From Plastic to Pixels: In Pursuit of Effective Touch-Typing on Touch Screens


April 30, 2012


Jacob O. Wobbrock


University of Washington


Fast, accurate and satisfying text entry remains a significant challenge on touch screens. The lack of tactile feedback from physical keys and the loss of distinction between touching and pressing on touch screen keyboards are two of many challenges. The challenges increase for mobile touch screen text entry, where small screens and walking-induced situational impairments compromise accuracy. In this talk, I will present a study of “touch-typing on flat glass” to understand finger-strike patterns for touch screen keyboards. I will also describe an adaptive keyboard built for Microsoft Surface that morphs its key layout to remain positioned beneath users’ fingers. I will also show a way to incorporate stroke gestures for non-alphanumeric input into this keyboard. For mobile text entry, I will describe WalkType, a keyboard made more accurate while walking by incorporating accelerometer data and inference about users’ walking behavior. Finally, I will describe Perkinput, a Perkins Brailler-based method for eyes-free text entry using Braille-like patterns. Taken together, these projects highlight the potential for effective touch screen text input, and point to future possibilities where exciting work remains.


Jacob O. Wobbrock

Jacob O. Wobbrock is an Associate Professor in the Information School and an Adjunct Associate Professor in the Department of Computer Science & Engineering at the University of Washington, where he directs the AIM Research Group comprising students from UW’s information science and computer science programs. His research in human-computer interaction combines computer science, interaction design, and psychology to investigate novel user interface technologies, input and interaction techniques, human performance with computing systems, and accessible, mobile & surface computing interfaces. He has co-authored eight best paper winners and three best paper nominees, and is a recipient of an NSF CAREER award and three other NSF grants. He obtained his Ph.D. in Human-Computer Interaction from Carnegie Mellon University in 2006, and his B.S. and M.S. from Stanford University in 1998 and 2000, respectively. His cyberself inhabits a purple cave at