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Virtual Keyboard 248

Archfeld sent a strange piece of technology called the Senseboard which is a portable keyboard, except that there's really not any keys. Or a board. And it can communicate via RF for all your strange wearable applications.
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Virtual Keyboard

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  • Cool, but... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jawad ( 15611 ) on Wednesday November 14, 2001 @05:29PM (#2566246)
    Cool, but I value tactile feedback. The lack of feeling of me actually *pushing* a button will just feel weird. I wonder if it's something you'd get over, though.
    • Re:Cool, but... (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Zurk ( 37028 )
      its easy to set up a small rubber pad with the key symbols stuck on it so you get tactile feedback with a rollable non electronic pad which you can carry around.
      just unroll it on the nearest surface and start typing on the rubber. tactile feedback and true spillproof keyboard with no electronics. just chuck it in a washing machine to clean it.
    • Re:Cool, but... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Anonymous DWord ( 466154 ) on Wednesday November 14, 2001 @09:14PM (#2566938) Homepage
      That's similar to the problem the military had when testing out the F-16, which has electric controls- the stick didn't move at all. Pilots kept complaining about it, so they put a little play into it, even though technologically they didn't need it. People like physical responses to the things they touch.
      • Actually, more than just complaining about it. When doing a tight roll pilots would press against the stick with all their might. I've heard that observers could actually see the planes twitch in a regular beat in response to the heartbeat in the hand of the pilot flying the plane, presumably because they were pressing so hard.

    • This is the major problem I have with the Final Fantasy film. All those floating keyboards are nice and nifty to see on the screen, but I never saw any hint of any sort of tactile feedback. Perhaps it's because the entire film was computer-animated with no human actors, but I just couldn't get comfortable with those keyboards.

      Some other problems were revealed, too, such as ...

      What happens when the power goes out? How can you reactivate a barrier field in an emergency if you've knocked out the power to your generator, so your keyboard has just vanished? Imagine that you're an operator at, say, a Chernobyl-like plant and you can prevent disaster if only you can hit the big red "ABORT" button ... that just vanished as you reached for it. It's true that you shouldn't even be using a computer in a case like that because the entire system is probably powerless, but it still makes me uneasy.

      Something as simple as that brief 15-second scene should serve as a warning to anyone thinking of using one of these.
    • That is the same rationale for why old IBM keyboards click when you press the keys. People who used typewriters for years couldn't stand the quiet behavior of typing on a computer, so they added a click for the user feedback. Voila, the typists were happy again.

      I don't know if this technology will take off, but for those willing to unlearn some old habits and learn new ones, it could be very cool. Consider that our current typing makes use of very trained gestures. We can learn new gestures, right?
      • I still use an IBM keyboard from 1982 just because I love the feedback. Now, I was only born in 1981 so I never had my start on a typewriter... but the quiet, non responsive feel of most modern keyboards is annoying, I make frequent mistakes, and I can't type as fast... I can type fast as hell on my 12 lb IBM keyboard
    • Re:Cool, but... (Score:2, Informative)

      by AlecC ( 512609 )
      Way back when, my company made a product for use in an operating theatre by surgeons in mid operation. So it had to be usable with bloody gloves and capable of tolerating aggressive cleaning. It was hard plastic, with no feel at all. It ws absolutely horrible to use. It could be used as the system keyboard, but everybody needing to do more then about 10 keystrokes would unplug it and use a decent keyboard.
  • hmmm, i'll just type this up on my invisible typewriter.... do dee doo do do

    oh yeah... and first post too
  • by perdida ( 251676 )
    They can't sell any full workstations anymore, so they're selling peripherals instead.
  • How cool would it be to play the piano on my desk? Someone may have figured out a way to make money on all of those people playing 'airguitar' everytime Led Zeppelin comes on the radio...
  • Amazing... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by chronos2266 ( 514349 )
    The applications of this product are endless.

    Imagine if you were a mechanic under a car and needed to type up some sorta note or reminder into your computer.

    No more grafiti for PDAS :) Itll up the usability and practicality of PDAs and wearable computers in real world situations.

    Can't wait to get one.
    • You could get one of those small voice activated digital recorders. Then you wouldn't have to take your hands off of your spanner.
    • ...of having a virtual keyboard for a Palm handheld computer, if you can't hold the keyboard while you're using it?

      Another cute idea, but I can't see it taking off. Either the popular folding keyboards or some modified Graffiti-ish entry system like Fitaly [fitaly.com] seem to work much more "handily."
  • Someone has to say it, so I'll take the bait.

    "Talk about your vaporware!" :)

    I need the clickity-clack feedback from my keyboard, I might get used to it, but I doubt this will ever catch on. Maybe it should come with a piece of paper printed with a keyboard. :P

  • by dwlemon ( 11672 ) on Wednesday November 14, 2001 @05:32PM (#2566276)
    Perhaps the "click-boing" of a Model M could be played with every sucessful keystroke.
  • This is great. Now geeks can program AND have sex!
  • Even if I'm using a keyboard hours a day
    for more then 10 years I still sometimes
    needs to checks where my fingers are...

    I wonder if a drawing of a keyboard on the table
    or a picture could be use as a reference. That
    would make me more comfortable with this invention.

  • by rmadmin ( 532701 )
    I think this is pretty awesome, but I'd be concerned about how accurate it is. I can usually tell when I nail a wrong key, and I can tell I've already hit the backspace about 5 times typing this.

    So instead of being able to type while your looking at something, you'd have to keep looking at the damn screen correct? I think this would be more of a pain in the ass than anything else. Unless of course your in a chat room or something.

    Backspace used: about 25-40 times

  • by geophile ( 16995 ) <jao@geoph i l e.com> on Wednesday November 14, 2001 @05:34PM (#2566292) Homepage
    Not all that long ago, if you saw someone walking down the street, talking to someone who wasn't there, and typing on a keyboard that wasn't there, you'd wonder what institution he escaped from.

    Now, it's just an alpha geek talking on his cell phone and checking his email (with a monitor embedded in his Oakley's no doubt).
    • Nothing new. A long time ago, I was standing in line at a supermarket, discussing the end game of Adventure with a friend. I forget the details, something about a bomb and an oyster. Got some interesting looks. Nowadays, of course, people would have known we were talking about a computer game, even if they didn't know which one. But back then... Got some weird looks.
      • an alpha geek talking on his cell phone and checking his email

      I'd pull you up for being sexist, but then I took a look at the copy:

      • "SenseboardTM VK is perfect for businessmen typing e-mails and other documents away from the office"

      Ahh. To quote the great philosopher Harold Enfield: "Women! Know your limits!" ;-)

  • Question: (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Wind_Walker ( 83965 ) on Wednesday November 14, 2001 @05:34PM (#2566297) Homepage Journal
    Will the keyboard have a configurable layout? Remember, not everybody in the world still used the outdated "Qwerty" format...

    Also, without seeing the keys, how would I know if it is the long-backspace button, or the shorter button (which I hate!)?

    Also, there is a definate tactile feel to pressing the keys; you can *tell* when the button is depressed. This feature is difficult to replicate.

    This would really cause problems with respect to picking up the "board" and quickly working on it. Believe it or not, sight *is* important.

    This device will never get off the ground, for my money.

  • ... we can sell the Invisible Robot (TM).
  • I do type in the air anyway when I'm bored. Just imagine how fast you could type if you practiced for a while..probably near 200wpm. And I thought my 140wpm was nice (sure pissed off my high school typing teacher).
  • Does this mean I have to learn how to type correctly? I have somewhat mastered the "index finger" typing style.
  • "Mummy, what is that man doing?"

    "Don't worry, dear. There are some odd people in the world. If all he is doing is typing on his knees, you needn't worry"
  • Wouldn't this be really bad on the fingers, since there's nothing for them to "bounce" off after each keypress?
  • by turbine216 ( 458014 ) <(turbine216) (at) (gmail.com)> on Wednesday November 14, 2001 @05:35PM (#2566317)
    ...picture this - you're sitting in the boardroom, your boss to your left side, and the prospective multi-million dollar client across the table from you, and you're taking notes on your palm pilot...


    And you thought the Sega Activator made you look stupid.
  • Sensors in the units measure the finger movements and artificial intelligence and a language processor determine appropriate keystrokes or mouse movements.

    Artificial intelligence? A language processor? "Appropriate" keystrokes or mouse movements? This sounds like a fancy way of saying "it guesses a lot".

  • What happens if someone throws a pencil through the keyboard's on/off zone?
    • What happens if someone throws a pencil through the keyboard's on/off zone?

      The sensors register "FORMAT C: (enter)".

      And then when the pencil rebounds, the sensors register "YES (enter)".

    • Wouldn't matter .. They device is measuring finger movements .. it doesn't have an optical sensor or anything like that ... Of course when you flinch back from the flying pencil, it might get confused!
    • by raju1kabir ( 251972 ) on Thursday November 15, 2001 @03:52AM (#2567693) Homepage
      What happens if someone throws a pencil through the keyboard's on/off zone?

      There is a certain other Slashdot reader who was playing with the Mac's speech recognition for a time when we worked in the same office in a faraway land back in 1993. It was hooked into the menu manager, and any command available on a current menu (including the systemwide apple menu) was executed if spoken.

      The crowning pleasure of my long and varied life came from adding a system shutdown alias to the apple menu, and then walking up behind him and announcing "Shut down" to his computer while he was having staredowns with the monitor.

  • by starslab ( 60014 ) <andrew@sk[ ]wk.ca ['yha' in gap]> on Wednesday November 14, 2001 @05:36PM (#2566323) Homepage
    Smells very strongly of Vapor.... No details, and bogus claims of "Artificial Intelligence".

    We can't do AI on big-ass supercomputers, you expect me to believe these little wristpade have AI in them?

    I'll believe it when I see a product on the shelf.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      You can visit them at Comdex:

      Visit us at COMDEX Fall 2001 in Las Vegas, November 12-16

      A SenseboardTM prototype will be exhibited at COMDEX, Booth L2539, the Swedish Pavilion (Floor Map PDF-format)
    • Agreed.

      The list of buzzwords on their press [senseboard.com] page caused my head to swim! Just a brief quote:
      SenseboardTM contains sensor technology, artificial intelligence, bluetooth, a DC-port and a language processor. SenseboardTM is easy to use, requires no training, and does not decrease typing speed or accuracy. SenseboardTM together with a PDA, a Smart Phone or a Wearable Computer and a Head Mounted Display provides the user with a full-size computer that fits in a pocket.
      Just below that quote on their press page, they say that they will be demonstrating their product daily at COMDEX in LasVegas this week -- November 12-16. Are there any Slashdotters at COMDEX right now who have seen this thing in action?
    • Smells very strongly of Vapor.... No details, and bogus claims of "Artificial Intelligence".

      We can't do AI on big-ass supercomputers, you expect me to believe these little wristpade have AI in them?

      There's AI and AI. Things like handwriting recognition are typically based on AI technology (neural networks.) In this case,they are probably using something similar to try to come up with the best guess on what was it you typed.

      AI doesn't necessarily mean Commander Data.
    • I smell it too. AI is always a dead giveway. It is usually more on the artificial side than the intelligence side though.
  • The amount of typing mistakes will probably go up 10 fold with this thing, since there is no visible keyboard.
  • just like you can't tell whether someone's talking on a phone, or just to their own personal daemons in the street these days .... pretty soon on the bus you wont be able to tell whether they guy next to you is working .... or having a good time
  • by MadCow42 ( 243108 ) on Wednesday November 14, 2001 @05:37PM (#2566333) Homepage
    Great... if you can FULLY touch-type. What about the other 99.995% of us that can't?

    Sure, I can type 80wpm without looking at the keyboard... until I need to use some weird character that I don't use 400 times a day...

    I guess you could roll out a printed keyboard to use if you had to... I can just see someone carring around a dirty napkin with a keyboard scrawled on it now... q:]

    • Your .sig file indicates Perl programming. Do
      you never predaclare your hashes? Never
      dereferenced a hash ref?

      for my $key (sort keys %$href) {
    • It's an attachment to Palms and such. Just use the stylus for characters you don't know the location of.
    • Well, it does seem rather lame for full touch typing..(and I do touch type) but I'd *love* to try out this tech for a modified "hands-free" chording and/or gesturing style interface. Especially with this tech further minaturized, so that only thin band or fingerless "cycling glove" look was requried.

      Imagine the now-famous IBM wearable with this as the "keyboard". Now add some positioning hardware so that you could point/gesture w.r.t.the projected image.. and that little IBM device becomes oh-so-much more usable (and private) than with speech-only input.
    • Yeah, it needs holographic projection as well so it's a visible virtual keyboard.

      Then anybody can type like Washu...
    • but chances are you know (if you spend any real amount of time typing on a regular basis, which I expect is probably the case for the majority of slashdot readers) *about* where the key for various 'odd' characters is. Then you just feel around a bit, sort of a tactile version of hunt and peck.

      Chances are, if you use the key enough that this is annoying to you after the first few weeks, you use it enough that you'll remember it next time.
    • > Great... if you can FULLY touch-type. What about the other 99.995% of us that can't?

      Get your VR glasses to show you a keyboard?
      (Though actually I think a chording device might work better than a flat board in that sort of context.)
  • This story does have a Python foot somewhere right?

    Did Homer Simpson invent this thing?

    So I just type where the keys would be if there was an actual keyboard under my fingers? Say I don't really know the layout of keyboard very well... would I carry a thin piece of cardboard?

    Is there a guitar module?

    I am still lokking for that foot. Where's that confounded foot?
  • by Anonymous Coward
    If only my virtual girlfriend would let me buy one...
  • Oh great... (Score:3, Funny)

    by chinton ( 151403 ) <{moc.liamg} {ta} {todhsals-100notnihc}> on Wednesday November 14, 2001 @05:39PM (#2566349) Journal
    Sensors in the units measure the finger movements and artificial intelligence and a language processor determine appropriate keystrokes or mouse movements. What kind of AI? If I type in my bosses name on the virtual keyboard, will it display "Brain Damaged Lazy Bastard"?
  • It seems a little weird. I mean it could be great technology, but there's just a sense of comfort in pressing shift-/ to get the ?. I like to press the keys and feel that I've pressed correctly. That instantaneous feedback helps me type efficiently. Without that physical feedback I think it would much more difficult.
  • Does anyone have any further specs on this? It looks like the kind of thing I'd go for, to compliment my HUD, but would it interface with a desktop PC? How about drivers? Will it connect with my NINO? How open will the coding be = will people be encouraged to create 3rd-party aps (like piano or air guitar aps?)

    Of course, this isn't anywhere as cool as the in-desk LED-based keyboard used to control MCP in Tron, but it's cool none the less.

  • Now that's a gadget i would like to try at some points. However, anyone noticed that the thumb doesn't seem to be mapped with this device ? If you look closely at the main pic on the linked page, you can see the thumb is outside the device.

    That's kind of necessary for fast typers who use all their 10 fingers to type.

    Complete specs would be interresting though, as a picture doesn't prove anything.

  • One step better: Tie this to your reality-enhancing goggles so you can actually see the transparent virtual keyboard.

    Another step better: Instead of something in the palm of your hand, use small transmitters glued to each of your fingernails, so you can quickly switch back and forth between typing and doing something else.

  • Some people might not want their computers to know where their fingers have been...

    It always bugged me that on Next Generation keyboards/control panels were nearly always completely flat.
  • Cool! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by oGMo ( 379 ) on Wednesday November 14, 2001 @05:41PM (#2566362)

    Friends and I have always thought something like this would be nifty---something like a virtual keyboard you could type in the air---although when I saw this announcement I wondered if it would actually be as practical from an HCI standpoint. After all, there's no real tactile feedback to tell you if you've hit the right "key," as far as I can tell. This sort of feedback is important, moreso than visual feedback (since unless you can't touchtype, you don't need to see the keyboard: try typing in the dark), especially to avert Repetitive Stress Injury.

    On the other hand, just to test the concept, I tried "typing" on a flat surface, and it seemed fairly intuitive. This is probably better in this respace than an "air keyboard", since you at least feel the contact of the desk. (Assuming you can't type in the air with this product, although there doesn't seem to be a reason why not, they say "any flat surface".) Now what would be nifty is a roll-up guide you could "type" on to get both visual feedback and a soft touch. This would solve hunting and pecking problems, too. :-)

    I'd really love to have one of these, since they seem to solve most portability problems, and since it seems you can tweak the virtual keyboard's size (layout, etc.), it'd make the ultimate evolution in keyboards. (No more need for a "flex" keyboard, just mold a surface...)


  • if we spill coffee/soda or some sort of beverage on our hand/invisible kbd/table will we still freak out?

    I can see it now..."AAAAaaaa...oh, wait, nevermind".
  • And how long after COMDEX will it be until it's not vapourware?
  • ...But the web site seemed a bit slim on the details. How exactly does it work? Does it look at where your fingers are? I about 40 wpm with my two fingered approach, and I'd hate to have to learn to type for something like this. I have a Fujitsu Stylistic 3500 [fujitsupc.com] and this would be an attractive addition if it actually worked.

  • I habr onw (Score:5, Funny)

    by gosand ( 234100 ) on Wednesday November 14, 2001 @07:11PM (#2566376)
    ^I habr onw, it id v3ry cppl. I an usinf it right noq! Bit I an mot a veru good tyoist. :-)
  • Ok, I see a wee bit of a problem with this.

    A virtual keyboard based on finger movement would have to rely on a software learning mechanism that tuned itself to your physical idiosyncracies. I mean, without a physical keyboard to hunt and peck on, the little finger of your left hand is going to move a different distance between the imaginary A and Q keys than your right index finger is going to move betwen the J and U keys. A sufficiently good learning mechanism would probably account for tuning itself to your hand movements continuously, so that your error rate would go down even as your typing patterns shifted over time. (Of course, this results in equipment with function profiles in software that make it unusable by anyone else.)

    Or not.

    More likely, you will be the part of the equation that conforms to the constraints of the software. You will have to learn how to be very consistent in your finger movements, without a physical keyboard to guide you. After a training period (just as you would do for voice recognition software), you would have to be quite consistent, even in different positions, desk heights, and times of day (tired or not). This screams "RSI" to me. Repetitive motion in a guided environment is one thing, but having to make precise repetitive motions in free air or against a flat object that provides no feedback would mightily increase the stress put on your fingers.

    Thanks, but I already have a surgery scar on one wrist that makes people think I tried to off myself, I don't care to repeat the experience. I'll wait until the Senseboard software is well-reviewed and proven to be continuously adaptive. (Then I'll have an excuse for wearing funny gloves and dark glasses with a piece of wire hanging off them, while playing pocket pool on the bus: "Oh no, Miss, I have a proposal due this afternoon...")

  • Cool. Looks like an invisible keyboard/brass knuckle combo!

    The downside could be local gangstas see you "air typing" and mistake it for gang signs.
  • Well all of you complaining that you need the tactile feedback and the clicking noise generated by it.. well think about this.. its QUIET so that means you can use it during class ( if youre a student ) so you could have your palm and this and be able to take notes on your palm quietly and not bother anybody else ( granted you'll look a little silly and probably have a coupla more errors in your typing than usual ) but its a nice data input device that will be able to type anyplace.. Plane sound good? dont have enough room in your seat to type with a full sized keyboard so this will work quite nicely.. its also compact so its easy to lug around too..

    So I dont think all this bitching is warranted, granted you're going to have to have a keyboard layout in your head to type accrately and get used to typing without visual cues.. and if this is all its supposed to be then it'll be a very cool and useful thing..
  • Hmm (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Man of E ( 531031 ) <i.have@no.email.com> on Wednesday November 14, 2001 @07:19PM (#2566406)
    I wonder how the keyboard "knows" when I'm actually trying to press on a key, versus when I'm just resting my fingers in the home position?
    What if I need to grab a drink? What if I briefly wave my hands around? What if I scratch my head because I don't know what to type next?

    I'm not sure that the language recognition and "artificial intelligence" they proclaim this thing has would make it comfortably usable, even for short periods of time. Too many little inconveniences, and things you'd have to stop doing while having a keyboard permanently attached to your hands.

    • Speaking of which, why not just grab an infrared keyboard and strap it to your wrists? That way, you can use any surface at all as a keyboard! Wow!
      Make it collapsible and small, and you have a better product with the same tagline. Except that it's stupid.
    • Re:Hmm (Score:4, Funny)

      by kettch ( 40676 ) on Wednesday November 14, 2001 @08:25PM (#2566750) Homepage
      Maybe it'll just print things like *scratches head* *waves madly* *picks nose*, or other things...
      • Re:Hmm (Score:3, Funny)

        by G-funk ( 22712 )
        Maybe it'll just print things like *scratches head* *waves madly* *picks nose*, or other things...

        *Stop that dave*

        *Dave, what would Karen think?*

        *Dave, you'll go blind you know*
  • by dwdyer ( 5238 ) on Wednesday November 14, 2001 @07:21PM (#2566416) Homepage Journal
    Imagine the effort it will take to not type, if every movement is interpreted as a potential keystroke. I was reminded of this passage from the Hitchhiker's Guide:
    A loud clatter of gunk music flooded through the Heart of Gold cabin as Zaphod searched the sub-etha radio wavebands for news of himself. The machine was rather difficult to operate. For years radios had been operated by means of pressing buttons and turning dials; then as the technology became more sophisticated the controls were made touch-sensitive - you merely had to brush the panels with your fingers; now all you had to do was wave your hand in the general direction of the components and hope. It saved a lot of muscular expenditure of course, but meant that you had to sit infuriatingly still if you wanted to keep listening to the same programme.
  • by Tom7 ( 102298 )
    This is something I've been waiting for, for a long time.

    I've been thinking about ways to reduce the footprint of a laptop while retaining efficient input. One idea I had was similar to this -- when your hands approached the screen, an on-screen keyboard would appear that you could type on. You wouldn't have any touch feedback (electric shocks? ;)), but maybe noise or visual feedback would be enough...

    Those laser displays that project directly onto your retina would be cool too. Imagine this combined with a device that actually projected the keyboard (with live feedback) onto whatever surface you were using to type on...

    If they had a nice durable webpad with either of these kinds of input, I'd be very happy!
  • Senseboard + MIDI = Real air guitar

    In the voices of Bill and Ted: "Excellent".
  • Dilbert (Score:2, Funny)

    by agdv ( 457752 )
    Are you an engineer too?

    No, I'm a moron. Common mistake.

    -some Dilbert comic strip on similar devices
  • "The Emperor's New Clothes"
    by Hans Christian Andersen

    "What a marvelous technological advance!"
    "What an engineering coup de grace!"

    Doesn't anyone see what these Senseboard Technologies AB guys are doing to us?


    • TV remote
    • Steering wheel
    • Doorknob
    • Toilet
    • Firearm
    • Sex toy
    • Dog leash

    The mind boggles!
  • The coolest thing about this is not emulating an old fasion 101/4 key keyboard, it's the potential to input in new, creative ways.

    If you want to re-define your keyboard to be basketball shaped, have at it. There is some potential for great ergonomic improvements here.

    Also, think of the potential for virtual instruments, art, the possibilities are endless.

    Given all this, I hope they leave the interface open, so everyone can contribute.

  • by rice_burners_suck ( 243660 ) on Wednesday November 14, 2001 @08:33PM (#2566781)

    This might be really cool for portable applications. Imagine how much thinner a laptop could be if there didn't need to be a keyboard. (Or a mouse for that matter--let's say they put a piece of plastic that doesn't get dirty against the display, and make that into a touch-screen. People like me would rarely use that anyway (mice suck, IMO).) Then get rid of the keyboard, making the laptop about 1/4 to 1/2 inches thinner. That would be totally awesome. Hey, why not get rid of the power button and put something like what the Apple Cube or whatever it was called--there was no button, just a place where you touch the case and the computer would turn on or off. There was even a light that gets brighter when your finger comes close to the thing. Maybe the "buttons" could be silk-screened onto a flat surface on the computer and all have lights behind them that get brighter as your finger gets closer. That would be like something out of Star Trek. And there would be far less mechanical components in the laptop, making it last longer. Hey, why not get rid of the mechanical hard drive and put a solid-state drive in there. Currently, such a drive will read at extremely high speeds (much faster than any mechanical drive) and write at speeds about as fast as a mechanical drive. (I read that in two or three months' ago Circuit Cellar, I think.) Each "page" on these drives wears out after 10,000 to 1 million writes, but normal hard drives wear out after a while too. The rule is the same: back up your data. Besides, some of the better drives out there will automatically distribute the write load around on the drive so that it will last longer and stuff. Well, back to the keyboard thing. Oh, I was talking about removing mechanical components. Imagine if you could take almost all mechanical components out of the laptop. (The only things I can think of that need to remain mechanical are the CD-ROM and floppy drives. And the speakers, perhaps, I guess those are mechanical.) So you'd end up with an ultra-quiet, ultra-light (and ultra-futuristic-cool) laptop that will probably last longer than what is currently used today. Oh well.

    • Great idea, but unless you're aiming for the ruggedized computer market, there's no incentive to make a laptop with a lifetime greater than the time it will take for the model to become obsolescent. Which, for a PC, seems to be only two or three years, depending on your application of it.
  • by Eutope ( 536658 ) on Wednesday November 14, 2001 @08:34PM (#2566785)
    I saw the virtual keyboard on the comdex floor. It sounds like a great concept, but did not appear to function with a high degree of speed and accuracy. THe basic concept is interesting -- using neural networks to correlate the electrical signals from muscle movements with corresponding strokes on a keyboard, but more work needs to be done on the algorithms. The 2-man team behind the board is hoping to develop a product by march that could be used by anyone without training. But in the demo, only one person on the development team was able to use the keyboard, which seems to indicate that it will be more difficult to create a system that will work for a large population of users without training. That said it is an interesting concept that needs more work, and will probably require each user to train the keyboard for their movements, much like people do with continuous speech recognition programs today.
  • Ok, I am not a touch typist, but I'll give this a shot.

    [plugs in virtual keyboard]

    Qokw. rthsi isd xc00; IK KUV SD'Adeh@ jooiw kne,l klweok; osoi j ihkwe isdkl oidkl asjn trhs>? Nnkle.

    Hmm. doesn't work too well. I'll go back to my old way.

    [loads up speech recognition program]

    Their, that setter. Eye ill just stack with speech recognition. It's just work batter. New paragraph. New paragraph. NEW PARAGRAPH!

    I hate technology.
  • I'm sure that everyone who reads /. knows someone who has or has had carpal tunnel syndrome. With this, you could literally type with your hands anywhere, so it should be relatively easy to find an ergonomic position.

    In fact, couple this new input method with a dvorak keyboard, and you'd be rocking. They could even throw in a few additional chordal "sequences" to really get some additional functionality out of it. This is some neat stuff from a user-input side. Free your mind, folks!

    • Yes, but you don't have the little springs inside a real keyboard that make your fingers bounce back. So any ergonomic benefits would soon be outnumbered by the damage you do to your fingers in another way.
      I see this mostly as a tool for note-taking, rather than as a full keyboard replacement. There are many other funky-shaped ergonomic keyboard replacement prototypes out there, and the only advantage that this system has over them is that it's more portable. And has infrared.
  • www.handykey.com

    cheaper, better, easier, has mouse too.
    Oh and two important things....

    No drivers required(makes it 100% linux compatable)

    and isn't vaporware.
  • Isn't this an obvious hoax.

    There is no way the image shown can tell when I press a key, or indeed where my fingers are with any degree of accuracy.

    I spent two years playing with human-computer interfaces and quickly came to the conclusion that short of something physical to 'press' then users wouldn't know where keys where, and sensors (particularly placed where the 'knucklebands' shows are) wouldn't know with any degree of accuracy where my fingers were.

    The lack of an AVI or any kind of press review just adds to my scepticism.

  • Sounds Cool (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Grond ( 15515 ) on Wednesday November 14, 2001 @09:06PM (#2566909) Homepage
    Reading through at +3, I see that most of the respondents have a pretty negative attitude towards this device. If it's real, then, wow...I mean, this is the sort of thing that webpads and the like need. Sure, a stylus is nice for most things, but if you need to write more than a little bit, you need a keyboard.

    What's more, I think, is that one of the big size-limiting factors of making laptops much smaller than they are is the need for a keyboard. Imagine if you had a webpad style laptop that had a built-in mechanism for propping it up, and you'd just strap on the virtual keyboard doohickeys and away you'd go. By losing the keyboard, laptops could be almost half the size and a little bit lighter (admittedly, laptop keyboards don't weigh much, if you've ever taken a laptop apart, the keyboard weighs just a few ounces).

    Also, I'd like to point out that when stuff like the "Smart Dust" [berkeley.edu] project gets posted, people rave about how this would make for a great virtual keyboard, but when this shows up, most of the responses are along the lines of "well, even if it is real, it would suck." What the heck?

    Furthermore, to all those people complaining about how they can't touch type and therefore it would be useless: maybe you should take a proper typing class or get a copy of tuxtype or mavis beacon or something. Touch typing is a valuable skill. At the very least it'll improve your ability to use vi/emacs/whatever. :)
    • one of the big size-limiting factors of making laptops much smaller than they are is the need for a keyboard

      I think the real size-limiting factor is display. I mean, look at ads, they're advertising 15" displays for laptops and such. A quick question: how small device can contain 15" display? A device with 8" diameter? I don't see much need for this device as long as our displays are flat solid squares. After I have hi-res display built in my glasses I might be more interested. If I have to carry large display with cover I can use that cover as keyboard like nowadays. If I accept low-res PDA display I can use graffiti or stuff for input too.

    • Actually, I think the trend is for laptops to get bigger and bigger. My friend bought a 15 inch laptop that weighed 7kg just 2 mths ago.

      Personally, I prefer something like 10 or 11 inch, but hardly anybody makes those here.
  • by chrisvr ( 41985 ) on Wednesday November 14, 2001 @10:13PM (#2567000)
    The first time I saw these virtual keyboard things, I immediately said "Hey-- I read this in a science fiction story once!"

    After a bit of searching, I found it-- the exact concept exists in _Einstein's Bridge_, by John Cramer-- came out in 1997.

    Here's the bit that discusses the idea:

    He opened his briefcase and removed the magic glasses and the data cuffs. He switched on the small computer inside and made sure that its sensor flap was extended outside when he latched the briefcase lid, then slipped it back under the seat in front of him. He pressed a switch recessed in a thick earpiece of the magic glasses, then put them on. He draped the flesh colored data cuff around his left wrist, just in front of his wrist watch, and secured it with the Velcro joint underneat. He repeated the process on his right writs and activated the calibration process, flexing finger, twisting wrists, and bending elbows.

    The glasses produced a display screen presented vertically in front of him and a horizontal keyboard etched in bright lines in midair. He reached out, grasped the screen, and moved and stretched it until it filled the full area of the seat back in front of him, then positioned the virtual keyboard to a more confortable position at the surface of the tray table. He called up the report he'd been working on earlier and began to type and revise.


    He held up the flesh-colored objects in his lap. "These are data cuffs. They go around my wrists and measure my hand and finger positions by monitoring the movement of tendons in my wrists with Doppler-shift ultrasonics. They send the information to the computer over another infrared link. The glasses were making the image of a keyboard on the tray table. When I typed, the cuffs detected my finger motions, the computer correlated them with the locations of the keys it was drawing, and the words I typed appeared on the computer screen that I saw on the seat back."

    Thought it was a facinating idea when I first read it-- seems fairly useless without the "magic glasses"...
  • This subject touches on something that I saw at a local restaurant the other night. As my wife and I sat and ate the wait station was just behind us. Hanging on the wall at about average human eye height were two touch screens. One touch screen managed clock in and the other tables and orders (from what I could see). Throughout the course of the evening we saw waiters and waitresses wander by the station (had a prominent SQUIRREL logo on the display) and interact with the touch sensitive screens. The interesting part to see is how adept they were at navigating with either a pencil or their finger.

    Personally I own and have used an ePods webpad for about a year now. It's not the top of technology and so the screens can be a little slow and response to commands lags. The one thing I have found though is that repetitive tasks are a breeze because I know exactly where the button is going to be before it shows up on the screen. This allows me to quickly touch through a series of commands without really needing to wait on the display to refresh. I thought that it would be skill only a tech head would pick up on. I was wrong.

    Watching the wait staff that night I noticed about 6 of them, some taller and some shorter than the average height the screen was set to, breeze through screens just like I did. One very impressive girl spoke to another waiter while punching in her information. Most transactions were done and the wait staffer had walked away before the screens could go all the way through. That night I only saw one guy fumble on the screen and have to back step to hit the correct button.

    My point is that there are all of these people here on the site bemoaning the fact that they learned to type by touch, and how do I remember where the special keys are, and what happens if I scratch my ass, and all of the other bullshit scenarios for why this tech will not work. I say it will work, I've seen similar things working already, I've used something similar myself. I also say it won't be the ULTIMATE solution. Just like QWERTY isn't to everyones taste and some people still have this bad habbit of liking Windows. Voice recognition is great but it's obtrusive in a meeting and non-functional in loud environments, Graffiti makes you relearn writing (shouldn't have to do), gestures are great but limited in use, and mind reading is still a ways away. So there are going to be times when voice is usable, and handwriting recognition is a good option, and times when a "virtual keyboard" is going to be much more than adequate.

    Without the pioneering consumer the pioneering product will never be

  • learning! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    it would be a good idea for it to have a learning ability (like voice rec software). you put them on and hook them up the the computer, then type on your regular keyboard for a few days and let the little guys figure things out.
  • HOAX (Score:2, Insightful)

    by mshurpik ( 198339 )
    >I spent two years playing with human-computer interfaces

    I didn't and I still thought this was an obvious hoax. I mean, let's be honest here. There's a photo of a guy with wrist straps and a fifty-word blurb indicating that the straps perform some sort of magic.

    What makes me sad is that the best score is 2 of anyone calling this a hoax. That leads me to believe that in the 12 hours since the original posting, not a single mod point was devoted to the TRUTH.

    Go slashdot! Liberate me from marketroid tyranny!
  • Sheesh...this is one of the coolest input devices to appear in a LONG time. Look at what's on your desk right now: CRT, windowing GUI, keyboard, mouse, all tied together by a spaghetti of cables...practically unchanged for the last FOURTY YEARS! Awwww, you'll lack a little tactile feedback - wah. This is just a half-step forward (still a durn QWERTY keyboard) and you so-called "computer geeks" are whiny and fearful of the change. HMDs, datagloves, speech I/O, and other forward-moving tech, all merely niche fringe devices (only the PDA has moved us foward) lost to people glued to their CRTs. How disappointing...

    Gimmie one of these nifty units ASAP! When's it out? Price? Need beta testers?

    Let's move technology FORWARD, and not just refine nearly antique technologies!

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