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The main idea of the KeyWheel is similar to InPad - to track sequences of activated input elements or keys. The principal difference is that keys of the keywheel are located along a closed circular curve, but not spaced at the input surface as for InPad. Therefore, the keywheel is one-dimensional input methods and its' input gestures are simple arc strokes. Each stroke is determined by the sequence of keys touched by a finger sweeping over a curve. The keywheel associates input operations with these strokes. The operations may be values, characters, digits, symbols or any control commands inputs. Graphical legend symbols representing input means may be placed over keys of the keywheel, and/or be rendered at a display to facilitate user input.

In general, to enter an input command the user should touch the initial key of the corresponding input gesture and sweep around the curve to the position of the last key of the gesture. During the sweep the current input may be displayed or highlighted at the screen, so novice users can easily control this process. The keywheel provides fast eye-free input for experienced users, because input gestures are determined by absolute positions of a very limited number of keys. Tactile marks and keyclicks also facilitate eye-free input.

For better understanding, let's consider an example of simple keywheel with 4 keys for input of English characters. Four keys are separated by blue lines. Each key contains 2 groups of characters from 3 to 4 letters. To enter a character user should touch the key containing the desired letter and sweep the finger around the center. A direction and a length of the sweep is determined by the group containing the letter and the position of the letter in that group. For example, the letter "b" is the second letter of the first group of the top-right key. Therefore, to enter "b" user should touch top-right key, and sweep 2 elements in CCW direction. To enter "SPACE" just click bottom left key. You can find gestures for other letters and commands at corner images. Yellow dots indicate beginnings of gestures. You can try Circumscript - a text input method based at the keywheel at our Demo page.

The keywheel may have very different layouts. It may have from 2 to 8 keys. Keys may be places along circle, oval or any other curve. Keys may have different sizes and shapes. Strokes may start not in all keys. Strokes may be short for frequent operations ( just tap a key ) or very long for the control of device characteristics or for selection in the long lists. The example of a simple interface for multimedia player is presented at the image below. Strokes started at the top key control the volume and mute, at the bottom key provide shuffle and stop, at the left key scroll menu and lists, at the right key provide track navigation. A wide set of input meanings may be used for different devices, for example temperature, speed, time and mode controls for washing machines; balance, volume, frequency controls for radios, etc.

Next example of the keywheel is more suited for phone interfaces. It has 6 keys. In the numeric mode digits are entered by short strokes in either CW or CCW directions. All characters are grouped to corresponding digits as at the convenient phone keypad and entered as described above. The inner part may be used for touchpad or joystick. Such keywheel can easily support legacy phone multitap input. Every new activation of a keywheel key during sweeping a gesture may represent a next tap of the corresponding key at phone keypad, so existing phone software doesn't need to be changed to adapt the keywheel.

You can find more examples of controls using the keywheel here

If you got any questions, or have comments or suggestions, please contact us by e-mail: support@microth.com

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