Recently I joined the co-working space WeWork here in SOMA San Francisco. I wrote a post on what inspired me to join a co-working space and what specifically brought me to WeWork over the competition, namely The Hatchery, NextSpace and PARISOMA. In that post I wrote how I wanted to start profiling the companies I find especially impressive that share this workspace with me and in particular, Syntellia, the team behind Fleksy.
After I wrote that post, Bill Rappos, UX Design at Syntellia, waved at me from his office (it’s literally on the mezzanine right in front of me) and came down to talk about Fleksy. That alone is reason enough to work in a space like WeWork! Let’s find out what Fleksy does and how it might revolutionize how you tap to type on your phone and tablet.
Fleksy is a free software keyboard for mobile devices (currently a universal iOS app but Android is in beta) that uses an incredibly smart, predictive typing algorithm to assist in tapping out text on touchscreen devices. It’s so good that you can miss every letter and it will more than likely guess what you meant to type. This should not be confused with the sometimes hilariously wrong autocorrect found in the iPhone. Fleksy is so good, I was able to type the text above without even looking at the screen.
The video might seem too good to be true, I sure thought it was, but then I gave it a try and sure enough, it worked. It took about five minutes of playing around with the app before I got a hand on how to properly use it. After a while it starts to feel like second nature. Here’s how it works.
With Fleksy you simply tap on the phone in the general area of where you remember the letters being, much like touch typing on a keyboard. When you’re done tapping out a word you simply swipe to the right. By default Fleksy will read out to you what it thinks you meant to tap out. If it guessed wrong, swipe down until it says the right word. Swiping left will delete the text, swipe twice to the right to end a sentence then swipe down to select the proper punctuation.
There are other Easter Eggs in the app, like a number pad, that took a little hunting and trial/error to find but all that was quite easy really. Oh and you can turn off the text to speech feature if you don’t need that. I love it because I can tap out a text while walking without worrying about being hit by a car or walking into a pole. I admit I have tweeted my way to near death a few too many times because I’m looking at my phone instead of where I’m walking.
In the past year (2011), there were about 1,100 people treated in hospital emergency departments reported [being injured] while walking and using a cellphone or some other handheld electronic device, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Forbes.com
Tech reporters love Fleksy
Fleksy goes beyond speeding up your typing and preventing you from walking into a fountain while text messaging. Fleksy allows people with vision impairment to type on their touch screen devices without expensive accessories like refreshable braille displays and keyboards. With or without vision, the Fleksy keyboard works the same. I can’t think of any other sight-agnostic software keyboard.
I’ve started to use Fleksy with the “invisible keyboard” since I generally don’t need to look at the screen while typing with the app. This makes it feel even more like magic.
I got a look at the beta for Android when Ben came down to talk. This is one of the key examples of when iOS is bested by Android. Because Android opens their API to allow for keyboard installations; think Adaptxt, SwiftKey and Swype, users can install Fleksy as their default keyboard and never need to look down at their device to type.
Sadly Apple does not allow this. I can think of only two reasons (excuses):
- Apple wants to keep a unified design throughout the device
- Nefarious keyboard apps could actually be key-loggers used to hack users
Of course they allow banking, email, medical, password management and any number of other applications on iOS which could just as easily be perpetrators or victims of iniquitous coders and hackers. That invalidates the security argument. If Apple simply doesn’t allow applications like this to run as the native keyboard because they want to have a user experience amalgamation across all apps and devices, that’s a massive oversight.
By doing so Apple limiting accessibility to people with vision impairment and generally slowing down typing for all. Thankfully Fleksy can export your text via Cut/Paste into any app you like with iMessage, email, Twitter and Facebook baked in.
I highly recommend you give Fleksy a download. If not just so you can make bets against friends on whether or not you can type out a particular phrase without looking at your screen. I see many free drinks in your future if you do… Next I want to see Fleksy roll their auto-correct engine into my Mac. I’m a fast typist with really solid accuracy (see chart to right) but having autocorrect that is as incredible as Fleksy built right into my computer would make me even faster and more accurate.