Last week, Google published a paper on a way of navigating on touch screens by tracing out alphanumeric characters. For instance, if you have a list of contacts on your screen, and want to move down to a name that begins with the letter L, you would trace an L on your screen. Looking for a song on your playlist, you might handwrite on your screen the first couple of letters from the song title.
The paper is Gesture Search: A Tool for Fast Mobile Data Access (pdf), and it tells us that Gesture Search is presently in use by hundreds of thousands of users, with a mean rating of 4.5 out of 5 for more than 5,000 ratings.
A Google patent application published October 14th, Glyph Entry on Computing Device, provides a number of details that the paper doesn’t, including a look at how this gesture navigation system might be used to navigate maps from Google Maps.