Typing on a smartphone is hard enough – imagine doing it on a smartwatch or other wearable device.               

A Toronto startup called Minuum is trying to solve that problem with a tiny virtual keyboard.

It’s a downloadable app costing $3.99 that combines a tiny keyboard with a powerful autocorrect that helps you get the message out, no matter how you punch it.                   

“Right now the keyboard act you can download on your smartphone is a virtual keyboard,” CEO Will Walmsley said in an interview with CBC’s The Lang & O’Leary Exchange.

“It’s just like any other keyboard you use, except the autocorrect is taken to the next level. So this means we’re able to take the keyboard and shrink it down to very, very small, even if you have big fingers,” Walmsley said.

One-line keyboard

The ultimate concept for Toronto-based Minuum is a one-line keyboard that can be installed on the smallest of devices.

“What really drives us to work on this technology is the future potential it has. The core concept is a keyboard that is just one line of characters, which means if you can imagine typing on a line anywhere, that can be a keyboard,” he said.

Walmsley is just 24 and started developing keyboard alternatives for his masters degree in engineering physics and engineering psychology at University of Toronto.

His team at Minuum is developing keyboards that responds to movementsof the head, wrist or eyes, even one that senses typing motion on a separate surface. The key is the autocorrect algorithm which can adapt no matter how strangely you type.

Looks to wearable devices

It’s a market with huge potential, Walmsley said.

“If you look towards wearable devices like a smartwatch or Google glass or whatever else the future has in store, it’s really all about typing using any kind of sensor,” he said.

Walmsley got his start through the Creative Destruction Lab at the Rotman School of Business, before going to Indiegogo. Minuum was looking for $10,000 on the crowd-funding website, but ended up raising more than $87,000. It also tapped some U.S. funding.

The Minuum app so far is only available for Android phones, but users like it because it allows them to shrink down their keyboard and have more space on their smartphone screens. People love having more room on their screens, Walmsley said, and reducing the size of the keyboard allows them more options.

The app has been downloaded 300,000 times so far. An iOS version is coming in the fall, now that Apple has opened app development to third parties.