Swype | Text Input for Screens

September 15, 2008

I have been looking into text input concepts for computing devices for many years. In particular for mobile devices, text input is slow and cumbersome. The founder of T9 now has started a new venture around a new text input method called Swype | Text Input for Screens. Presenting at TC50, they received quite a lot of attention. From the video, it seems to be a very fast way of text entry, but at the same time requires a lot of practice. Good news is that it works great with a stylus! It is unclear for which type of user this could be attractive at first. Would like to test it in combination with a Bamboo…


Digital paper coming to a newsstand near you…

July 25, 2008

The New York Times reports that Esquire magazine will use E Ink display on its front cover for its 75 year anniversary edition in September. The cover will flash “the 21st century starts now”.  Only 100,000  of the 720,000 edition will have a display. I guess it will be a collectors item before it hits the shelfs…

E Ink will most likely use a segmented display. The text will be hard-wired on a PCB that is than covered with a layer of E Ink material. This means that the text can not be changed or updated. It is merely flashing on and off.  This solution has been available for years and has been introduced in products ranging from watches to bill boards. However, integration with a magazine introduces different problems, notably the battery. It is reported that the publisher of Esquire (Hearst, which is also shareholder of E Ink Corp) had to invest a significant amount to develop a special battery. Also, the display will be assembled with the paper magazine by hand and transported in refrigurated trucks to save the battery from dying out too quickly.  After 90 days, the display will stop flashing, but I guess by that time you will have finished the magazine anyway…

Web Tablet For $200 (Crowdsourced)

July 23, 2008

Techcrunch is asking its readers to help building a Web Tablet For $200

It basically a web-computing device for on your couch. Something like an Iphone with a bigger screen. Or a tablet PC but than plain, simple and much cheaper.

There is a long history of attempts to make a web computing come true, starting in the 90s with Go Pen Computer, wireless monitors in 00’s or recent products by Nokia (N810) or Pepper. Wacom’s Cintiq12 could even be considered here, although it is targeted for design-related work.

So why has it been so difficult to build a device for which there seems significant demand (within days, Techcrunch received hundreds of responses of people that want to buy it now)?  One of the biggest factors is that technology has not been ready for an affordable price point (yet?). Display and battery are the biggest issues. On top comes the user interface (how to surf the web without keyboard, for instance), although with Iphone a pure touch interface might be more acceptable now than it was a few years ago.

Will Techcrunch community succeed where others failed? They will run into the same hardware issues (display and battery). Typically, a $200 device may have a bill-of-material of let’s say $65. That seems pretty aggressive considering the size of the display.  But maybe they could strech this budget by allowing for a higher device price (up to $400) and lower margings (community works for free)?

It will be interesting to see how they will organize such an initiative. It takes a lot of hard work and dedication for many people that will need to be coordinated. Also, how does decision making work in such a community? Does anybody have some examples or ideas of how this could work?


May 16, 2008

Today I tried out an online spreadsheet/database tool called Blist. I was actually looking for a tool that let’s me manage my collection of art (not that I have such large collection that I need a database, but excel is such a boring tool and I can’t add images that easy). I have a very positive first impression of Blist (which was launched this year). After watching one or two tutorials you are good to go. Interface works pretty intuitive and performance seems fast enough for a web app (it is build using Flex I believe). What puts me off however is that every ‘blist’ (their name for ‘sheet’) automatically shows up on their community page. If you indicate that your data is private, this will not show, but still your username and blist title will be there. Why do I want to bother total strangers with lists of my stuff? Social spreadsheets… as we say in Dutch: “het moet niet gekker worden”. Anyway, this an application to watch.

The new pen or mouse?

March 11, 2008

figure-3-pen-mode2.jpgsimtrix.jpgAt Cebit, I saw a New Zealand based company called Simtrix. They have designed this new input device (Triped) that seems to be a crossing between a mouse and a pen. It is basically a redesign of a Wacom pen (the kind that is used for Tablet PCs), using the exact same technology (one of the three ‘peds’ contains the pen sensor).

You can hold the ‘triped’ in two positions:

  • The three points of the Triped flat on the surface (see image 1) for mouse mode
  • Holding the triped as a pen (see image 2) for writing or drawing mode

One of the main advantages compared to a pen is that the Triped can stay in position on a tablet or display and therefore it is easier to grab it. This can be very efficient if you are frequently typing on a keyboard and need to navigate in between. Also, the Triped can detect if you are holding it as a pen and automically switch from navigation into drawing mode (no need to change modes by manually selecting a pen icon).

Other potential features are possible when the remaining two ‘peds’ are also equiped with pen sensors or when the Triped is used onto a touch sensor. Changing the holding position of the Triped might give you access short cut keys or work as scrolling and zooming functions. This kind of behavior is compareble to gestures and flicks that are detected with a multi-touch sensor (such as on the Iphone). 

I had a short try of it and was surprised with the ease of use. I can imagine that novice users find this Triped easier to learn that working with a pen tablet. To be continued…  


Rethinking the Cell Phone

February 14, 2008

modu_x220.jpgSome ideas keep coming back… In Technology Review: Rethinking the Cell Phone, a Israeli start-up proposes to make a modular cell phone, in which display and interface is seperated from the communication technology. The assumption is that sometimes you might want a phone that is as small as possible and in other cases you would like to have something with a big screen to do emails on the go. Instead of buying seperate phones, why not have multiple accessory displays… In the future, parts of the cell phone could even be integrated into your jacket or belt.

In 1999, a Silicon Valley start-up IXI had the similar vision, but could never materilize it. Partly because the perceived ‘cost saving’ is not large enough, partly because most people would rather not have too many accessories that they can forget or loose… As Moore’s law continues and phones become smaller and more powerful, it difficult to see that the time has come for the IXI’s of this world.

Please comment if you share or reject my view. Thanks.


January 2, 2008

One of the holly grales of the display industry is to make a reflective display with high brightness, full color and video speeds. Electronic ink currently is black/white only with relative low speed (refresh rate).  This article (source: Economist) reveals developments from a Candanian start up that is developing ‘P-Ink’, based on photonic crystals.