Move Over, QWERTY: Here Comes KALQ

The latest attempt to redesign the traditional typewriter keyboard layout takes into account the way many tablet users hold their devices: with thumbs facing inward.

What's the Latest Development?

Available next month as a free app for Android devices, KALQ is a keyboard layout that groups keys into two 4-by-4 grids that reside in the bottom quadrants of the screen. This relocation allows a user to type using their thumbs when holding a tablet horizontally. By regrouping the keys so that commonly used letters are clustered together, both thumbs work approximately equally. In addition, "[f]or lefties, the orientation can be reversed, and the key size can even be scaled for different hand sizes."

What's the Big Idea?

KALQ is the result of many hours of research put in by an international team led by Antti Oulasvirta of Germany's Max Planck Institute for Informatics. Among other things, they studied the thumb movements of people sending English-language tweets on mobile devices to help with creating optimal grids. Tests done with non-native English speakers found that with KALQ, typing speeds reached up to 37 words per minute, which was 34 percent better than baseline performances using the traditional QWERTY keyboard. The researchers say that theoretically, speeds of 49 words per minute or faster should be possible.

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