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Keyboard Alternative Technology: Better typing for smartphones

Enabling a faster and easier way to type on mobile devices


Most mobile devices now feature touchscreens instead of keypads. However, typing using a touchscreen is often imprecise, resulting in a slower typing speed and frequent errors. When the touchscreen keyboard opens it covers half the screen, obscuring content the user may wish to see. These frustrations are well known to any smartphone user, and typing on a touchscreen is still not as fast or easy as using a computer keyboard.


Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania have developed a Keyboard Alternative Technology (KAT) for fast and easy typing on mobile devices. KAT consists of touch sensors on the back of the phone, with an onscreen character map and swipe gestures used for input.

The user holds the phone with two fingers of each hand on the backside of the phone. By swiping up, down, left, and right, a character is selected for input, with the thumbs on the front side of the phone used for scrolling and selection. The number of available swipe gestures combined with selection for special characters allows the KAT system to produce a total of 228 characters, more than enough for the full set of 128 ASCII characters or the 101-key QWERTY keyboard. KAT makes typing on mobile devices much easier than it is today.


  • Easier and more natural typing on mobile devices
  • More of the screen available to display content

Stage of Development:


Intellectual Property:

Patent Application Pending

Desired Partnerships:

License or Sponsored Research  
Patent Information:


Docket # 15-7462

For Information, Contact:

Qishui Chen Licensing Officer, SEAS/SAS Licensing Group
University of Pennsylvania