Not for the first time, developers are investigating the possibility of interfaces that do not require the user to see the input screen in order to use the device effectively. However, this time, Google are doing the investigating and people seem to get that little bit more excited when this search giant gets involved in (relatively) new ideas.
The concept is straightforward and goes something a little bit like this. Imaging you are about to dial a number but cannot see the touch-screen on your Android device. Press the screen once, and you are automatically pressing down the 5 key. Let go and you enter the digit 5. Tap the screen again and you are still automatically selecting the digit 5 key, but swipe down, and hey presto, you’re now pressing the 8 digit. Because we all know the layout of the phone keypad, it doesn’t matter where we press initially on the screen because it will always be the digit 5, but we can easily then select a different number based on this ‘marker’ due to the fact we know the layout of a phone keyboard so well.
Naturally, this has application outside of dialling a phone number. If you got to know the layout of your home screens on Android well enough, you could switch between them easily enough. The same could work for text-input keyboards too.
In a series of videos provided by T. V. Ramen, researcher at Google, the different application possibilities are covered, all on his handy Android G1. Ramen initially showed this stuff off at Google I/O, and had this to say on the matter:
“We are building a user interface that goes over and beyond the screen,” says Raman. Often, eyes-free interfaces are employed for blind users, but Raman, who himself is blind, assures that these interfaces have much broader implications. “This is not just about the blind user,” he says. “This is about how to use these devices if you’re not in a position to look at the machine.”
Other developers, including Microsoft’s Baudisch who first considered ‘marker’ style interfaces for MP3 payers think that it is great to see this style of interface implemented, stating that “It’s wonderful that [the Google researchers] are doing it, and they implemented it nicely,” he says. “Marking menus are great, and it’s time that somebody puts this into the products that it belongs in.”