BlackBerry due an angular keyboard?

December 26, 2007 // 1:16 p.m.

Tags: #hardware #keyboard #patent #research-in-motion #rim

Companies: #blackberry

Creator of the always-in-touch phenomenon the CrackBerry – sorry, BlackBerryResearch in Motion has filed a patent for a modification to the thumb-based keyboard in order to increase comfort and typing speeds without making the device bulky and ungainly. Well, any more than it already is.

US Patent #20070287391 covers an “Angular Keyboard For a Mobile Communications Device”.

As you can see in the picture, the idea is pretty simple. To quote the patent application: “A length of the device is greater than the width. Each key of a right-hand keyfield has a longitudinal axis oriented at a left-to-right inclined angle while each key of a left-hand keyfield has a longitudinal axis oriented at a right-to-left inclined angle from the vertical centreline [sic]. A left boundary of the keyboard is located adjacent the left lateral side edge of the device and the right boundary of the keyboard is located adjacent the right lateral side edge of the device so that the keyboard spans a substantial entirety of the width of the device.

Let’s try that in English: The keyboard is split into two halves, and each is rotated so as to be at a similar angle to the thumbs when the device is held two-handedly. The idea is that angling the keys in this way will decrease the amount your thumbs need to travel when you are composing that all-important e-mail.

Anyone who owns an ‘ergonomic keyboard’ will be familiar with this ‘split in two and angled’ technique but this marks the first time such a system has been implemented on a mobile device, at least to my knowledge. RIM is clearly hoping that it’s original, too: prior art would invalidate the patent and leave the market open for competitors to produce similar angled keyboards on their mobiles.

Still, anything that makes text entry on a mobile easer has to be applauded. Perhaps once touch-typing is possible on an average ‘phone we might finally see the death of txt spk.

Are angled keyboard systems the future for mobile data entry, or should companies have tried to make handwriting recognition more of a viable option? Perhaps mechanical parts are on their way out and Apple have the right idea with a multi-touch software interface? Share your opinions via the forums.
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