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Introducing Swype: How We'll All Be Typing in a Few Years

SwypeImagine being able to type 50 words a minute using your iPhone. I'm watching a demo on UStream.tv of the technology -- basically you drag your finger across the stream and Swype figures out what you wanted to type. 

The inventor, Cliff Kushler has done it again - he previously developed the same T9 technology that many people use to compose text messages today. Over the years he has put together a patent portfolio whose breadth and completeness compares favorably to MPEG-LA, the secret behind the iTunes empire. 

For example, to type the word "exclusive", you would start on the letter 'e' and drag down the keyboard to 'x' then right to 'c' then all the way right to "l" and so on. Even though you are dragging over all sorts of letters, Swype interprets your gestures and evaluates all combinations of the letters you've touched to produce the word you wanted to type. Swype estimates that most people can reach 40wpm after only two days' use.

This is the kind of technology that Apple Computer, Microsoft Surface and other companies need to usher in the next generation of applications. While iPhone sales have been robust, even a 70wpm typer like myself finds it incredibly tough to use Apple's haptic technology to compose a simple email.

After all, the personal computer only took off after the keyboard started to feel like a real typewriter. This level of comfort brought word processing and later, desktop publishing to the masses. For the iPhone (and hopefully later this month, the so-called "iPad" internet notebook computer) to reach the next level, it must be quick and easy to enter text. Of many technologies I've seen recently, only Swype satisfies those conditions.

The applications don't stop there. An outdoor advertising company like Clear Channel or JC Decaux could include Swype technology in its ads as a kind of "virtual keyboard" that would let passers-by answer questions or enter their email address. Of course, there are hygiene issues, but there are clever ways of handling even the most rabid germophobes.

Hey - haptics already gives us faucets that turn on automagically -- why couldn't Swype give us a virtual keyboard that lets us gesture to specify the water temperature?

If you manufacture tablet computers or haptic devices, I encourage you to consider including Swype on your device. It might be the one app that gives your hardware the "wow" factor you've been looking for.

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