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Apple experimenting with multitouch swipe gestures for keyboard in iOS

post #1 of 24
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Since iOS debuted in 2007 with the iPhone, Apple has been reluctant to incorporate specialized gestures for the platform's virtual keyboard, but a newly awarded patent reveals such functionality may be incorporated in a future version of the operating system.

Keyboard Swipe
Source: USPTO


Apple's iOS, originally branded "iPhone OS" before taking on the current moniker in 2010, has always relied on touch gestures to navigate its user interface, with swiping and pinch-to-zoom taking the place of monotonous taps and virtual buttons. The input scheme has been adopted in all aspects of the OS, save for one: the keyboard.

While the keyboard seen in iOS 7 has gone through some design tweaks, the backend has remained largely unchanged from its original incarnation. Apple's current solution is intuitive, with dynamically scaling hit zones, intelligent autocorrect, and a number of other usability features, but some may argue the existing implementation fails to take full advantage of the latest hardware's capabilities.

Further, Apple does not allow the installation of third-party keyboards for security and system stability reasons, meaning iOS devices can't access apps like the popular Swype for Google's Android.

Keyboard Swipe
Apple's current iOS 7 keyboard as seen on and iPhone 5s (left) and iPad mini.


A patent awarded by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Tuesday, however, shows Apple is not only open to the idea of buffed virtual QWERTY input, but has been experimenting with the technology since at least 2007.

Apple's U.S. Patent No. 8,542,206 for "Swipe gestures for touch screen keyboards" has roots in the basic touchscreen properties used throughout iOS, but adapts them for a more space-limited use case scenario seen with the keyboard. Although the patent covers single-finger and multi-finger actions, functionality is limited to swiping gestures.

The document describes a number of functions that can be made available to the user. For example, a swipes can invoke spacing, erasing, punctuation, carriage returns, and other actions common to text entry. In addition, with multi-finger input, these functions may take on degrees, such as deleting a word or even an entire line of text.

Keyboard Swipe


Illustrating the invention's utility, the above picture shows a user attempting to enter "ok" in response to a message. While "o" was entered correctly, the user tapped "j" instead of the adjacent "k" button. With the current iOS keyboard, the "j" must be erased with the Delete key if "oj" is not autocorrected to "ok." Apple notes a simple one-finger swipe to the left could stand as a replacement for this action.

Graphical assets associated with certain functions, like backspace, can be displayed to remind users of the direction in which to swipe to activate a certain key. For example, top hats with arrows facing in the direction of the swipe can be overlaid on the keyboard's GUI when a gesture is invoked.

Keyboard Swipe


As mentioned above, a multi-finger implementation can also be employed to augment the key action. In this example, a two-finger swipe to the left would erase the last word typed, while a three-finger swipe would delete the line.

Other gestures include up swipe to initiate the Shift function, down for a carriage return and right to insert a character space. These, too, can be accompanied by multi-finger options.

Two-finger swipes up can be translated to Caps Lock, while a three-finger gesture may bring up special accented characters or an international keyboard. Multi-finger swipes to the right could be used to invoke a period and a space, word suggestions and the display a listing of possible word completions. Finally, downward two- and three-finger swipes can enter a punctuation mark or bring up a punctuation pad.

Keyboard Swipe


The patent goes into detail regarding input thresholds and how the UI detects and determines what counts as a swipe. In addition, more advanced cases are described that use diagonal swipes for even more functionality.

It is unclear if Apple will decide to include the technology into a future version of iOS, though the compnay has shown little interest in changing the system-wide keyboard beyond Tuesday's patent.

Apple's swipe gestures for keyboard patent was first filed for in 2007 and credits Carl Wayne Westerman, Henri Lamiraux and Matthew Evan Dreisbach as its inventors.
post #2 of 24
Fron iPhoneOS 2007? Won't that ve priot art, what Androis is usinh? Sutr hopw they'kk inplemenr it soom and sue the socka of Googke¡
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post #3 of 24
I have desired a couple advances in the keyboard for a really long time.

1. An ability to have the numbers on the same screen as the letters
2. The ability to swipe words now commonly found on many android phones
post #4 of 24

Swype is highly overrated in my opinion. It frequently messes up words and you have to go back and manually correct. I rather have optional word predictions like Swiftkey.

post #5 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by appleequity View Post

The ability to swipe words now commonly found on many android phones

To get the real Android experience, so to speak¿
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post #6 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by PhilBoogie View Post

To get the real Android experience, so to speak¿

My assumption is that if Apple provides one of these swiftkey/ swipe/ or an original innovation that it will perform better than the android versions.
Not all android/blackberry innovation/technology is useless.
post #7 of 24
I'd settle for a few advances in the way that autocorrect works as currently some of it's suggestions don't work too we'll.

See what I mean?

Autocorrect, sometimes I'd wish you'd go to he'll.
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post #8 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by GTR View Post

I'd settle for a few advances in the way that autocorrect works as currently some of it's suggestions don't work too we'll.

See what I mean?

Autocorrect, sometimes I'd wish you'd go to he'll.

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post #9 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by appleequity View Post

Not all android/blackberry innovation/technology is useless.

That ought to be true, being an Apple product.
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post #10 of 24

It's easy to trash things that are on Android around here, but Swype is really amazing once you get used to it. I find it far, far more accurate to swipe than to hunt and peck while walking or getting bumped around in public transit, for example. I can also type somewhat faster with it. 

 

Swiping and the larger screen are the main advantages of my Nexus over my wife's iPhone (or our iPads), imo. If Apple can improve the swiping experience with multitouch gestures, they'll take back one of those. 

post #11 of 24
U was watching my sister use swype, and it definitely is useful. It allowed her to be faster than me and only use one hand. With ios 7, apple lightly borrowing from other companies with multitasking cards/gestures and control center wasn't a terrible deal. Since getting turn by turn navigation and vector maps, I think that on the software side, swype is the only thing left that they don't currently offer.
post #12 of 24
The "swipe" keyboard entry method started as an IBM project back in 2004. It led to SHARK, which became Shapewriter, who offered 3rd party apps for both iOS and Android. Nuance bought them in 2010 and discontinued the apps. There's some controversy over whether Swype, SlideIT or Shapewriter strayed too close to the other's IP but there's not been any lawsuits over it as far as I can find. They all were developed about the same timeframe so perhaps they all chose to avoid opening cans of worms thru litigation.
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post #13 of 24
I didn't really like swipe on my Galaxy s4. Maybe I didn't give myself enough time to get used to it, but I had a lot of trouble seeing which letter I was dragging my finger to because, as you swipe, you are covering the keys. I disabled that and just took advantage of the improved text prediction, though one thing that really sucked was, when you back up to change an incorrect guess, it re-guesses the same wrong word, where IOS would simply take the correction.

I agree on having numbers on the same keyboard as letters, and I did like the default Samsung keyboard feature where you could drag your finger around on the keyboard to position the cursor, like a mousepad. As with everything else in Android, naturally I couldn't have both features at the same time, but that's another story.

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post #14 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by LarryA View Post

I didn't really like swipe on my Galaxy s4. Maybe I didn't give myself enough time to get used to it, but I had a lot of trouble seeing which letter I was dragging my finger to because, as you swipe, you are covering the keys. I disabled that and just took advantage of the improved text prediction, though one thing that really sucked was, when you back up to change an incorrect guess, it re-guesses the same wrong word, where IOS would simply take the correction.

I agree on having numbers on the same keyboard as letters, and I did like the default Samsung keyboard feature where you could drag your finger around on the keyboard to position the cursor, like a mousepad. As with everything else in Android, naturally I couldn't have both features at the same time, but that's another story.

Have you tried SwiftKey? It not only predicts the word you're typing but the next word as well.
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post #15 of 24
You wrote:
"Apple's current solution is intuitive, with dynamically scaling hit zones, intelligent autocorrect, and a number of other usability features..."

I am not able even guess how swipes will be useful and why they take Apple so long but I can tell you something about autocorrect feature and follow "gtr" comment.

In countries where people use accented characters (high ASCII) Apple implementation of autocorrect is nightmare. And the reason are SMS messages. They regularly do not use accented characters. They can but then your sms is shortened from 160 to 70 characters even you use one such character.

You can turn autocorrect off but only for whole phone!!!! Not for individual Apps or best on the fly. Something natural on feature phones.
You have to cancel autocorrect suggestion for every other word that will drive you crazy very soon. Besides high prices this is probably one of reason of low adoption here.

When you let autocorrect on then it starts learning words striped of accented characters. So when you write regular text it may not correct text properly because missing accents do not take as error.
And problem is more complex because two words can differ just in accent and some languages use cases, our 7 cases for noun and some even more. Autocorrect do not offer them correctly and even do not know some I think. I feel autocorrect vocabulary is not well done.

So I will finish similarly. Autocorrect, OFTEN I'd wish you'd go to he'll. You are failure of UI design team.

And I forgot to mention that I do not understand in 12 month whether iOS recognize language I write. When I write in English it sometime offer me English word but most not. It is everything but not intelligent autocorrect. :-(
Edited by frantisek - 9/24/13 at 6:26am
post #16 of 24
There have been special gestures in the iOS keyboard since the iPhone was first announced!

Who writes these crap articles? Jesus, at least get people who have used the product.

For instance the way that you swipe over from the shift key to the ? key, etc.

Ok, they are working on more gestures, no big surprise there.

The problem is, the writer of this article feels the need to bash apple by pretending they haven't had gestures before and, of course noting that "apple doesn't allow third parties" to do add crap to the system keyboard.

I know the pervasive anti-apple "doing it right is wrong" perspective is spread by fandroids all over the place an innocent people end up saying such crap, but please, lets have some editorial oversight!
post #17 of 24
My 2 cents from left field: don't really care about swype but I would like to see a software Dvorak keyboard layout in addition to the hardware one they already have. I can only assume there's some technical reason preventing Apple from making this seemingly simple addition.
post #18 of 24
I've experimented with swype quite extensively, but always found myself going back to swiftkey: the predictions are fantastically useful and the swipe left gesture to delete is so natural (and the biggest thing that I missed in swype).

In general, the things I would value the most on the ios keyboards are: swiping to delete words, numbers on the top row of letters from a long press and extra punctuation from long presses. It's so tedious having to press a button to bring up a separate selection just to get common punctuation.
post #19 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by ArtDent View Post

My 2 cents from left field: don't really care about swype but I would like to see a software Dvorak keyboard layout in addition to the hardware one they already have. I can only assume there's some technical reason preventing Apple from making this seemingly simple addition.

Excellent point!
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post #20 of 24

Just let me change the color of the standard keyboard in iOS 7.

post #21 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by Haggar View Post

Just let me change the color of the standard keyboard in iOS 7.

Aren't there keyboard apps that do just that?
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post #22 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by dasanman69 View Post

Quote:
Originally Posted by Haggar View Post

Just let me change the color of the standard keyboard in iOS 7.

Aren't there keyboard apps that do just that?

Nope, they don't allow that.
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post #23 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by PhilBoogie View Post

Nope, they don't allow that.

So what do keyboard apps do? They don't really replace the native keyboard, it's just a skin. Am I wrong?
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post #24 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by dasanman69 View Post


So what do keyboard apps do? They don't really replace the native keyboard, it's just a skin. Am I wrong?

 

If Smart Keyboard (https://itunes.apple.com/US/app/id431523208?mt=8&ign-mpt=uo%3D4is any indication, not much. It seems that keyboard apps merely apply their custom keyboards to functions rolled into the app itself. iOS does not expose an API to add systemwide input methods.

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