microsoftskeyboardinnovations The keyboard was designed with the width of hands in mind and the QWERTY keymap with typewriter hammer jam preventions in mind. But when you’re dealing with phone screen that affords a fifth of the space laterally for input, perhaps stuffing in a QWERTY layout for the sake of familiarity is something we may be able to drastically improve upon or scrap it all together and revisit the drawing board to come up with an input system designed ground-up for the phone people.

Good idea. But no, it wasn’t mine, rather it was Michael Fester and the people of 3qubits who not only thought that hard and that far outside of the box but also produced a new soft keyboard minus the keyboard, calling it the 8pen. You gotta watch this, but get pumped first:


They may or may have not nailed the perfect finger input method (I don’t know, I just watched the clip and installed it) but they illustrated pretty effectively that it may be worth while for soft keyboard developers to stop assuming that something with a conventional keymap, whether it’s really good at predicting what you’re trying to say or if you can skate around the keys on one thumb to make words, must be the foundation. That assumption may indeed be holding us back both from typing faster and without getting achy fingers in addition to keeping some of us married to the hard keyboard.

More importantly though, presuming this is fundamentally superior (or heading in that direction), is can they or anyone else keep the learning curve behind anything like this digestible for at least a small fraction of the masses to adopt it with a revolution fully ignited, just just a few curious bloggers giving it a test drive. Didn’t work out so well for the Dvorak keymap and that was just a keymap from way back.

Well I’ll give it a whirl, consider joining me. It’s on the Android market for about a buck fifty.

Doug Simmons


  1. Maybe, but with Swype the user has to be familiar enough with QWERTY to slide around with enough confidence to produce a natural gesture that Swype can digest. I still haven’t started screwing with it but at least from watching the video there’s a chance that this circular movement suits the thumb more than zig zagging all around, plus the letters are ordered with common use of letters (or maybe combination of letters) in mind versus de-clustering popular keys from each other in order to prevent typewriter jams with the more commonly-striking hammers less likely to strike right next to each other, at the expense of speed as illustrated with the Dvorak keymap.

    The video claims once you get the hang of it you can truly blind type. That would be nice. Also maybe my thumb knuckle won’t get as sore as it does after a lot of typing which it does either with SwiftKey or even Swype, this 8pen thing being based on circular motions.

    It’s been downloaded, by the way, somewhere between one and five thousand times. Not bad considering it is pretty weird, put up yesterday by what appears to be a pretty small outfit maybe just with a website and a youtube account and it’s being sold, not handed out for free, albeit cheaply.

  2. But with actual handwriting you have to make very tight turns and corners whereas with this, move in one direction (big target four 90 degree sectors stretching from the center) and veer into a circular motion of whatever radius you want, the length of that circle and which one of the four sectors determining the letter, repeat. I haven’t tried it yet but that sounds fairly doable with a thumb, but the obstacle of getting used to it to the point where you’re zipping around blindly, something that’s completely foreign, that’s a big obstacle and I can picture a lot of refunds hitting this thing. Still didn’t dive into it yet myself though.

    One group of people for whom this may be much better than what’s out there is women with long fingernails. Not easy for them to get the hang of a soft keyboard and with this thing under or overshooting a key because your have a fingernail blindspot wouldn’t be an issue.

    Nice Onion clip. Seems there’s an Onion app, maybe I’ll take it for a spin and do my next thing on that if it’s good. Hmm only for their videos..

  3. sounds interesting conceptually, but swype still seems faster, since this requires a gesture for each letter and swype will produce whole words.

  4. I tried it out yesterday, and after maybe twenty minutes, uninstalled it for a refund. I really like the concept, and think it has a lot of potential, but it needs work.

    For one thing, they need to add an option to turn off the auto-space, so a beginner can do one letter at a time until he learns the locations of all the letters. The fact is, until you know where they all are, your finger or thumb is in the way, and after you’re two or three letters into the word you’re writing, you have to twist and turn to see where the next letter is.

    Ironically, I think it would be much easier to use with a stylus. I had that same thought before I even tried it, when the video said something to the effect that the 8pen was more like handwriting than typing. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I don’t do much handwriting with my finger or thumb.

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