I was just reading some quick impressions about a new iPad case that includes a keyboard as part of the case by mt friend Sammy Mac over at Palm Addict. I am interested in it simply because it looks like a good idea, but also because it seems like an incomplete answer to what seems to be a major issue with many of the tablet (and mobile) devices out there – the question of how to skillfully and efficiently handle inputing text (and other items).
You see, I wanted to know about this case/keyboard combination because there are moments – like that email, or this post – where I do think that a keyboard is probably the most efficient means of getting text into this kind of format. And while I am familiar with using voice, I am currently sitting in a place where talking this kind of post will sound conversational and would likely be interrupted (I don’t get that Start Trek Next Generation luxury of always having my journaling periods outside of the range of another’s ears).
Not Just Typing
And it isn’t just text that I mean as a problem with input. There is also the issue of touching buttons and completing other actions on the device without needing to get up and touch the screen.
I had this mostly solved on my smarpthone where I can have both my wireless keyboard and a Zeemote Bluetooth joystick connected at the same time. Outside of the joystick timing out from time to time, I was largely able to get around most of the device, and even many websites, when my mobile was connected to the TV and I was sitting on the other side of my room.
Such isn’t the case with my iPad. Here, even though I am typing this right now and have the iPad sitting out in front of me, I still need to be close enough to reach out to it because there are many of the buttons and features that need to be interacted with via touch instead of having an alternate mapping to this keyboard.
Here’s where that accessibility setting for the iPad needs to not be locked to you connecting the iPad to a PC and iTunes. That could be a solution.
Motion Capture Cameras and Gestures?
Another solution, and honestly one that I think companies should look at more often, is the ability to use motion-capture technology with a front-facing camera. Here, when a person has the device in a mode – let’s use me using the iPad from a distance and there’s a keyboard connected to it – there would also be the additional option of being able to have the front-camera track either my eye movements, or a specific type of gesture movement which would then enable me to be able to navigate around the screen without getting out from a comfortable input/creative position.
There was some softawre demoed like this for the Nokia N95 some years back, and this holiday season the XBox will be refreshed with the Kinect motion sensor/capturing device. The Kinect is really interesting and answers this question on a scale of larger room environments where your body and the space you occupy is the input. I don’t know how it will handle moments like this outside of possibly going with a voice/gesture combo – but that’s part of the way here.
Question Begging for a Solution
It is a good thing for people and markets that tablets are being re-looked at as ideal computing devices. And I can say that for nearly all of the types of computing that I do, a tablet is the perfect compliment. However, the question that the keyboard/case, the Kinect, and many other technologies don’t seem to go far enough in answering is that of how to make inputting text and content less a chore. Yes, there’s some different body positioning and context (aka friction) that should be here, but right now, this is something a lot too difficult, and has the potential to take tablets out of the game again, just as fast as they have resurfaced.