One of his most successful inventions, says Georgia Tech professor Thad Starner, is a four-inch strip of Velcro that sticks his "Twiddler" keyboard to the side of his shoulder bag. The Twiddler is a handheld chording keyboard manufactured by the Handkey corporation, and the Velcro lets Starner grab his keyboard and start typing in just two seconds flat.
Indeed, speed of access is one of the determining factors in whether a mobile information device will be used for mundane and casual tasks, according to a paper Starner recently published. Two seconds from storage to use is optimal. More than 10 seconds, the device stays unused.
One of the fundamential questions makers of PDAs and other portable devices will have to answer is "How do people make notes?" That is, how do we makes notes of things that we'll need or want to recall at a later time? The obvious answer is "grab a pen and a notepad and jot it down." For now, that's a satisfying and ultimately reliable method--or is it? Yes, I've tried using a PDA to keep track of things, but the batteries died and I lost everything, but then I've jotted down notes and phone numbers only to find them at the bottom of the washing machine a few days later. Or I've been unable to read my writing, or phone numbers have no other text associated with them so I have to call them and ask "Who are you and why do I have your number?"
But then is any device that requires typing the answer? I would say not, especially one like the Twiddler (my, that's an unfortunate name) that requires learning how to type in a way that is completely different from QWERTY, which is annoying enough. I still think voice-recognition is going to be the way to go--a reliable and accurate way to speak a note and ultimately have it convert to editable text is the Holy Grail, at least to my mind. (Yes, this exists already, and I hear it's getting better and the results tend to be less "voice wreck ignition"-like. ScanSoft's Dragon Naturally Speaking may be worth investigating...)
I suppose it's only a matter of time before compter software in general becomes voice-based, rather than typing- and/or click-based. But then having Microsoft Word react to voice commands may not be such a hot idea--given some of the things I yell at it, it may try to execute some biologically improbable functions indeed.