New keypad matrix accelerates data entry on cell phones

Chicago (IL) - Its no secret that cell phones are among the least useful tools when it comes to typing text. A small suburban Chicago firm however believes that it has found the key to accelerate data entry on your phone - simply by changing the keypad matrix to a QWERTY-style layout.

Text messaging is still all the rage in Europe, but never has caught on as a serious way to communicate in the US. Analysts usually blame service plans of US carriers with huge amounts of minutes and the extra charges for SMS messages as the main reason for a lesser popularity of the SMS than in Europe - where SMS messages originally were cheap or even free of charge.

In comparison to the old world, US users still prefer to use their phone as a voice communication device and not as a digital camera or a text pager, as for example Jupiter Research explained in a recently released study. Many Americans can think of several more convenient ways to send messages or emails than typing 10 words a minute on the keypad of a cell phone.

Its no surprise that clever ideas to simplify data entry on phones mainly originate in the US. Take for example the Canesta keyboard. A still futuristic solution which projects a keyboard to the space in front of the cell phone using beams of light. 3D-Sensors recognize the button the user presses and translates it into data entry. But the solution in fact might be much easier. Dana Suess, president of Chicago Logic, discovered that changing the keypad matrix can accelerate text entry four-fold - and rival typing speeds on common computer keyboards.

"The idea to change the matrix came when I instructed students in skydiving. Once they were trained on particular gear, they always looked at certain location of handles - for example when there were malfunctions of the parachute. As gear was evolving they kept looking at those same locations they originally learned and were pulling wrong handles," Suess explained. He believes that once we are used to a certain user environment, it is hard to change to another. Then he translated this experience to the keyboard matrix.

Suess, a 48-year old engineer who originally designed label makers, found that the typical 3-by-4 matrix of the cell phone could be substituted with a 5-by-6 matrix without changing the size of the cell phone casing. After two years of development, he came up with a 30+3 keys layout which easily can recognized by anybody who has typed on a regular computer keyboard and went into usability testing. "It is amazing to see, how fast people who have never worked on this keyboard before are able to type." So far, he says he has tested about 40 people - each of those at least tripled their typing speed almost instantly.

The fact that each key is a lot smaller than on a regular cell phone is no concern for Suess. "I purchased about 50 different calculators and tried every single layout." The result : "If you use the right shape, the right elevation and the right activation pressure, it is very easy to sue." Current phones using a 3-by-4 matrix neglect usability and show "horrible ergonomics", he said. "Buttons are on the same level as the rest of the surface. It simply does not work. Its torture."

According to Suess cell phone providers started to show interest in the technology, including Samsung and Motorola. Microsoft apparently has passed to take a closer look. A potential customer also is the US Navy which is looking to Chicago Logic to accelerate data entry mechanisms for special units such as the Navy SEALs.

Try the keyboard layout on Chicago Logic’s website .

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