updated 05:57 am EST, Fri December 7, 2012
Microsoft details the art of making a smartphone soft keyboard work
Microsoft has published a blog explaining the enhancements it has made to the soft keyboard in Windows Phone 8. Among the improvements over the keyboard in Windows Phone 7, Microsoft has introduced a feature it calls Word Flow that it has designed to reflect how people talk to each other. To get the auto-correct and predictive text function working with 94 percent accuracy out of the box, it says it reviewed over 2.5 billlion words from which it picked the 600,000 most common.
Further, Word Flow will improve the accuracy of its suggestions over time with Microsoft explaining at some length how they achieve this. Interestingly, Microsoft also addresses what it calls the 'fat finger' problem, which it says "has less to do with finger size than screen size on smartphones." In the video embedded below, Microsoft demonstrates how it creates a larger "hit target" (the touch-sensitive area around each letter when users are typing. It uses the same predictive technology to determine the best size for the hit targets as a user is typing.
The third component to helping the Windows Phone 8 soft keyboard work as intended is the in-built custom dictionary. The custom dictionary works by default to learn the words and phrases that each user uses most frequently to make suggestions, corrections, and keyboard hit-target adjustment for a more accurate smartphone typing experience. With the average user typing 20 to 30 messages a day, for a total of 10,000 a year, a more accurate keyboard makes for better smartphone experience.