Wearable

Typing with wearable devices!

Minuum on Puls

We’re very excited to announce our partnership with Puls! Puls is a new smartband from will.i.am. While the device uses voice control in a similar way to Android Wear, it relies on Minuum for text input. It was just announced today, but more details will be released in the near future. Learn more about the Puls Smartband here: http://will.i.ampuls

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Typing Is Evolving On Android Wear

Minuum is encouraging the exploration of how the Android Wear platform can be used. We know that typing on Android Wear has become a controversial topic, but we wholeheartedly understand Google’s vision of quick and context-aware interaction. That is exactly what Minuum is about, if used correctly. While voice recognition can be great, there are still many situations where speaking to your watch may not be ideal. We’re interested to see how developers and watch-wearers can create new types of succinct experiences that wouldn’t otherwise be possible without a keyboard like Minuum, together figuring out which ones make sense and which don’t on the small screen that a watch provides. None of these things would be possible without the kind of recent experimentation that the Android Wear community has been doing.

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Last month, we released a video showcasing Minuum running on an LG G Watch. Our team agrees that just throwing a regular keyboard on a screen that small would be a bad experience for two big reasons; screen space and typing accuracy. Minuum on Android Wear solves the first problem by taking up significantly less of the display and the second by having the same powerful autocorrect algorithm that our tablet and smartphone users currently enjoy. If you’d like to learn more about the algorithm that makes this possible, take a look at this post on our blog.

Since our experimental Android Wear release, developers have created some great apps that wouldn’t have been possible without Minuum. Click the images below to see them on the Play Store.

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You can use our keyboard with these apps by downloading them and installing Minuum. While we want as many people as possible to try our keyboard, keep in mind that at this point, installing Minuum on your smart watch requires experience with the Android SDK. If you’re still interested, follow this link to sign up for our Android Wear email list. Signing up will give you watch specific instructions and a link to the APK. Not all of the watches in the drop-down list are currently supported, but continuing the sign up process will get you an email the moment we get Minuum working on the watch you selected.

You can make an app like this too if you’re a developer, just include a text field in your Wear app if you detect that a system input method is available. As always, let us know your thoughts on all of the above (if you’ve tried those apps, or if you’re making a Wear app that supports typing.)

This is still early days for Android Wear and we at Minuum are very excited for the future. The Minuum Keyboard is just expanding the array of possibilities.

If you’re not a smart watch owner, you can still try Minuum on your Android device. Click here to download it today, and click here to find out the moment we’re available on iOS.

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Typing on Android Wear

Minuum is the first keyboard to work on Android Wear devices! Here’s a teaser of Minuum running on the LG G watch:

We’ve had oodles of requests for Minuum on Android Wear smart watches – everyone’s looking for a way to quickly reply to messages on their wrist without having to rely on voice typing.

While there aren’t yet many apps on Android Wear built with text fields available for typing, we’re working on changing this – sign up at minuum.com/watch to stay updated.

In case you’re really eager to try Minuum out on your LG G watch or Samsung Gear Live watch immediately, when you sign up at minuum.com/watch we’ll send you installation instructions straight away so that you can try out an early version.

[More details about how our circular design will adapt to the Moto 360 will come out when we get to test on a real Moto 360.]

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Edit 1: Some further thoughts about keyboards on small screens:

For those who remain skeptical, I understand where you’re coming from; a standard keyboard paradigm absolutely would be horrible on a watch. But fortunately, compared to other complex interfaces, the keyboard is uniquely suited to taking advantage of natural language patterns in the same way that voice recognition does.

Keyboards don’t have to suffer from tiny-button syndrome, so long as the keyboard design embraces the expectation of sloppy typing. You can check out our explanation here on why Minuum works the way it does: The Algorithms Behind the Minuum Keyboard.

Edit 2: The vision behind Android Wear

My biggest takeaway from the vision behind Android Wear is the simplification of interfaces to work in a concise way on the wrist. Across all Android Wear applications, the key thing that makes this possible is the Google Now-style approach to using contextual information to strip away unnecessary interface elements.

Some folks have been complaining that the prospect of a keyboard on Android Wear is breaking the vision; and they’d be right if it was any other keyboard. But Minuum has precisely the same goal as the Android Wear platform: simplifying the interface so that it works quickly and without fidgety precision required (see Edit 1 above). If we can make typing amazingly pleasant on smart watch screens, there is plenty of room within the Wear vision for manual natural language input.

We’re chatting with the Wear team, and we’re hoping that the ultimate form of keyboard input would work in a way that fits within the vision of quick interactions in response to card-style notifications on the main screen; I think it’s important that thought be put into this, in case our experiments prove successful.

In the meantime, we are also experimenting with some Wear apps – and they may continue to stir up controversy because they won’t fit perfectly into the Wear paradigm – but we’ll be doing so in the interest of exploration. Let us know on twitter @minuum – and mention me, @w__w, if you have further thoughts on the matter.

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Hello, Moto 360: Typing on a Circle!

We’re proud to announce that we’re developing Minuum for circular watch faces! This is especially exciting in light of the Android Wear announcements at Google I/O this week; if you’re interested in our circular keyboard becoming publicly available for Android Wear, be sure to tell the folks over at Android.

As smart watches have evolved, one of the most appealing designs that we’ve seen is the round-faced Moto 360. As you may have come to realize from watching our sweet demo videos, Minuum is all about typing anywhere. And what better place for a one-line keyboard than along the edge of a circular watch face?

This is perhaps our most perfect example of how the original QWERTY keyboard needs to evolve to fit into the future of wearable devices – check it out:

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Please tweet and let us know what you think! @minuum

 

…But why would smart watches even need a keyboard, you might ask?

Simple: as useful as voice recognition might be for some situations, it will always remain insufficient when it comes to noisy environments and private message replies. One of the best use cases of the smart watch is the quick message reply when in a meeting, or in class; and I’m sure your boss/teacher wouldn’t be too pleased with you talking to your watch. And don’t get us started on URL/password entry…

So for smart watches to truly be smart, they need a keyboard. Smart watch owners seem to agree; we’ve have had thousands of e-mail requests for the smart watch version of Minuum – if you’re using an Android-based smart watch right now, sign-up here to try for yourself.

In case you missed it, check out our smart watch typing video here, or read our thoughts here why Minuum is the best keyboard for smart watches.

 

N.B. Android Wear doesn’t yet have full input method integration, but if you’d like to try Minuum on your watch anyway, sign up at minuum.com/watch and we’ll send you installation instructions.

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The First Keyboard To Work With Google Glass

True to our promise, we’ve made comfortable typing a reality on smart watches, smart TVs, game controllers, touchless motion devices, and now—smart glasses.

The beauty of a one-line keyboard is the number of different ways you can use it, with all different kinds of sensors. Your typical augmented reality headset is equipped with at least a small touchpad, a motion sensor, and a camera.

We’ve worked with Google Glass for a few months now, and have built versions that let you type either using the touchpad, or by detecting subtle head movement. This is shown in the first part of the video, and we actually prefer the head-tracking technique, which lets you feel like you’re looking at the letters that you want to type.

In the final portion of the video, we show some proof-of-concept techniques, which wouldn’t all necessarily work with the current version of Google Glass. These include:
• Tracking of eye movement
• A secondary motion-sensing device such as a ring
• Keys overlaid on your hand, forearm, or another surface

Whatever wearable displays end up looking like, we’ll be ready for them – though we’re keeping our fingers crossed for those contact lenses! Because what good is a wearable device if you can’t input information into it?

If you love the demo, help us spread the word about the future of typing by sharing on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+!

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Minuum available on the Omate TrueSmart watch

We’re excited to announce that the Minuum keyboard is now available on the Omate TrueSmart watch. Starting today, owners of the TrueSmart can visit the OStore on their device and download the Minuum Keyboard for free.

TrueSmart owners will get all the same Minuum updates and new languages that our smartphone users receive via the Google Play store.

The Minuum team spends a lot of time developing and testing with all types of smart watches. Of all the devices we use, we think the TrueSmart is the best on the market today. Its sensitive touch screen and great processing power means it can deliver a powerful typing experience. With Minuum on the TrueSmart, it’s finally easy and practical to take notes or send messages via apps like SMS or WhatsApp directly from your wrist.

We’re excited to continue improving Minuum on smart watches with the help of the Omate community. If you use a TrueSmart watch, we’d love to hear your feedback at support.minuum.com

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Selecting The Best Keyboard for Your Smart Watch

It has always been our belief that cramming a full keyboard onto a small touchscreen device is silly and impractical. This is especially true on a smart watch.

Whether used as a stand-alone or as a companion device, having the capability to effortlessly key in text on your smart watch vastly increases its potential. Many smart watch enthusiasts seem to agree, as we’ve had daily requests for Minuum on smart watches since the release of our Minuum Keyboard on a Smart Watch video.

Minuum strives to provide a unified text entry experience wherever people require text entry; after phones and tablets, smart watches are the next logical step.

What Makes a Good Smart Watch Keyboard?
We’ve considered at length the available text entry options for smart watches, and came up with four essential elements of a truly useful smart watch keyboard:

1. Screen Space: Smaller keyboards provide users more screen area in which to interact with the text and content.
2. Learning curve: Minimizing the learning curve to type is essential to making text entry on smart watches feasible.
3. Typing speed: Keyboards that allow fast typing will let users accomplish more with their smart watches.
4. Precise text entry: The capability to enter non-dictionary text precisely is necessary for passwords and website URLs.

Keyboards designed with all four of the above guidelines in mind greatly improve the smart watch text entry experience. Though we are, admittedly, quite biased, we are confident that Minuum is the best keyboard for smart watches. Let’s see how Minuum performs for each of the four criteria.

1. Screen Space
With just one row of keys, Minuum doubles the visible screen area as compared to other (more standard) keyboards—as seen in the image below.


Figure 1. Screen space comparison between Minuum and other keyboards

This extra screen space provides users a more pleasant, satisfying, and useful text entry experience. No need to scroll up to see what you’ve written, or to re-read the message you’re replying to—it’s all right there on the screen.

2. Learning Curve
Because the smart watch display is so small, smart watch owners expect to at least partially adjust their typing style from what they are used to on phones and tablets. This is especially the case for early adopters of smart watches who are characteristically open to learning new tech, as long as it proves useful. This expectation makes Minuum’s already small learning curve negligible.

Minuum’s unique one-row appearance can be surprising to new users. However, after realizing that the keyboard is just a compressed version of the familiar QWERTY layout (or other international layouts such as QWERTZ/AZERTY), Minuum users get the hang of it within seconds. Within a few minutes, the “aha!” moment really kicks in and Minuum’s full advantages quickly become apparent.

3. Typing Speed
Powered by advanced specialized auto-correction algorithms, Minuum allows users to type very sloppily. This, in turn, allows users to type fast despite the keyboard size. After playing with Minuum for Galaxy Gear for less than an hour, a new employee was able to comfortably type over 25wpm on the tiny galaxy gear screen, as seen in this video shot on its first take.

By allowing more visible screen space, Minuum prevents the need to scroll when viewing notes, emails, or text messages, which also saves users time when typing.

4. Precise Entry
On small screen devices it can be very frustrating (or near impossible) to enter passwords and other non-dictionary words without a solution for precise text entry. Minuum is the only keyboard for smart watches with a magnified interaction view built-in for this purpose. As shown in this tutorial video, when users need to precisely type a word with Minuum, they can press and hold to confirm each letter, thus preventing auto-correction.


Figure 2. Minuum’s approach to precise entry for regular and numbers mode

While slower than Minuum’s otherwise fast typing experience, this magnified interaction is necessary on the very small screens of smart watches, and is more reliable for precise entry than merely presenting a full QWERTY keyboard with tiny buttons.

Minuum is the Best Keyboard for Smart Watches
Minuum’s combination of powerful algorithms and clever design help make smart watches actually smart. By optimizing for screen space, typing speed, learning curve, and solving the precise entry problem, Minuum makes text entry on smart watches an easy, enjoyable experience.

If you own a smart watch and want to try a free Minuum download, please specify which watch you have when contacting: free@whirlscape.com

If you’re a manufacturer seeking the best keyboard solution for your device, please contact: partners@whirlscape.com

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Who Forgot the Smart TV?

Desktops, mobile phones, wearables – they’re all getting special treatment, with carefully crafted user experiences emerging from ongoing refinement. But left by the wayside are the lonely smart TV and its accompanying remote, not known for their stellar input capabilities. When the best universal remotes have more buttons than a missile launch control centre, prospects are grim.

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Great design, or the greatest design?

In particular, you’ve probably experienced the frustration of trying to type on a smart TV. Everything is designed around information consumption, while user input is tacked on as an afterthought. Unfortunately, remotes are no longer just used for the occasional TV guide lookup; you can search Netflix or YouTube, surf the internet, send instant messages, or Skype from your couch.

A few companies (Apple, Roku) have succeeded in simplifying their remotes, but the typing only gets worse. Terrible typing solutions mainly fall into two categories: virtual keyboards and hardware keyboards.
 

Virtual Grids

The most prevalent solution is simply to present an onscreen keyboard: a grid of characters and a cursor. The cursor is typically moved one square at a time to painstakingly select letters. The impracticality of these keyboards mostly speaks for itself; words per minute speed in particular is abysmal. They’re equally common on TVs and video consoles.

Apple TV Keyboard
Only five clicks from here to ‘u’

On remotes with trackpads or motion control, the cursor moves freely on the screen. The Wiimote is a good example of this:

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Despite the availability of new robust motion sensing, it doesn’t innovate. The chosen interaction forces the user to repeatedly aim in two dimensions without physical anchoring, a gesture that can be straining. The performance and comfort of this approach is also then affected by TV screen size.
 

Stick a Keyboard On It

The other approach is to just provide the user with a full hardware keyboard (and maybe a trackpad, too). It seems like this is the same design approach TV remotes have been following for 30+ years and I’m not the only one who thinks so. When in doubt, add more buttons.

Again, game consoles have taken a similar approach with clip-on keyboards which were targeted at heavy IM users.

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It’s a flip phone? Nope, TV remote

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It’s a laptop? Nope, TV remote

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Target demographic?

The issue here, aside from the nightmarish franken-remotes themselves, is that the design doesn’t complement the TV or game experience. If I’m slouching on the couch with snacks, I want the laziest possible typing experience. Whatever I use needs to work with one hand, sideways or upside-down, without a ridiculous grid of buttons; but it still has to be fast. Similarly, if I want a full keyboard when I’m gaming, I’ll play on a PC. I want a way of typing that’s fast and effective, but that’s also part of my play experience and uses the same motion/vision/joystick controls.

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Is it better on a game controller?

Other approaches and particularities

Some other approaches have been taken. Pairing with mobile phones may prove to be a reasonable technique, but has yet to take off. I would argue that this also breaks the TV watching/gaming experience and therefore isn’t ideal. Voice recognition is also making inroads, but from a consumer perspective reliability is still an issue. Also, if you’re already in a noisy movie or gaming environment, it may be both unacceptable and less reliable to use voice input.

There are, of course, many interesting outlier techniques, although none with mass adoption.

The console games market is particularly interesting as game developers can opt to build their own typing solutions. Beyond Good and Evil is a popular example of a different take on typing. It provides an infinite, linear, spiral interface:

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One thing is clear: information throughput from user to TV has dramatically increased. We’ve hit the limit on how much of this problem we can solve by just adding more buttons – whether virtual or physical. We’re game for trying some new approaches to simplifying the grid of buttons.
 

Minuum + Smart TV

What makes the Minuum keyboard different from other keyboards is not just its form factor; it’s the combination of advanced language modelling and reduced constraint on interaction.

 
Minuum measures input along only one dimension. It requires only a single axis of information: a line. This simplicity makes it easy to apply Minuum to almost any sensor or scenario: tilting your hand, pointing left to right, sliding along a curved bezel. Also, as you know if you’ve tried Minuum on your Android phone, it’s backed by amazing autocorrect that lets your input be sloppy and imprecise. This means your interaction area can be any shape, big or small and still work well. Take a look at Minuum running on a smart watch: the flexibility of this technology lets us build simple and fast typing solutions for smart TVs and game consoles that “fit in” as part of the user experience.

One of our favourite ways of interacting with smart TVs so far is with motion control such as the Wiimote. The idea is simple, as shown in the video above: point approximately left or right towards the letter you want and tap – no need to be precise, and no need to move the remote up/down. Pull the trigger for a space.

The key difference with the stock Wii keyboard is that you don’t aim directly at the letter, you just point left/right; the vertical portion doesn’t matter. This means you can type with your hand in all sorts of relaxed, comfy positions: dangling over the couch edge, resting on your knee, pointing up while you’re lying down. In fact, you don’t even need to point towards the television. Minuum notices when you start typing and sets up its frame of reference wherever you are. You can also keep using the same interface or game controller you were already using. At the same time, you can type significantly faster than on any existing consumer TV keyboard.

Of course, on a TV, you just want to get to the watching, not spend time learning a new way to type. With Minuum we believe we’ve found a way to make it natural: just point near the letter you want. The letters follow the same QWERTY layout you’re used to, but compressed down to a line. So while you can improve over time and learn to type really fast, the first time you pick it up it will still be faster and easier to use than your regular TV interface.

The future of interaction with smart TVs has overlap with other new devices; the flexibility of the one-dimensional technology behind Minuum will eventually let you bring your keyboard with you everywhere, on your smartphone, TV, game console, Google Glass, Myo, Leap Motion, and more.

Send me your feedback! Let us know what you think of Minuum for smart TVs: Twitter, FacebookGoogle+

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Announcing a Wearables Video Series and the Minuum SDK

We’re working on a series of wearable typing demos, so be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel to see them first.

In addition, we’re almost ready to open up our SDK to the next wave of developers. The Minuum SDK lets you rapidly prototype new ways of typing with wearable and other smart devices—grab an Arduino plus some sensors, and you can be typing within minutes!

Sign up today to make your mark on the future of typing.

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