US 20070198954 A1
The present invention relates to a small computing device with an improved interface. The interface comprises a display screen which extends the majority of length of the face of the housing, and a plurality of multi-function buttons extending on either side of the display screen.
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The present invention relates to a Small computing device with an improved interface, and, particularly, but not exclusively, to a mobile communications device, such as a mobile telephone.
It is desirable for small computing devices, by which we mean usually portable devices, such as lap-top-type commuters and smaller, including mobile telephones, personal digital assistants, cameras and other devices, to be a small as possible for convenience.
The problem with making such devices small enough to carry is that it allows only a limited size for the interface. For example, in mobile telephones, a small screen and traditional numeric keypad are provided for the interface with the user. The numeric keypad input has been used for standard telephones for years, and was merely transferred for use in mobile phones with no significant adaptation. As mobile telephones become smaller and smaller, the traditional numeric keypad input becomes more and more difficult to operate. This is particularly the case where, as is usual for most mobile telephones today, it is required to input alphabetic characters in order to, for example, store contacts in the memory of the mobile telephone.
Further, the display screens provided for mobile telephones are, by necessity, also small where the phone is small. They are not able to provide, therefore, a view of a great deal of information at any one time.
There is a need for an improved interface for small computing devices, such as mobile telephones and PDAs.
In accordance with a first aspect, the present invention provides a small computing device, including a housing and a display screen extending along the face of the housing lengthwise, a first plurality of keys positioned adjacent one side of the screen and a second plurality of keys positioned adjacent the opposite side of the screen.
Preferably, the display screen extends for the majority of the length of the face.
Preferably, by “small computing device” is meant lap-top-type computer size or smaller, and is preferably PDA-type size or smaller, including mobile telephone size.
Preferably, the first and second plurality of keys are positioned in rows running parallel to the length of the display screen. Each row is preferably only one key in width.
Preferably, the small computing device further comprises a control means arranged to control operation of the small computing device, the control means being arranged to control the small computing device to operate in a plurality of operating modes, wherein the keys operate as multi-function keys.
Preferably, the control means is arranged to control the device such that the particular function of a key in a particular operating mode is designated by indicia appearing on the display screen. Preferably the indicia appear adjacent the associated key.
Preferably, the first plurality of keys comprises two or more keys and the second plurality of keys comprises two or more keys.
Preferably, the first plurality of keys comprises between four and ten keys and the second plurality of keys comprises between four and ten keys.
Preferably, the first plurality of keys comprises six to eight keys and the second plurality of keys comprises six to eight keys.
Preferably, in one the plurality of operating modes, the keys are associated with numerics and operation of the keys is arranged to input numerals to the small computing device.
Preferably, there are at least five keys either side and each of the keys are associated in one operating mode with each of the ten digits of the decimal numeral system appearing as indicia on the display screen.
Preferably, in one operating mode, a scrolling function is provided which enables information on the display screen to be scrolled. Preferably, the scrolling function has a plurality of modes of scrolling. Preferably, each of the keys is associated with one or more of the modes of scrolling.
Preferably, the device does not include any standard numeric or alpha-numeric keypad. It may include a limited number of additional keys, such as “yes” or “no ” and/or ”direction” keys, but the majority of the functions of the device are preferably carried out by the first and second plurality of keys.
Preferably, in one operating mode, a plurality of the first and second plurality of keys are associated with a plurality of menu options. Selection of a menu option by actuating an associated key in this mode, then switches the device to a further operating mode where a plurality of the first and second plurality of keys are associated with a menu item within the selected menu option. Preferably, the number of menu items is equal to or less than the number of the first and second plurality of keys, enabling selection of a menu item by a simple two step operation of the interface, the first step selecting the menu option, the second step selecting the menu item within the menu. Note that operation is not limited to two step operation, and there may be modes where more than two steps of operation are implemented.
The small computing device preferably includes text sense means implementing a text sense function to facilitate input of text to the device. In a first text input operating mode, a user can select characters (eg. alpha-numerics) utilising the first and second plurality of keys. When one or more characters have been selected, the text sense means may propose a word or further characters to go with the characters already selected, and the user may select or deny the word or further characters.
The text sense means may also be arranged to provide a suggestion without a user having first selected characters of the word ie. text sense may be arranged to provide a suggestion for the start of the word.
Note that the text sense means may not always provide a suggestion which completes a word, and may provide a selection of one (preferably more than one) characters that may continue a word.
Preferably the small computing device is communications device and is preferably a mobile telephone. Preferably, a speaker area is positioned on the face of the housing above the screen, for transmission of sound to the user.
The small computing device of the present invention preferably has the advantage that it uses multi-function keys positioned adjacent the display screen, rather than a conventional numeric keypad (such as used on conventional mobile telephones), which enables more room on a face of the device for the screen so that more information can be displayed. Further, because the interface preferably uses “soft” buttons (ie. the buttons are multi-function) the function of the device can be altered easily by altering the software/hardware that drives the device. The interface is totally flexible and not limited by any dedicated operation (as normally is the case with conventional alpha-numeric keypads).
The small computing device may be controlled by the control means in a hard key operating mode. In the hard key operating mode, the keys are arranged to input data associated with hard labels appearing on the small computing device and not on the display screen (ie. not “soft” labels). For example, a plurality of the keys may be labelled with numerics and in a hard key operating mode may be operable to input numerics.
Preferably, a small computing device is arranged in one operating mode to act as a dedicated function device. Preferably, functions associated with the multi-function keys are pre-configurable and are arranged to operate in a dedicated mode ie. the multi-function keys become dedicated function keys. This feature can be used to implement small devices including telephones having dedicated operation. One example is a telephone which may be dedicated for operation by a particular person, such as a child, and be limited to, for example, being able to call only selected telephone numbers.
Functionality of the small device of the present invention may be implemented by appropriate software and/or hardware.
In accordance with a second aspect, the present invention provides a communications device including a housing and a display screen extending along a face of the housing lengthwise, a first plurality of keys positioned sequentially adjacent one side of the screen and a second plurality of keys positioned sequentially adjacent the opposite side of the screen, the device including means enabling the device to be worn by a user.
Features and advantages of the present invention will become apparent from the following description of embodiments thereof, by way of example only, with reference to the accompanying drawings, in which;
FIGS. 3 to 13 are schematic representations of an interface of a small device in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention, for the purpose of illustrating various functions of the interface;
FIGS. 24 to 26 are front views of a device in accordance with embodiments of the present invention showing further operating modes.
The following description of an embodiment of the present invention relates to a mobile communications device, in particular a mobile telephone. The invention is not, however, limited to a communications device, and may be implemented as any small computing device, such as a personal digital assistant (PDA).
A conventional mobile telephone comprises a controller for controlling operation of the telephone, usually in the form of a processor, a radio transceiver for communicating voice and/or text messages to and from the telephone, and an interface for input and output by the user.
A typical mobile telephone includes a housing which mounts the processor, radio transceiver communications and other required circuitry, the housing having one face which mounts the interface, comprising (usually) a twelve button numeric keypad, “yes” and “no” keys and “direction” keys, a display screen and a space above the display screen for a speaker area.
This traditional interface results in a number of disadvantages, particularly where there is a requirement for small telephone size. Firstly, the keypad area is very small, and operation is awkward.
Secondly, the display area is also very small so it is not possible to display a great deal of information at any one of time.
The limitations of this interface are an even greater problem now that far more functionality is required of mobile telephones. Common activities on mobile telephones include:
The traditional numeric keypad interface hampers these activities greatly as it is a far from ideal method of controlling text input. For example, in order to input text, it is necessary to actuate a key four times in some cases to enter a letter.
Additionally, the interface includes a first row of keys 4 and a second row of keys 5, the rows 4 and 5 in this embodiment extending in a line along the face of the housing on either side of the display screen 3. Each of the keys 6 in the rows 4 and 5 are controlled as “multi function” keys in this embodiment. The interface is arranged such that a function of a particular key 5 at any time will be indicated by dynamic labels appearing next to the key 6 on the display screen 3, controlled by the device processor (see later). The functions change depending on the activity the user is performing.
The interface does not include any standard alpha-numeric key pad. In this embodiment a “yes” 7 and “no” 8 key is included positioned below the screen, and can be associated with the usual “yes” and “no” functions eg. to initiate a telephone call (“yes” button) or finish a telephone call (“no” button).
Space is provided for a speaker area 9 on the front face 2 above the screen 3.
With this format it is possible to perform all current cell phone activities using the multi-function keys and new functions such as electronic mail are made feasible. The format is sufficiently versatile to be more capable of implementing future functions, depending on software/hardware provided in the device. It is also possible that various “personal digital assistant” (PDA)-type functionality could also be implemented using this interface eg. calenders, diaries.
A further embodiment of a small device in accordance with the present invention is schematically illustrated in
This small device may be a communications device, a PDA, or any other small computing device. One advantage of this type of device is that it could be worn rather than carried which means the user may have the device with them at all times. Such a device could become ubiquitous.
In the embodiments of both
Another advantage of the arrangement of both
It is believed that the interface also enables faster, easier text entry (see later on how text may be entered) so that it is easier to use text based services such as SMS and e-mail. Further, because of the large screen and the multi-function keys it is possible to implement a simpler, more intuitive menu operation (see later). The interface enables many options to be presented at once rather than one at a time as is conventional with typical mobile telephones.
Further, this device does not require any particularly new manufacturing techniques over those already used for a conventional mobile telephone and PDAs. The internal hardware of a mobile telephone, for example, may be similar (although, of course it may vary). It is merely the arrangement of the display and the keys that is altered.
A major advantage, as discussed above, is that as functions and labels for the keys may be software driven, the functionality of the device can be altered merely by altering software. It is therefore possible to produce devices that have different functionality, but the same hardware ie. the same interface and internal components. For mobile telephone type devices, this is presently very difficult because of the dedicated alpha-numeric interface. One particular advantage of this is that this is by altering software the language of operation of the device can be altered. Operation could include operation in Chinese characters, for example, utilising the same interface and the multi-function keys.
The following description describes different functions that may be implemented in the mobile telephone or other mobile communications device utilising this interface. It will be appreciated that the device of the present invention is not limited to the functionality described in the following, however, and many different functions may be implemented with this device with this interface.
In the diagrams of FIGS. 3 to 13, similar reference numerals have been used to the embodiment of
When illustrating operation of the device in the diagrams of FIGS. 2 through to 13, with an unshaded key 6 a pressing of that key switches operation of the device onto the next step. The shaded boxes 25 on the display screen are active labels which designate the function of the adjacent key. If a box 26 adjacent to a key is unshaded it means that the associated keys are not active in that operating mode. The area 26 may be blank or used for displaying data 27. Note that the reference numerals 6 a, 25, 26 and 27 have been used only in
Many options may be implemented for the entry of text. Current methods used on typical mobile phones such as the multi-press system (wherein one key may be pressed to choose between several letters) or more advanced methods such as the T9 (wwww.tegic.com) could be implemented utilising the device of the present invention, by simply making in one operating mode the 12 keys 6 of this embodiment correspond to the standard alpha-numeric keypad keys for a mobile telephone. With the extra flexibility of the dynamic labelling of the keys, however, it is possible to implement more powerful and user friendly text input.
The applicant's co-pending patent application (PCT/AU01/01467) describes a method and system for text entry which can be utilised by the device of the present invention. The disclosure of the referenced patent application is hereby incorporated in this application.
It is also possible to have text input on a more advanced level where knowledge of language allows the device to significantly streamline the process of word entry. Text entry will be described in more detail later.
Typical mobile telephones allow selection from an array of menu options by requiring the user to navigate through a “tree”, generally one option at time, using “direction” keys. This limits the user to a “tunnel vision” view of the interface and results in many key presses required to perform any one function. In the device of this embodiment of the present invention, however, utilising the multi-functions keys, many menu options can be presented to the user at any one time arid if it is desired any of those options may go on to a further menu of more options (depending upon the number of multi-function keys available). For example, with the twelve key embodiment illustrated in the drawings, a menu structure with 144 options could be implemented and the maximum number of key presses required for a user to get to any single option would be two (although other operating modes may require more). FIGS. 5 though 7 illustrates some typical menus that may be utilised in the small device of this embodiment.
It will be appreciated that any menu option may be included depending upon the functionality of the device.
Within any menu it is possible in the present device make an operating function correspond to an option selection (ie. selection of a particular menu item within a menu). In the present embodiment, on-line screen labels for the option are highlighted to indicate the current selection state. In
A binary option is either on or off and may be toggled in place by pressing its associated key.
Multiple selection Option
A multiple selection option enables a user to choose one or more items from a list of several items.
A text sense function utilising a device in accordance with the present invention will now be described with reference to
The applicant's previous patent application (PCT/AU01/01467) discloses a system which may be used to enter any symbol (text, numerics, punctuation etc) in a very flexible and efficient manner. The system is essentially “two-step”. Referring to diagram 1 of
For example, if the user wishes to input the character “1” they select soft key 46 by actuating the associated key 6. This results in selection of the group of characters illustrated on the soft key 46 and switches the device to a further operating mode as illustrated in diagram 2 of
In the system described in the applicant's earlier patent application, at the same time as the character “1” is input by actuation of soft key 53, or after, the device switches back to the operating mode illustrated in diagram 1 and the user can select a further group of characters designating the next character that they wish to enter into the device 44. This simple “two-step” character entry operation has significant advantages over conventional character entry, such as that utilising conventional alpha-numeric key pads.
In an embodiment of the present invention, however, a further improvement may be achieved by utilising a “text sense” operating mode.
As well as the numeric and alphabet soft keys 45, 46, 47, 48, there are also numeral 49 soft keys, a key 60 for “space”, a key 61 for “delete” and a key 62 for “more” options.
As the user enters text they are presented with “best guesses” of the next one or more characters they are entering. The user has the choice of selecting one of the “best guesses” and having that section of the word filled in for them or explicitly entering the next character. Which ever option, as soon as the action is complete, the system takes another “guess” and the cycle repeats until the end of the word.
As a user gets further into a word, the number of possibilities for the word decreases dramatically. At the start of a word, the “best guess” may not include an option for progressing the intended word. If this is the case, the user must select the next character explicitly and allow the text sense functionality to guess based on this more explicit start string.
Also, at the start of the word the permutations for the conclusion for the word may be so great that text sense does not proffer the entire end of the word, just the next one, two or more character blocks.
Whatever the case, the end result is that the user can enter medium to large words with significantly less key strokes or button presses than if they had typed all the characters of the word.
Referring again to
In the above description, the numbers in the left hand column are equivalent to the numbering of the diagrams in
The following description is of one method of implementing text sense note that text sense will be implemented by appropriate software running on the control means, to provide a text sense means. The following description of text sense implementation refers to
The internal data of the system is built up from a list presented to the system which contains all the words upon which to base guesses as well as an integer indicating a frequency of usage of the word. The frequency number does not have an absolute significance, it is only a representation of the frequency of usage of the word in relation to other words in the file.
As words are fed into the system a letter by letter tree structure is built. For example all words starting with “I” have a pointer from the top “I” node. Under “I” is a node for every letter that any word has following the letter “I”. This goes on down the line until the end of the word is reached. For each node down the line a count of the frequency of all the words below it in the tree is maintained. This represents the frequency value for all words that start with the string down to that node.
Note: in a standard implementation you would also include in-word punctuation characters as well such as “” and “-”
Section of String to Present
Given the first character(s) of a word, the system travels down the tree to the node that represents that start string. For instance, given the string “let” it would first go to the top “1” node then the “e” node under that then “t” node under that. This would bring us to the node that is shaded in the table above.
Note: if in travelling down the tree, the letters indicated a node that didn't exist this would meant that the user had entered the start of a word that isn't in the dictionary and thus we would leave them to complete the word with explicit character entry.
Having got to the node for “let” we see that there are three possible words underneath (“let”, “letter” and “letters”) so we present all three as they will fit on the screen.
A more involved example is if the user has only entered “le” this brings us to the large “e” node on the left of the above table. As we can see, there are many words under this. We would first look down one character and find that there are 10 possibilities (“a”, “d”, “e”, “f”, “g”, “n”, “s”, “t”, “v”, “w”). As we have 8 positions on the screen (not much less than 10) we go down another level to the next two characters on from “le”. This then gives us 19 possibilities (ad, ag, ar, as, av, dl, el, ed, ft, gl, ga, gi, gs, ng, ss, tl, tt, ve, wi). This now significantly exceeds our 8 positions so out of the 19 possibilities we pick the 8 two character strings which have the highest frequency total for the tree below the, we then present the.
Strings not Re-Presented
As the word is entered it is often possible for a combination to be considered which has already been ruled out by a previous set. In our example entry sequence (above), in step 3 we were presented with “ea” and “eg” but we wanted “et” so we explicitly entered “e”. Thus it would be possible at step 6 of the example to present “a” and “g” but this is unnecessary as we know that these are not part of the desired word. In order to avoid representing a word we flag all nodes that have been presented so that when we are selecting candidates we treat flagged nodes as if they were not there.
When the end of the word is reached the flags are reset ready for the next word.
As well as the initial word list that they system is loaded with, the system also optionally learn new words as the user uses them.
As words are entered that the system knows it boost the frequency value of word giving it greater priority in subsequent usages. When the user enters words that the system does not know then the system could add these to the word list so that they are available for guessing with in the next instance.
For this to work, the data set must be stored in persistent storage between activations of the system.
Dedicated Keypad Operation
In accordance with a further embodiment of the present invention, the small device may be configured to operate in a dedicated operating mode which is pre-configurable, either by the manufacturer or by a user of the device so that the device cannot be easily switched from this one operating mode (for example it may have to be returned to the manufacturer or alternatively a user may have to enter a security code to switch the operating mode).
Utilising the present invention, because the keys can be associated with soft keys implementing any function which is enabled by the hardware/software of the device, the device can be configured in any dedicated operating mode.
One example of an operating mode is described in the following, with reference to
The small device of this embodiment of the present invention has been pre-configured, either during manufacture or by application of a configuration step by a user (eg. a parent) to configure the telephone in a “kids” mode, as illustrated.
In this “dedicated” mode, the operation of the telephone cannot be changed, unless it is reconfigured by the manufacturer or by the parent (on entry of an appropriate security code, or other security operation). In this “kids” mode the keys 6 in the left hand row are associated with soft keys which include limited operations only such as “answer” 17, “hang up” 71 and stored numbers for dialling “mum” 72, “dad” 73, “school” 74 and “emergency” 75.
Such a pre-configured telephone could be provided for a child's use, in the sure knowledge that they could not use the phone to dial any other numbers, and also would find the telephone very simple to operate and use in an emergency or to call school, mum or dad (or any other pre-configured number that may be required).
As discussed above, it will be appreciated that any functionality could be implemented in the pre-configured mode, and the invention is not limited a “kids” mode only.
The pre-configuration could take place at the factory ie. devices with this interface could be produced with dedicated functions, or a multi-function device may be produced in which at least a plurality of the keys may be “locked” into one particular function. Security means, such as a PIN, may be available to unlock function if it is wished to return the device to multi-function operation.
Hard Key Operating Mode
The control means may control the operation of the device to provide a “hard key” operating mode. In the hard key operating mode, operation of the keys is not associated with a soft label is on the display screen, instead a hard label is associated with the key, eg. on the key.
There may be a number of hard operating modes.
Icon Operating Mode
It will be appreciated that functionality of the small device may be implemented by appropriate software and hardware which is well within the scope of the skilled person in order to implement the “soft key” and other functionality required. For the sake of completion,
The components include a control means in the form processing means 81, which may include an on-board or off-board memory and a processor(s) arranged to control operation of the device. The processing means 81 may in fact include multiple processes eg. SIM card, DSP (Digital Signal Processor) and conventional processor for controlling other operations of the device such as the interface operation The control means may incorporate any form of processor or arrangement of processors which can implement the functionally of the device described above.
The device also includes a microphone 83 and microphone input 82 into the processor 81. Voice output via the processor 81 is via an amplifier 82 and loud speaker 83. A radio transceiver 84 is provided for telecommunications reception and transmission via an antenna 85. A display driver 86 is arranged to drive the display 3 and a keypad sensor 87 is arranged to receive input from the rows 4 and 5 of keys 6. The functionality as described above will be implemented by the appropriate software.
The above described embodiment is a small device which has a communication function and is preferably a mobile telephone. The present invention is applicable to devices which do not necessarily have communications functions. For example, the present invention may be implemented as a PDA type device which does not include a communications function but which includes computing functions such as diary, calendar, etc.
Conveniently, the present invention may be implemented as a hybrid device which includes communication function which may also include functionally which is not normally seen in a conventional mobile telephone, such as functionally associated with a PDA, e-mail, calendar, calculator, address book, world time, alarm clock and others.
Modifications and variations as would be apparent to a skilled addressee are deemed to be within the scope of the present invention.