Bringing back ‘Graffiti’ as the new text input method

Very few people thought that typing on a touchscreen smartphone would be a good idea. It was commonly thought that without physical buttons to press, it would be too cumbersome to type correctly. With no keypad there would be no guidelines when trying to press the correct button, and no feedback to know when a button has been pushed.

Several years down the line, that school of thought has been proven very wrong. Touchscreens have been a great success. With no physical keys to get in the way and without the need to actually fully click down a real button, touchscreens are even easier to type on. Add in the introduction of auto-correction and swiping, and typing accuracy is as good as ever. The typing speed of the average phone user has surely increased.

On a screen that can comfortably fit two thumbs and the space for them to move around, there is no problem.

Input on Smartwatches, on the other hand, is not quite as ideal.

Smartwatches feature tiny screens, with even the biggest ones maxing out well below 2 inches. It is pretty much impossible to type comfortably or efficiently on a touch keyboard that small. The latest Android Wear 2 watches utilize a keyboard that needs to be scrolled through in order to tap keys on either side. How annoying is that?

So, instead of messing around with a keyboard or even limited canned responses, why don’t manufacturers try a different route. Perhaps, a blast from the past?

Graffiti, was the primary method of input on Palm PDAs from around 15 years ago. At the time the input method was considered revolutionary, but it did entail learning a new style of writing.

To use Graffiti, you would simply write the letters in the Graffiti area of your PDA’s screen, in the special Graffiti style. Many letters written in Graffiti were written in the exact same way as real life. Some though were drawn slightly differently in order to help the PDA differentiate between similar letters.

Overall, Graffiti was a fairly fast way to input text – once it was mastered. Add in some simple gestures for spaces, new lines and backspaces and the solution worked pretty well.

You would think that an input solution from 15+ years ago would no longer be relevant today, although perhaps you’ve never seen a keyboard or mouse?!

A Graffiti style system could be perfect for Smartwatches. Instead of using a stylus you can use your finger. Plus, there would be no need to learn a new way to draw each letter. Write the letter as you usually would and the smartwatch could utilize advancements in OCR, plus machine learning to know exactly what you meant to write.

Surely, it would be a better solution then tapping away at a minuscule keyboard. There wouldn’t even be any need to look at the screen while writing. You don’t need to aim at a specific key, just write intuitively, with the watchface as your surface.

All in all, I feel it could be an interesting solution to a frustrating problem. With all the crazy tech that goes on nowadays anyway, there must be one manufacturer willing to give this a go?