Although I love my iPhone 4, I’ll admit making the switch to a touchscreen keyboard was tough. I still have trouble typing without errors and feel like my fingers are fumbling giants, even though my hands are pretty small. Inpris’ Upsense invisible keyboard for smartphones and tablets aims to alleviate some of that typing trouble.
Instead of having to look intently at your touchscreen keyboard when trying to type, according to the company’s website, the invisible keyboard “uses an intuitive way of writing based on the movements of the fingers rather than pressing a certain point on the screen.” Plus, the keyboard doesn’t cut your smartphone or tablet’s display in half, because the keyboard itself is transparent. You’re free to type as you wish, while the keyboard adapts to your typing pattern. Or that’s what Inpris claims. What we got was an entirely different experience.
Right now Upsense is only available on Android smartphones and tablets (free, for good reason), though the site says versions for Apple and Windows Phone are coming soon. We downloaded the app to our smartphone (although Inpris says the app is better suited for Android tablets), which works in portrait or landscape view. We were then taken to the Keyboard Setting Tutorial, which just shows us a bunch of boxes with green dots or arrows in them next to letters. With that introduction, or lack thereof, we were baffled.
When we tapped the question mark in the lower right corner (which was hard to find itself and required a lot of scrolling), we were taken to a 25-page user’s guide. While we were intrigued in figuring out how this invisible keyboard works, we think it’s ridiculous to have to read 25 pages to become acquainted with its features. There is also a 5-minute tutorial video available via YouTube for more visual learners.
Here’s how the user’s guide explained it: You swipe fingers to replicate letters instead of jabbing at keys on a QWERTY keyboard. For example, you can type an M by swiping three fingers down and an N by swiping two fingers down. However, we wouldn’t have known how to even begin without this user’s guide.
UpSense says that after tapping in a text entry area and placing your fingertips on your touchscreen, you’ll see circles around your fingertips indicating that the keyboard has identified your hand. You keep your fingers within those circles, then move them in the direction of what letter you need to type.
We tried the tutorial in 4-finger mode, which showed four rectangular boxes on the display. Since we tested it out in left-handed mode, the first box was meant for our pink, the second for our ring finger, the third for our middle finger and the fourth for our index finger. Bright green dots appeared in certain boxes on letters that are meant to be typed with only one finger. For example, there is a green dot in the pinky finger box of the D row, so you know to tap your pinky twice if you need to spell a D. For more complex letters, there are arrows to indicate which way to move your fingers. K shows an arrow down in the middle finger box and a dot in the index finger box. That means you tap with your index finger while swiping down with your middle finger.
We understand this guide when we see it, but there’s no way we can see ourselves remembering it on the spot. And things can get tricky: You type an F by swiping your middle and index fingers to the right, but typing a G is easily confused because you swipe your ring and middle fingers to the right. There’s even typing gestures for typing a space, Delete, Enter, Shift, number pad and Cancel.
To start using UpSense as your primary keyboard, you have to choose it as your default keyboard from the keyboards list when you’re entering text. When we attempted to do this, though, we were shown a message that informed us that the UpSense keyboard “may be able to collect all the text you type, including personal data like passwords and credit card numbers.” We were asked if we wanted to proceed. We had major qualms about this warning, but this is a standard message on agreements when downloading third-party apps. We tapped OK just for experimentation purposes. When we went to a text screen, though, the standard keyboard still showed up. Exasperated beyond belief, we gave up.
The concept of an invisible keyboard that eliminates the need for a crammed keyboard on touchscreens is intriguing. We’ll give Inpris a brownie point for the idea. But UpSense’s delivery is, well, let’s just say lacking. We found ourselves increasingly frustrated trying to figure out the app and learn that language. Unless you have a photographic memory to memorize each letter’s typing gesture or have all the time in the world to try to master this new language, you’re going to become irritated before you even get a chance to test it out in your browser or text entry field. And we couldn’t even get ours working, so, for now at least, stick with your QWERTY keyboard. Trust us, it’s worth the saved headache.