ZoomBoard enables you to type more easily when using touch keyboards on very small devices such as smart watches.

Will we type with virtual keyboards on smart watches?


Given the increasing number of touchscreen devices, typing on virtual on-screen keyboards has become a daily habit for many people. Back in 2007 there was a great deal of criticism when the iPhone was first launched with its touchscreen, but nowadays all our mobile devices have them. Nevertheless, people do take time to get used to new features and on the whole it’s still more natural to type on a traditional laptop keyboard than on to the touchscreen of a smartphone. There are now two types of solution on offer: either you can get a physical keyboard as an extension, like the one designed for the iPad, or else there are software solutions such as Fleksy, a predictive keyboard app developed by San Francisco-based Syntellia,which makes life easier for users. Now however the development of small devices such as smart watches has brought with it an additional challenge: size. ZoomBoard, developed at Carnegie Mellon University, is a keyboard which makes it easier to type on all small devices by enabling the user to zoom in on the characters s/he wishes to enter.

A keyboard that zooms in on characters…

Samsung recently announced its soon to be released Smart Watch, and rumors are spreading about an iWatch. Wearable technologies like smart watches or Google Glass might eventually replace the smartphone. But this all depends on how easy it is to interact with those connected objects. Zoomboard wants to make the smart watch easy to use and interact with. The ZoomBoard keyboard enables users to zoom in on the characters – usually letters – which you wish to enter. Users simply put their finger in the area of the key they want to type. The action zooms in on the character and users can then strike the enlarged letter to enter it. ZoomBoard also recognizes other actions. Swiping the keyboard from right to left for example will delete a character, while swiping from left to right gives you a space. Estimated typing time is around ten words per minute, which seems somewhat slow. However, ZoomBoard could add a lot more functionality quite quickly to boost its effectiveness. Further development might include a predictive language model, a standard feature on most soft keyboards, which offers suggestions for the word you want, based on your first few keystrokes.

…enabling users to type more efficiently on small devices

The primary aim of ZoomBoard was to allow users to type more easily on the screens of small devices. It is after all undeniable that the small size of devices such as the iPod Nano and Sony’s SmartWatch is a real drawback for users when they have to type something. The second objective was to provide functionality that would be immediately familiar to the user. This is why ZoomBoard is based on the QWERTY keyboard; users are already at home with the layout of the letters. Finally, the Carnegie Mellon team wanted to minimize the time a user would have to spend getting used to the keyboard, so they tested their product on several new users. Results of the trial revealed that the ‘guinea pigs’ immediately grasped how ZoomBoard worked and succeeded in typing in text with minimum training. These positive results suggest that the ZoomBoard principle could be extended to additional applications, for example making it easier for people with poor vision to type text.