive key layouts for its touchscreen optimized keyboard on the Microsoft blog, http://blogs.msdn.com/b/b8/archive/2012/07/17/designing-the-windows-8-touch-keyboard.aspx