App guesses words to expand, shrink touch-screen keys for smarter typing

App guesses words to expand, shrink touch-screen keys for smarter typing

Summary: Thickbuttons wants to become the "T9" of touchscreens, using predictive technology to expand and shrink touch-screen keys to make typing easier.

TOPICS: Hardware

I accidentally stumbled upon a company called Thickbuttons at MobileFocus, one of those after-hours evening mini-conferences, as I was passing by its booth on my way to another. Out of the corner of my eye, I caught a glimpse of a really cool demo featuring a touch-screen keyboard that looked pretty familiar - the one on Android smartphones.

The feature, explained co-founder Andrew Pavliv, is based on prediction technology that's used to recognize possible next letters when the user is typing, expanding those possible letters and shrinking those that are unlikely. As the word progresses and the technology narrows the possible variations, the number of expanded keys shrinks.

The company debuted at the DEMO show in Palm Desert this week, before heading up to Vegas to also showcase it at CTIA. The app, which is free, is currently available only for Android, with a Windows Mobile version in the works. The company is in talks with RIM for a Blackberry version. There are no plans for a Palm version.

And the company said they can't develop for the iPhone because the iPhone's touch-screen keyboard already has a similar feature where it slightly expands keys during typing. (I'd never noticed but I only have tried on an iPod Touch.) Because Apple doesn't allow third-party apps that conflict with native apps, the company will not have an iPhone verison.

As for the business model, Pavliv said the company wants to be the "T9" of touch-screen, referring to the texting technology that used prediction technology to fill in the letters for texters. It has no plans to charge end users for its apps, choosing instead to talk to platform developers and hardware makers about licensing agreements. The company has already had early discussions with LG and Samsung about a deal, he said.

I shot a video of the technology at the CTIA event but the YouTube clip from the company is much better. Check it out:

Topic: Hardware

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  • Thickbuttons

    I don't actually use a smartphone, but I hope they port this to PC as well.
  • a better mousetrap?

    "the iPhone?s touch-screen keyboard already has a similar

    Hope they have a good patent attorney.
  • Who uses one language?

    All I can think of is that it should be possible to turn this feature off. There are significant amount of people who use more than one language on their devices. This innovation might prove to be a nice but non-practical idea. If significant amount of users turn the feature off, it will stop being an advantage.
    • It probably only works in English anyway.

      So don't worry.

      And if you're British - like me - then some details of the software's behaviour may colour your impression of it unfavourably. I wish they'd get with the programme.

      I don't have an Android device anyway, but I am touchscreening this text with a stylus and Windows software called Fitaly, which provides an alternate, generally more efficient key layout - with choice of language, I think. ?a voil?! (And, no, I don't, except for the odd mot juste.)
      Robert Carnegie 2009
  • Not on my iPhone!?

    As far as I can see the keys do not expand on the iPhone and
    there's no control option in the Settings. Anybody else's keys
  • RE: App guesses words to expand, shrink touch-screen keys for smarter typing

    This would be a very handy app.. especially to save time. Im sure the technology is out already?
    I have a Samsung 451c from Net10 prepaid which has a sliding keyboard so my typing is as easy as on a computer. This is fortunate as Net10 offers text messages for 5c as well as 10c calls.
  • RE: App guesses words to expand, shrink touch-screen keys for smarter typin

    Yes, it does work already on the iPhone. You have not
    noticed that when you are typing that you might hit the
    wrong key in the middle of a word, but the phone guesses
    the word you were wanting? Like type "wsn" and it guesses
    "want" You can just hit enter, or if it's guessing a wrong
    word, it always has an "x" after so you can cancel that
    specific word.
    I kind of wonder if Apple will actually have a case against
    this company as Apple had this first. Or maybe since it
    seems to also guess the next work by grammar, that's it's
    totally different.