Sunday, January 13, 2013

The Problems with Tablets

Tablets are a true revolution in computing and are on course to outsell PCs this year. However, they suffer from a couple of major problems:

Ergonomics

The human body wasn't designed to allow people to look at their hands for long periods of time. Which, give or take, is what tablets require their users to do. Sure you can rest them on a stand, but whenever you need to interact with them for a while you'll either get arm fatigue or neck ache.

The Keyboard

Have you ever seen someone trying to type on an tablet whilst standing (such as when commuting on a train)? It's like watching my mum trying to write an email using a single pointy finger.

The problem is the keyboard presented, a standard issue Qwerty, was not designed to be used by one hand.

Inspired by Dvořák's research on letter frequency while also attempting to minimise the distance required to tap on keys (see Fitt's Law) I've designed a single-handed tablet keyboard, the right-handed version is presented below:


Your fingers should rest over the Space, e, t, i and u.

After creating a quick prototype in JavaScript, it's evident that my design suffers from the same problems as Dvořák's keyboard: typing is slowed down massively due to the unfamiliar layout.

Enter version 0.2:


By arranging the keys in a standard qwerty order, the keyboard is instantly usable and initial typing speed is increased.

Due to the colocation of keyboard and screen, it may not easily be possible to solve the ergonomics issue (although Microsoft could be on to something with their Surface). As for the keyboard, if the tablet had a way of realising that it was being held by a single hand, auto-switching to my layout may reduce the frustration of some commuter typists.

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