Canadian Startup Whirlscape Releases Minuum Smartphone Keyboard to Beta Users

Whirlscape, the Toronto startup behind the Minuum keyboard, has generated a lot of post-campaign hype via its time on Indiegogo. Exceeding its initial pledge of $10,000, Minuum upped the ante by 874% and raised $87,000 from its dedicated legions of nearly 10,000 backers.

Fast forward two months and the self-dubbed “little keyboard for big fingers” is now out on private beta for early supporters this week.

We had a chat with Will Walmsley, the CEO of Whirlscape, and he told Techvibes about his background in Human-Computer Interaction and how Minuum actually started off as a research project during his graduate studies at the University of Toronto.  
“We actually began the project seeking to develop new ways to type without looking at devices,” explains Will of the origins of Minuum. “Our original projects were purely based on motion-based typing and we developed extensive audio feedback systems to allow typing without looking.”

Amidst his research, Will realized that the technology developed was actually broadly useful and so Minuum was born, for the quest to save screen real estate on mobile devices.    



According to Will, Minuum is best appreciated in landscape mode and backers are already reporting newfound addiction to the benefits of saved screen real estate on their mobile devices. But the sky’s the limit when it comes to the advantages of linear typing beyond mobile devices.

“Minuum actually tends to be more fun to use in its smallest possible form,” reveals Will, “our main goal with Minuum is to allow typing on things like wearable devices and home entertainment systems, where typing that would otherwise be tedious can suddenly become magical.” For those keen on building their own personal wearable keyboards, Will proudly adds that Whirlscape will be releasing wearable development kits later this year for hobbyists to get creative.

In terms of what Minuum is like in beta, Techvibes was also invited to join the throngs of early supporters and this was our first impression. After getting a crash course from the demo video, we began tapping away and found that although initially daunting (mostly due to wrapping your head around the flattened QWERTY), Minuum offers a generally intuitive user experience as it really is just QWERTY reimagined. To further save on screen real estate, users have the choice to opt in or out for a space bar while all punctuation and symbols are all a press, hold and slide function away.  

A definite nice-to-have that will be well-received by the Android crowd is the ability to customize the heights of the word suggestion box, main keyboard and space bar in pixels by dragging a finger along a seek bar. On the flip side, hiding the punctuation and symbols, including the often-used period (accessible by a double tap of the space bar), might slow down the overall typing process.

Ultimately, trying out a new keyboard is like getting to know a new friend, and the Minuum is no exception with its slightly steep learning curve. After familiarizing itself with your habits and vocabulary though, Minuum should be a true blue addition to your device and we’re looking to future reiterations of this smart and useful mobile innovation.