CrossTap: Universal typing software from the future.
CrossTap is typing software. With it, you can type really fast on any device- smart phones, tablets, game controllers, even cars.
Typing is broken.
Trying to type on anything but a full-size QWERTY keyboard can be challenging. Smart phones, with all of their amazing features have moved backwards in typing efficiency. Entering text on game controllers can be a nightmare, and we only do it if we absolutely must. Set top boxes are the worst offenders. Try searching for a show on your cable/satellite box and you'll know what I'm talking about.
We don't type with 10 fingers anymore.
CrossTap is a new way to type that is designed for the future- and for the way we interact with things now. The commercial typewriter was created in 1865, which is exactly 150 years ago. It weighed a hundred pounds and sat on a very strong desk. It never moved. Now we hold devices in our hands, which means most of our fingers rest on the back. Our thumbs have become the main input for nearly any digital device. CrossTap is designed from the ground up to work with two fingers in such a way that you can type nearly the same on any device- phones, tablets, game controllers even cars.
How does it work?
CrossTap is made up of taps and swipes on two different grids. One for each finger. Letters, spaces and backspaces are simple taps. You can connect letters together to form digrams ('th', 'is') and more complex gestures form words. On a smart phone, you use your thumbs to tap and swipe around on the CrossTap surface to form letters, symbols, numbers, phrases and words. With practice, you will start adding more and more gestures to your repertoire so that less character based typing is necessary.
Type like you talk. With words or letters.
Imagine if we spoke like we type. "I-t-spacebar-w-o-u-l-d-spacebar-b-e-spacebar-d-i-f-f-i-c-u-l-t-exclamationPoint". Translated, that's "It would be difficult!" Think of the word elephant. For the rest of your life, every time you want to type the word elephant, you will have to click 8 buttons. You can never get better at it, no matter how much your brain may want to. With CrossTap, you can type like you talk, with words instead of letters. So there's a simple gesture for elephant:
It may seem strange to think of typing with words, but it's the way our brain is wired. Typing letter by letter is a cerebral compromise we make every single day- carryover from the mechanical limitations imposed by the 150 year old typewriter. In China, an average 1st grader already has 1,600 characters memorized. By the 7th grade, that number is up to 3,500. There is no reason by the time we're adults we couldn't memorize thousands and thousands of gestures. Typing would then be a joy. Imagine typing the way you think- with words, rarely having to spell things out letter by letter.
Built for speed
The average words per minute (wpm) for a professional typist is between 50-70 wpm. For the average human being, the count is much lower. On mobile phones, the average is around 33 wpm. It's no secret that typing on mobile phones is painful. CrossTap will allow users to type far faster than a traditional QWERTY keyboard, mobile or otherwise. Early testing indicates that an accomplished CrossTap user could easily achieve over 100 wpm. Imagine being able to use your phone for productive typing- even developing.
This is a video comparing a couple of different typing methods, all typing that famous sentence "The quick red fox jumped over the lazy brown dog" twice.
Even in a perfect scenario with Apple's QuickType (bottom left), where I don't have to type a single word, I can only manage 74 wpm. With this simple sentence, I can fly on my full-size QWERTY keyboard at 119 wpm, but it's no match for CrossTap at 167 wpm.
You may say, well that's just a phrase you memorized to the point you could just do it really fast. That is absolutely correct. And you can memorize thousands of words and type that fast with nearly anything- as fast as you can think. I've been typing on a full-size QWERTY keyboard since I was 7 years old and I haven't gotten any faster in the past 20 years. CrossTap is a vast language that you can get better at for the rest of your life- you will type faster at 40 than you did at 20.
What are we building?
We are going to build two things- an iOS and Android game to learn CrossTap, and then the actual iOS and Android keyboards. The keyboards will have complete maps for the English language, and can be used in nearly any application on your mobile phone. The game will come first, so that we can perfect the software and launch the keyboards with confidence that we have gotten everything right.
CrossTap in the Classroom
Many have asked me- Are you seriously going to ask me to teach this in the classroom? I think you'll be surprised to find out how much children enjoy typing this way. Children's brains soak this up, and can typically have the 26 character alphabet memorized in under 10 minutes. Adults would take at least 20- but it's much easier than you may think.
We are so used to typing one character at a time that anything else seems complicated, but in actuality typing with words (through gestures) is a much more expressive way to communicate yourself. You can think of it like sign language that happens to work on digital devices as well.
CrossTap in the Car
Let's limit the discussion to a parked car. A non-moving car. You're stopped at a light, you have 2 minutes to burn. We all typically grab our phone and check our email until someone behind us honks at us for not realizing the light turned green.
If you were to design a way to type safely in a car, it would need to provide at least two things: 1) You would have to be able to keep your hands on the steering wheel. 2) You would have to be able to keep your eyes up, out of your lap. CrossTap accomplishes both of these things.
CrossTap can easily be integrated into many current steering wheel designs. A Honda Civic is pictured above. Many other manufacturers have settled on a similar configuration (see below). And because of the design of the gesture based interface, there is no need to look at your fingers while you type, it just flows out as if you were speaking.
For the initial launch, CrossTap will have full support for the English language. Creating the ideal mapping for a given language is an arduous process and is beyond the scope of this Kickstarter project (unless things get crazy). The app (CrossTap Creator) we use internally to develop the English language map may be released to the public in order to allow anyone to create maps for their language. We are designing a Github inspired web app to allow for the democratic creation of additional language support.
An interesting thing will happen when we start adding other languages to CrossTap. We have been doing a survey of the most common words and phrases amongst many of the world's most popular languages. Those words and phrases will get the same CrossTap gesture, no matter the language.
The CrossTap notation then becomes a common written language. Just a subset mind you, but enough that written (or gestured) communication across different languages would be fairly easy.
I'm Forrest, the guy in the video. At my previous job, I was in charge of all the design and technology at Next Glass, where our app was ranked #1 in the Food and Drink category on the Apple store. Previously I've designed and developed software for the film industry, the advertising industry, and the consumer app space. I will be leading the team in developing the CrossTap game for iOS and Android, as well as the custom keyboard for both platforms. CrossTap is my full-time job.
To help CrossTap function beautifully and expand elegantly into other languages, we are fortunate to have the linguistic expertise of Cayley Pater on the team. Cayley speaks several languages including Hindi-Urdu, Farsi, Spanish, German, is studying Arabic and will be leading the language map efforts of CrossTap.
Leading game development on the Unity framework will be Nick Birnbaum. Nick previously worked for EA Sports and spends his time developing casual games for for his personal indie game label.
For Android development, we turn our attention to Greg Ennis. Greg lives in Atlanta, GA and counts the PGA and Turner Sports as former clients. He will be developing the native Android keyboard app, ensuring that it runs fast and smooth.
Leading the native keyboard development for iOS is a mystery developer who prefers to remain nameless. The adulation heaped upon this position is not for the faint of heart. So we will honor their request to remain anonymous.
Risks and challenges
This is software, so I can promise you it will take longer than we are anticipating. It’s fairly typical for software development to take 20-40% longer to develop than initially projected. I am hoping to launch the game by July 2015, and the keyboards by October 2015.
With the successful prototype in hand, I am confident you will love the CrossTap input system- I know it works. Once funded, we will begin immediately rolling our CrossTap prototype into the game, CrossTap Blitz (you know, for kids. And people like me). As the prototype is actually built upon the Unity gaming engine, this is a fairly simple operation. As with any software, there will undoubtedly be issues and bugs that we will work hard to remove.
I’m fairly confident the character layouts are correct, but am looking forward to feedback from the Beta community on any improvements that are needed. Mapping the top 3,000 words of the English language will take some more work. Getting this correct may take more time than I am anticipating. It wouldn’t necessarily delay the keyboard launch dates, but at the same time, it would feel disingenuous releasing the keyboards with the mappings incomplete. I have engaged the services of a linguistic expert to create the smartest, most easy to use system possible. I am not positive the number will be exactly 3,000. It may be less, it may be more. Please don’t quote me on that. The 3,000 part. You can quote me on the “It may be less, it may be more” part.
I have made references to CrossTap being used on a gaming platform. In the video, there is a shot of me playing with CrossTap on a gaming controller, which is actually an Amazon Fire TV system, running Android with their wireless controller. While we potentially can make the CrossTap Blitz game for Sony PlayStation®, Microsoft Xbox® and other gaming consoles, there is no guarantee we will be able to get the CrossTap typing system into the console’s OS to be used system-wide. With enough momentum, enough people asking the gaming manufacturers for CrossTap support, I’m confident we can get CrossTap on to those systems.
This is new technology, and we have done cursory explorations into how other languages might work with CrossTap. That being said, there may be unforeseen issues with the way languages (that differ drastically from English) work with CrossTap. We do not think this will be a problem, but without a more exhaustive exploration, we can’t guarantee that CrossTap will work with every single language on earth.
When the actual CrossTap keyboard ships, languages that have no map for them won’t work. It is beyond the scope of this project to complete mappings for every language. It is up to the CrossTap community to create and perfect language maps. There will most likely be interest in a country to use CrossTap where a map has yet to have been created. That person will need to create a map for their language before they can use the CrossTap keyboard. As of right now, there is no published software for creating other language maps. A future app has been discussed (CrossTap Creator) specifically for creating new language maps for CrossTap.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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