Microsoft has posted its latest entry on the Building Windows 8 blog exploring some of the ergonomic and functionally challenging aspects of typing on a touchscreen versus a more traditional keyboard. In order to offer its users the most comfortable and accurate on-screen keyboard, Microsoft did copious amounts of research ranging from ergonomics trials to adaptive key layouts.
Microsoft started by identifying the three most common positions for holding a tablet, then tweaking the key size and layout so that all of the keys would be reachable in any of the three. Beyond that, the company says that it experimented with response mechanisms like haptic feedback, but decided that people often found it very distracting and uncomfortable after extended typing. Microsoft also used extensive eye-tracking (like in the image above) to determine whether people spent more time looking at the keyboard or the text-entry field and optimized the keyboard size so that it wouldn't obscure too much of the underlying page. The keyboard's software even accounts for the difference in keystroke angle for letters of the alphabet that are distant from the home row.
While we wait for touchscreen technology like Tactus to arrive on actual products, we'll just have to settle for the best engineered software keyboards we can get. Microsoft's special attention to the touch keyboard in Windows 8 meshes well with its "best of two worlds" mantra, but until the Surface and other native Windows 8 tablets launch in October we won't know how it truly stacks up to the competition.