Apple granted patent for predictive text input UI

Posted:
in General Discussion edited January 2014
Apple on Tuesday was granted a U.S. patent for the graphical user interface used in iOS which changes the "hit region" size of a virtual keyboard's buttons based on predictive text data.

In an elegant solution to the problem of entering text on a mobile device's small screen, Apple's U.S. Patent No. 8,232,973 for a "Method, device, and graphical user interface providing word recommendations for text input" enlarges the effective area of the virtual keyboard's buttons based on a predictive input system without resizing the visual keyboard asset.

For example, a user entering the word "ELEPHANT" would begin by hitting the "E" key followed by the "L" key, the "E" key and so on. The system begins to narrow down what the user is attempting to spell, dynamically increasing the size of the next expected key icon which in this example would be the "P" key. Instead of representing the next key's larger hit area visually, the keyboard retains its normal size which makes the system completely invisible to the user.

The '973 patent most likely leverages technology from Apple's U.S Patent No. 8,074,172 for a "method, system, and graphical user interface for providing word recommendations" or predictive text.

Working in concert with the enlarged image users see above an iOS keyboard's key when a touch event is recorded, the predictive technology provides for a smooth and user-friendly solution to typing on a small device.

Apple notes the invention is an attempt at a more efficient method of entering text into small portable devices. The company points out that the capabilities of "portable communications devices have increased dramatically," alluding to an increasing reliance on text messaging services like SMS, instant messaging or e-mail.

"However, the size of these portable communication devices also restricts the size of the text input device, such as a physical or virtual keyboard, in the portable device," the patent reads. "With a size-restricted keyboard, designers are often forced to make the keys smaller or overload the keys. Both may lead to typing mistakes and thus more backtracking to correct the mistakes. This makes the process of communication by text on the devices inefficient and reduces user satisfaction with such portable communication devices."

The '973 patent was first filed for in June of 2008, less than two weeks prior to the debut of Apple's second-generation handset, the iPhone 3G.

Apple Text Patent
Illustration of Apple's predictive text input UI patent. | Source: USPTO


From the abstract:
A portable electronic device having a touch screen display performs a set of operations, including displaying a plurality of key icons, each having an adjustable size hit region, and receiving a sequence of individual touch points input by a user on the touch screen display. The operations performed by the device further include processing the received individual touch points by: forming a user-input directed graph for the sequence of individual touch points received so far, determining a character corresponding to a last received individual touch point in accordance with the adjustable hit regions of the displayed key icons, displaying a sequence of characters corresponding to the sequence of individual touch points, and updating sizes of the adjustable hit regions for a plurality of the key icons in accordance with the sequence of individual touch points input by the user.
Among those credited as inventors is Apple Senior Vice President of iOS Software Scott Forstall.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 22
    The big question is: does Android use a similar implementation of predictive text on its keyboard?

    If so then I guess this will just provide further ammunition to Apple's many patent infringement cases.

    What would typing on a soft keyboard be like if this wasn't in place? I guess it would mean you'd have to be much more specific with key presses & therefore not be able to type as quickly.
  • Reply 2 of 22
    philboogiephilboogie Posts: 7,671member
    <vc><strong>Apple on Tuesday was granted a U.S. patent for the graphical user interface used in iOS which changes the "hit region" size of a virtual keyboard's buttons based on predictive text data.</strong>

    For example, a user entering the word "ELEPHANT" would begin by hitting the "E" key followed by the "L" key and so on. The system begins to narrow down what the user is attempting to spell, dynamically increasing the size of the next expected key icon which in this example would be the "E" key. Instead of representing the next key's larger hit area, the keyboard retains its normal size which makes the system completely invisible to the user.

    Among those credited as inventors is Apple Senior Vice President of iOS Software <a href="http://www.appleinsider.com/articles/12/01/17/ios_chief_scott_forstall_called_apples_ceo_in_waiting_.html">Scott Forstall</a>.

    1. Gotta love a company that tinkers on these things, implementing them with surgery-precision and then not even showing it. Not by increasing the letters/buttons, not in their marketing, It All Just Works.

    2. When I saw that picture I thought Apple had patented SameSong Swipe.

    1000
  • Reply 3 of 22
    socratessocrates Posts: 261member
    I'd like to see anyone try to argue that this is an "obvious" extension of previous touchscreen technology, and that "there's only so many ways you can make a keyboard".

    This is pure Apple genius at work, and I wouldn't be at all surprised if every Android keyboard rips off this idea, or at least all the ones that are any good do.

    They'll probably all just switch to using Swype instead if Apple start litigating on this patent, but that's a *good thing* - all Apple have ever asked is that Android phones try to do something *different* from iPhone instead of wholesale ripping it off.
  • Reply 4 of 22
    galaxytabgalaxytab Posts: 122member
    sjhlangley wrote: »
    The big question is: does Android use a similar implementation of predictive text on its keyboard?
    If so then I guess this will just provide further ammunition to Apple's many patent infringement cases.
    What would typing on a soft keyboard be like if this wasn't in place? I guess it would mean you'd have to be much more specific with key presses & therefore not be able to type as quickly.

    Windows Phone already has this.

    http://research.microsoft.com/en-us/news/features/wp7keyboard-042811.aspx
    By combining statistical models of language patterns and touch points, the keyboard dynamically changes the virtual size of the likely next letter, so that it has a larger target area—the area where tapping the keypad results in a particular letter, symbol, or number.

    “We don’t show that visually,” Paek says. “It all happens behind the scenes.”

    The keypad software analyzes what a user is typing, decides which letter is most likely to be typed next, and enlarges the virtual key area, so that hitting a “T” results in a T, not a Y or an R.
  • Reply 5 of 22
    sessamoidsessamoid Posts: 182member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by GalaxyTab View Post





    Windows Phone already has this.

    http://research.microsoft.com/en-us/news/features/wp7keyboard-042811.aspx


    The patent application was filed in Jan 2008 and implemented on the iPhone 3G. It predates Windows Phone 7 by quite some time.

  • Reply 6 of 22
    galaxytabgalaxytab Posts: 122member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by sessamoid View Post


    The patent application was filed in Jan 2008 and implemented on the iPhone 3G. It predates Windows Phone 7 by quite some time.



    Oh I know that, just commenting that other OS's are already using similar algorithms. It actually works well for Windows Phone.

  • Reply 7 of 22
    timmydaxtimmydax Posts: 284member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by GalaxyTab View Post





    Windows Phone already has this.

    http://research.microsoft.com/en-us/news/features/wp7keyboard-042811.aspx


     


    Yes. if you read it, you would see that they credit Apple too:


     


    Quote:


    Notably, the soft keyboard of the popular


    iPhone, which actually markets key-target resizing as one of


    its key features [16], uses this approach.




     


    Microsoft have criticised this approach as being counter-intuitive for users (who might, or example want to type habiy, not habit and are unable to do so). They go on to explain their system where the key's target areas are somewhat maintained whilst being dynamically resized, thereby allowing the user to always be able to type any letter by tapping the centre of the key.


     


    The full paper is here, and is a good read. They're extremely good at software at Microsoft. It's a shame the guys at the top are such utter fools.

  • Reply 8 of 22
    drealothdrealoth Posts: 79member


    This is the standard technique, as far as I know: http://patft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect2=PTO1&Sect2=HITOFF&p=1&u=/netahtml/PTO/search-bool.html&r=1&f=G&l=50&d=PALL&RefSrch=yes&Query=PN/5963671 which seems pretty similar. In particular, "attractant, such as color intensity, or size, is used for emphasis to make a soft keyboard user cognizant of the location of the subset of characters that the user is most likely to select to standout from the other keys of the keyboard" which seems similar to what Apple seems to be doing here (although size is hidden from the user in Apple's case, and it's not necessarily making the user cognizant of it).

  • Reply 9 of 22
    timmydaxtimmydax Posts: 284member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Drealoth View Post


    "attractant, such as color intensity, or size, is used for emphasis to make a soft keyboard user cognizant of the location of the subset of characters that the user is most likely to select to standout from the other keys of the keyboard"



     


    Microsoft mention this in their paper. They cite this paper [PDF]  saying that users find it distracting. Seems like MS have the best method?


     


    Or at least have put a lot of thought into it. They still make tasteless products :-D

  • Reply 10 of 22
    kotatsukotatsu Posts: 1,010member


    This feature has always driven me nuts, as it's forever guessing the wrong words. I wish I could turn it off, but still leave the full word correction in place.

  • Reply 11 of 22
    jd_in_sbjd_in_sb Posts: 1,600member
    galaxytab wrote: »

    I love how the MS geniuses talk about doing research to solve a problem that Apple had already solved & delivered to the marketplace.
  • Reply 12 of 22
    lightknightlightknight Posts: 2,312member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by sessamoid View Post


    The patent application was filed in Jan 2008 and implemented on the iPhone 3G. It predates Windows Phone 7 by quite some time.





    And actually, it's not even a novel idea by Microsoft...  http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dasher

  • Reply 13 of 22
    lightknightlightknight Posts: 2,312member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by jd_in_sb View Post





    I love how the MS geniuses talk about doing research to solve a problem that Apple had already solved & delivered to the marketplace.




    Okay. So you advise MS to _not_ innovate and please copy Apple. I guess you cheer for Samsung then?

  • Reply 14 of 22
    charlitunacharlituna Posts: 7,217member

    Okay. So you advise MS to _not_ innovate and please copy Apple. I guess you cheer for Samsung then?

    Well this is a defacto standard so it's okay for everyone to copy it. Samsung said so
  • Reply 15 of 22
    raptoroo7raptoroo7 Posts: 138member


    If I still had my old PocketPC Phone from circa 2002 I would be able to recall if they did anything similar but once again the USPTO shows that obvious patents are awarded.  I say that based on the fact that all touch sceen devices existing LONG before the iPhone and there for all touch keyboards also existed long before the iPhone.  That said users were typing on them and needing to have more predictive text input.  Of course Apple once again took another companies idea and "improved" upon it and calls it their own.  I'm sure this will just cause more lawsuits and more anti-competitive posturing by Apple.  


     


    I anxiously await the next round of lawsuits against Samsung because Apple clearly has no balls to go after Google directly, they just pick a fight with the most profitable Android OEM and #1 SmartPhone Mfg.

  • Reply 16 of 22
    jd_in_sbjd_in_sb Posts: 1,600member

    Okay. So you advise MS to _not_ innovate and please copy Apple. I guess you cheer for Samsung then?

    From what I read it sounded like MS did just that: not innovate and copy Apple. Them boasting about solvIng a problem when they were really just copying, was odd.
  • Reply 17 of 22
    raptoroo7raptoroo7 Posts: 138member


    Shouldn't it be a generally accepted idea that given the dependence on touchscreen devices that have no physical keyboards users will have difficulty being 100% accurate with the keyboard and therefore some level of predictive text input would be necessary?  To me it seems obvious that over time as the products have evolved for 10+ years of touch screen only devices that this would need to occur.

  • Reply 18 of 22
    sockrolidsockrolid Posts: 2,789member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by PhilBoogie View Post



    2. When I saw that picture I thought Apple had patented SameSong Swipe.


     


    LOL.  Samsung's favorite gesture: "Swipe to Steal."

  • Reply 19 of 22
    sockrolidsockrolid Posts: 2,789member


    Brilliant.  This extends the variable-size tap target concept to the keyboard.


     


    (iOS tap targets aren't necessarily limited to the size of their graphics, in case anybody hadn't already noticed this.)

  • Reply 20 of 22
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 33,407member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Socrates View Post



    I'd like to see anyone try to argue that this is an "obvious" extension of previous touchscreen technology, and that "there's only so many ways you can make a keyboard".

    This is pure Apple genius at work, and I wouldn't be at all surprised if every Android keyboard rips off this idea, or at least all the ones that are any good do.

    They'll probably all just switch to using Swype instead if Apple start litigating on this patent, but that's a *good thing* - all Apple have ever asked is that Android phones try to do something *different* from iPhone instead of wholesale ripping it off.


     


    Now Apple should simply buy Swype. LOL!

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