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QWERTY-based Amphibians

Jeff Hawkins and the Foleo 1.0

Palm killed Foleo 1.0. But the reason for the Foleo is QWERTY, and that’s the reason there’ll be a Foleo 2.0. It’s all about the keyboard. That absurd user interface that was originally designed in 1878 to slow typists down so that the mechanical keys of the early typewriters wouldn’t get stuck together. You’d think that would be as bad as it could get, but no—then we’re given 10-key interfaces to the alphabet through cell phones. The mechanical keyboard on the smart phone was considered a huge improvement and some people can actually type very quickly using only their thumbs. But, really, is that the best we can do? The Foleo was an attempt to at least get back to the full sized keyboard and the insanity that is QWERTY. (You can assume that DVORAK keyboards will never gain a foothold.) But it’s really just a terminal style computer that hooks up to the network through your phone (and probably WiFi). I guess the real question is why the phone? Why does Foleo need to be a companion? Why can’t it simply be a little laptop or a really big phone that doesn’t fit in your pocket?

Frog with 4 legs

As the Internet struggles to emerge everywhere, we’ll see the Darwinian process of various hybrid network devices attempt to adapt and survive. It’s a dog eat dog world, and many devices, like Foleo 1.0, will not survive. But if the ubiquitous Internet is going to be more than just consumption, the problem of input will need to be solved. It’s not going to just be photographs and Twittergrams, we’re going to need to input text as well. Apple is moving toward a virtual interface with QWERTY and Multi-touch created in software. I would imagine their next generation keyboard will incorporate this approach. But there’s a lot of work that needs to be done before a virtual keyboard will rival a mechanical keyboard.

Lots of people are thinking about how to get beyond the Keyboard/Video/Mouse input paradigm, and there are some beautiful prototypes out there. But there’ll always be a need for good old plain text and a way to make it flow from your thoughts out through your fingertips.

Published in design innovation interaction design language zettel