Touchscreen ignores unintentional taps and swipes

If you’re anything like me, you’ll have accidentally tapped or swiped buttons on a smartphone or tablet that you didn’t mean to. This has not only caused gaming calamities – like dropping the landing gear while still hypersonic in X-Plane Space Shuttle on the iPhone (arrgh!) – but also tweeting or emailinghalf-written missives or photos by leaning on the screen.

An answer of sorts is on the way. Nokia researchers Juha Matero and Ashley Colley have developed software that can tell the difference between an intentional tap and a clumsy accident.

Their trick, they told last month’s Designing Interactive Systemsconference in Newcastle, UK, was to cajole 17 colleagues – all smartphone users admitting they had particular trouble with unintended touches – into taking a few basic smartphone use tests to see how often they goofed.

In more than 4000 “touch events”, some 1500 were unintentional mistakes. They noticed that 99.7 per cent of intentional touches ranged between 70 and 400 milliseconds long, but unintentional touches were much shorter. They also noted that many unintentional presses were on icons up to a millimeter from the screen edge. By continuing to analyze the factors that caught out the user, they have worked out how to design a software-based filter that can rid users of 80 per cent of unintentional touches.

I’d welcome such code in my phone – but app user interface designers could play a part too, by not positioning buttons such as tweet or email “send” buttons too close to screen edges. In my view, the worst example of misconceived button-placement is in Apple’s Voice Memo app, which has a large “delete” button right next to the progress bar – so scrolling through audio often activates the delete function. Not good.

If you have an app button placement horror story, tell us in the comments.

Blowfish12@2012 Author: Sudharsun. P. R.

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