Spelling out a new world

By: |
February 15, 2021 5:00 AM

Typewise’s focus is on recreating a keyboard and, more importantly, redefining privacy

On the privacy front, transgressions from big tech have shown that they are ready to permeate all aspects of our lives.On the privacy front, transgressions from big tech have shown that they are ready to permeate all aspects of our lives.

Typewise is more recognised with revolutionising how keyboards look than the privacy aspect. While Typewise has not ditched the QWERTY design, but unlike plan vanilla flat-panel on-screen keyboards with square keys, they have recreated QWERTY with a honeycomb keys to enable faster typing.

“The original keyboard design is derived from a typewriter, and there has been no update to it since. How we type on a smartphone cannot be similar to how we type on a standard keyboard. It has to be different,” says David Eberle, co-founder and CEO, Typewise.

Typewise’s primary focus is twiddling, so the keys are designed to make it easier to access the board. Although there is a learning curve involved, within 2-4 weeks—Typewise app also comes loaded with a game making learning experience easier—one can master the new board.

However, there is more to Typewise than quirky design, and it is the privacy aspect that Typewise is looking at more seriously.

Cyberattacks and ransomware’s have forced people and organisations to reconsider security. While many people are gravitating towards antiviruses and VPNs to protect their data, not all devices are given the same consideration, and not all services are viewed the same. For instance, awareness of security standards of home connected devices is still low.

On the privacy front, transgressions from big tech have shown that they are ready to permeate all aspects of our lives. Over the last few years, almost all major tech giants, have been found listening to our conversations and improving their algorithms. Given the pushback from people, there has been a gradual move towards privacy—Apple’s new iOS limits surveillance by apps like Facebook and Google announced that they would be implementing similar standards. One aspect that is often ignored is what we type on our smartphones.

Almost all major tech giants have launched their keyboards. While users have been made available many features like swipe typing, voice typing and auto-complete, the trade-off is privacy. The companies track what is being typed to improve their AI and also help better auto-complete features. However, this means that users end up surrendering more data than they wish to. There is a private typing feature, much like private browsing, to some keyboards, however, most users do not know about it.

But Eberle explains that Typewise is following a different approach. Instead of relying on the user-generated model, the company uses the OpenAI database to improve typing models, while leveraging onboard computing to personalise typing experience. So, instead of accumulating all that is being typed in cloud servers and then training their AI models, as most keyboards do, Typewise uses the smartphone’s computing power to improve accuracy, keeping the data on the user’s phone. To enhance features and improve AI, they rely on databases like OpenAI instead.

However, Typewise has a long way to go still. Although privacy is a concern for people to switch, it is not enough to abandon features. And, Typewise, for now, has limited features. The auto-complete on the app is shoddy, and voice typing is not available on the board. Besides, learning a new design and new gestures can be an uphill task for many. Eberle hopes that within a few years, the market may change. Besides, the company is now gravitating towards creating products for niche users like gamers.

While Typewise wants to change the traditional keyboard for computers, it is still experimenting with ideas. Subscription model with profiles for business, personal and private users is one approach.

The focus on privacy can be the turning point. Even if Typewise fails to attract enough users and remains a niche market product, it will y certainly spark a debate on privacy. It may even be successful in forcing tech giants to change their practices.

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