Big-fingered phone users get vibrating handset 098


By Michael MacLeod

SCIENTISTS have hacked into iPhones to help people with fat fingers to type.

The Apple gadget’s touch-screen keyboard is notoriously fiddly, especially for users with chubby digits.

Now boffins at Glasgow University have put their finger on the problem by creating tiny vibrations to imitate the feel of buttons on a flat screen.

Having been beaten to the geeky breakthrough, red-faced Apple bosses remained tight-lipped as to whether they’ll take on the idea.

Researcher Dr Malcolm Hall said: “Most people’s fingers are too big and they can’t see what they’re typing.

“This gets really annoying when you make a mistake and have to slow down to try and look at the buttons.

“So what we’ve done is get in to the guts of the iPhone and improved it. Now you can feel the keys without seeing them.”

The team from the University of Glasgow’s Department of Computer Science discovered the device already has the technology to buzz at 12 different levels of intensity.

And they don’t know why Apple didn’t do it themselves when re-launching an improved and cheaper iPhone last week, which sold one million units in three days.

Dr Hall added: “They’re a very secretive company and never like to say much when people point out faults in their gizmos.

“Whether you’ve got fat fingers or not, the touchscreen keyboard has always been a problem on most phones, so maybe they’ll do it in the future.

“They’re always trying to evolve their products, but I don’t expect them to be phoning us for tips on improving their iPhone, they’re too proud.”

The team say their rumbling virtual buttons make typing easier and faster, whether you have fat fingers or not.

The iPhone add-on is available as a prototype on the researchers’ website.

Also in on the hacking action was Dr Eve Hoggan, an expert in touch-technology, known as haptics.

She said: “Compared to a standard keyboard, touchscreens are less accurate and when in a rush it’s very time consuming to check each character has been entered.

“Feedback through the finger is more natural and the brain can process it quicker than visual feedback, so we’ve brought the iPhone close to the performance of a real physical keyboard.”

An Apple spokesperson said: “This isn’t something we’d want to comment on.”