Last week, Microsoft finally unveiled Windows Phone 8.1 to the world. One of the subtle new features was the Word Flow keyboard, which brings ‘shape writing’ to the mix, in addition to the familiar ‘touch typing’ for text input. Developed by Microsoft Research, the technology behind Word Flow is completely unique to Redmond, being proprietary technology and building off of the already excellent auto-complete feature. Heck, it now even predicts emoji for you too.

We demoed the new keyboard in our hands-on video but now it’s been confirmed to be the fastest in the world. In a video posted by Microsoft Research a few days ago – and lost in our shuffle – Word Flow can certainly hold its own as it was used to set the world record for fastest keyboard by a 15-year old named Gaurav Sharma.

The winning entry typed is exactly 160 characters and proves to be quite the thumb twister:

“The razor-toothed piranhas of the genera Serrasalmus and Pygocentrus are the most ferocious freshwater fish in the world. In reality they seldom attack a human.”

Yikes. The time it took to type was just 18.44 seconds, beating the old record by 20.53 milliseconds. Both of those numbers are quite impressive in their own right, as typing those two sentences would be challenging under any circumstances. Make sure you watch the above video to see it happen.

Tim Paek, senior researcher at Microsoft, describes the benefits of Word Flow:

“Instead of tapping every single letter, you’re drawing a line that connects all the letters of the word you’re trying to write. When you continuously draw that line, you are defining a shape. Eventually, you stop thinking about the letters altogether and develop muscle memory for that shape.”

In using the keyboard extensively, we have to admit that Word Flow is the real deal. It requires little to no learning, and it doesn’t even have to be enabled as you can dynamically switch between touch typing and Word Flow according to your whims. That’s a winning combination and lessens the demand for third party alternatives. 

Likewise, we can now confirm that Word Flow will launch on Windows Phone 8.1 in 16 languages, including:

  • English (India); English (United Kingdom); English (United States)
  • Hindi (Latin); Polish; Portuguese (Brazil); Russian; Spanish (Mexico); Spanish (Spain); Finnish; French (France); German; Arabic (Saudi Arabia); Italian; Turkish; Dutch (Netherlands)

Language localization is always problematic, leaving some groups of people left out. We’re glad to see Microsoft coming out the gate though with more than just English (US), ensuring that 8.1 hits its stride in its biggest markets when released.

What do you think of Word Flow? Are you a touch typist or someone looking for a new way to bang out those text messages?

Source: Microsoft Research