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More Virtual Keyboards Waiting in the Wings

Many companies are exploring the possibilities of virtual keyboards. At last week's CeBIT, Samsung demonstrated the Scurry, a prototype that has a bracelet for the wrist as well as several rings to capture hand and finger movement and allow the user to enter text. The company sees it being used with handheld and wearable computers. The first version goes on just one hand; The next, called Scurry 2, will make use of both hands. While it currently connects to a computer with cables, Samsung says the final version will use Bluetooth wireless networking. Samsung hopes release the Scurry by the end of this year for about 50 or 60 Euros (about $45 to $55 US).

Another possibility still being developed is the Senseboard Virtual Keyboard. It is made up of two sensors that attach to the user's hands which are connected with Bluetooth or wires to a sled that fits on a handheld.

Sensors in the units measure the finger movements and artificial intelligence and a language processor determine appropriate keystrokes or mouse movements.

The user can type onto a surface or onto the air. It can be used with the Qwerty keyboard layout or others, though Senseboard Technologies hasn't yet said which others.

The company also hasn't committed releasing a version for any handheld platform yet. It is not yet known when this product will be released or at what price.

Thanks to Manuel for his help with this article. -Ed

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This only works if...

I.M. Anonymous @ 3/23/2002 4:18:25 PM #
Ya, know this only works if you know how to type. How would the sensors you were know that you type under the hunt and peck method. The virtual projected keyboard would work, but the kind you put on wouldn't.

Just something to think about.

ScottG

RE: This only works if...
I.M. Anonymous @ 3/23/2002 4:30:49 PM #
This is how every technology begins. Let's hope that eventually this technology will become more usable that we can take use of it.

RE: This only works if...
I.M. Anonymous @ 3/23/2002 4:39:38 PM #
Hey, here's a novel idea... learn how to type! You'd be amazed just how quickly work goes by, and how beneficial it is, when you no longer have to look at the keyboard. I'm sorry, but I simply can't have any sympathy for those that whine about usability when a product fails to account for their lack of skills.

RE: This only works if...
Kesh @ 3/23/2002 4:41:26 PM #
The best solution I've considered for these 'virtual glove' systems is American Sign Language. Yea, that's something else to learn, but it doesn't depend on acting like you're hitting a keyboard. Instead, you could use normal ASL hand movements for indicating the characters you wanted to input.

There's just no way to replicate hunt-and-peck typing with these, since there's nothing to look at. And even touch-typing can be difficult if you start tapping outside the area where the letter you want is.

Now, a Bluetooth enabled ASL glove/ring system would be excellent for data input on the go. Especially if anyone can develop a visual interface that fits inside standard eyeglasses, rather than the cumbersome goggles/projectors currently available. As it stands, you still have to be holding your handheld or sitting in front of a screen to see what you're putting into the system, limiting this to the realm of 'nifty gadget'.

RE: This only works if...
I.M. Anonymous @ 3/23/2002 5:35:09 PM #
>Hey, here's a novel idea... learn how to type!

Exactly! If you don't have the skill to accomplish 100 wpm in Graffiti then you shouldn't even own a pda. A keyboard, virtual or otherwise, just 'accounts' for lack of skill. (geez...)

RE: This only works if...
batsai @ 3/23/2002 6:52:27 PM #
I think the concept for these devices is incredibly cool, but not very stylish. I really like the looks of the Palm m515 and Clie T615, but these things make you look like a cyborg. Hopefully as these devices develop, they will also become more stylish and practical.

RE: This only works if...
I.M. Anonymous @ 3/23/2002 6:52:29 PM #
> learn how to type

Learning to type is for morons. I use 2 fingers and can out type all the idiots who learned using MAVIS BEACON.

I type 80 WPM with 2 fingers and 100% accuracy.

RE: This only works if...
I.M. Anonymous @ 3/23/2002 10:43:38 PM #
>Exactly! If you don't have the skill to accomplish 100 wpm in Graffiti then you shouldn't even own a pda. A keyboard, virtual or otherwise, just 'accounts' for lack of skill. (geez...)

I don't see how typing relates to ownership of a PDA. Did you ever consider that some folks may be using their PDA as a laptop replacement? (Shock! Horror! People are using it for more than PIM functions! AHHHH!) There are some folks, including myself that are very proficient with Graffiti, but realize that for long documents, taking notes in meetings, etc. that typing is the better way to go. Ownership of a keyboard for your PDA doesn't always signify a lack of Graffiti skills.

As for our 80WPM wündertypist, that's great that you can do that kind of speed with two fingers... just imagine what you could do if you used all ten. I can't speak for the "idiots" (sheesh) that used Mavis Beacon, but with touch typing I'm at 95WPM. I'd say that's quite a bit better... and I'm able to focus on my work instead of staring at the keyboard.

Ignorance is for morons. Learning to type is for the educated, and those who wish to be successful.

Oh, and it does look like at least Senseboard's product is making some adaptations for the hunt-and-peckers out there. From their FAQ: "...and for those who do not know the touch-typing technique, the different letters can be labelled onto the upper part of the product (the strap) to guide the user. You can also find touch-typing tutorials available on the internet." At least you can stare at the stickers on the back of yoru hands in place of a keyboard.

RE: This only works if...
ColonelKlink @ 3/23/2002 10:48:19 PM #
I would not be surprised if this is bundled with some sort of laminated keyboard and brief tutorial for those that aren't entirely familiar with touch-typing.

...or maybe this will be marketed for people who can actually type! Just because someone is gadget-hungry, does not give them the right to complain about something that they want but can't use.

RE: This only works if...
I.M. Anonymous @ 3/23/2002 10:51:00 PM #
I don't believe you

You should learn to type with ten fingers and you will really type 80wpm or much more

RE: This only works if...
jjsoh @ 3/24/2002 3:06:17 AM #
> Learning to type is for morons. I use 2 fingers and
> can out type all the idiots who learned using MAVIS
> BEACON.
>
> I type 80 WPM with 2 fingers and 100% accuracy.

This person is:

a) a liar
b) dumb
c) for real (99% unlikely)
d) a funny troll

If you're option 'a', then it's no wonder you're hiding behind IMA. If you're 'b', well.. no need to explain. If you're 'c', then I guess all those extra terrestrial anal probes helped out a lot. And if you're 'd', okay.. then I fell for it.

In any case, I had a pretty good laugh reading this. Thanks.


Jim

RE: This only works if...
I.M. Anonymous @ 3/24/2002 3:24:43 AM #
Okay ... this is for the peck typist. Yes, I have known people that can type faster than touch typists. But that is only if you are concentrating on the keyboard. That kind of typing does no good if you are typing on the screen with lots of inputs. Just the fact you have to look at the screen to read, then continue typing means you have just lost a second or two where a touch typist would have gotten several words in. Yes you might type faster in long documents where reading the screen all the time is not necessary, but you are no match for a fast touch typist that does not have to deviate from the screen he is reading.

And ... how often are you going to type long documents on your PDA? Where you can just ignore the PDA screen? Not often since there are many fields. And I say this ... LEARN TO TYPE.

RE: This only works if...
I.M. Anonymous @ 3/24/2002 12:35:16 PM #
I won't use a Palm until it has a complete voice interface, because I never learned how to read or write.

RE: This only works if...
I.M. Anonymous @ 3/24/2002 1:27:29 PM #
>I don't see how typing relates to ownership of a PDA.

Having a little trouble relating sarcasm to that post, also, heh?

Hey, I'm real, real delighted that you are an accomplished touch typist. But I'll bet you dollars to doughnuts that the makers of these 'virtual keyboards' are very much interested in input from those of us that aren't. They're interested in as large a market as possible. And that includes us un-skilled types that have to look down at the keys. Afterall, the makers of standard keyboards care about us...that's why they print the letters on the keys.

>I won't use a Palm until it has a complete voice interface, because I never learned how to read or write.

Looks like you have the 'writing' part down pat. Oh, wait, you can't read this.

RE: This only works if...
I.M. Anonymous @ 3/24/2002 9:53:09 PM #
Boy, you're a brutal bunch on this typing issue. I guess there is a lot of sissy secretaries here, Eh. Anyone that can type 100wpm on a keyboard is one of 2 things - A Girl or a Chik with a Dick! Ha ha Ha!!!

Grow up ya bunch of girls!

Tech stuff was made for the Stupid to make things easier, not harder.

Piss Off ya bunch of ****s!!!

Typing...
PDA @ 3/25/2002 3:23:34 AM #
This is a funny thread.

When I was in High School (23 years ago!!!), typing class was one semester and optional. Advanced typing was two semesters and as one genius above here pointed out, mostly populated by girls. This is the class I took (heh, and folks said I was stupid. I repeat, MOSTLY GIRLS. heh)

Anyway, it amazes me that today, when computers are so commonplace, that a) High Schools don't have mandatory typing classes and b) that people *DON'T* go out of their way to learn how to type.

Trust me folks, as someone that has been making a living off of the computer industry for over twenty years now, good typing skills DO MAKE A DIFFERENCE.

RE: This only works if...
jjsoh @ 3/25/2002 10:12:14 AM #
PDA

Agreed, this is one of the funniest thread I've read in a while. Still, I didn't take 'typing' or 'keyboarding' classes to learn touch typing. Just trial and error mostly.

So to all you hunters and peckers (no pun intended), you should allow yourself to try touch typing (if you haven't already). I started out hunting and pecking, but later realized I wanted to keep my eyes focused ON screen (or from source material that I'm copying) rather than lift my head back and forth from my keyboard to screen.

A world of difference. Eh.. what's the worst that can happen? If you find you don't like it, you can go back to being a hunter and pecker (again, no pun intended). But at least then you can rant all you want about us touch typists. ;)


Jim

Minimalism

sandbuck @ 3/23/2002 5:38:23 PM #

Of all three, I like this concept

http://www.palminfocenter.com/view_Story.asp?ID=3173

the best. The two in this article will be fine for those that strap them on along with all of their other work-releated gear, but they are not appealing to regular (non-enthusiast) consumers.

RE: Minimalism
I.M. Anonymous @ 3/23/2002 5:49:06 PM #
I agree. However, minimalism is often trumped by the geek factor (the more complicated and techy the better). That is, until consumers speak with their wallets. Don't look for long lines at CompUSA of people looking to buy what amounts to strap-on keyboards. No doubt, though, the technology, will have useful applications down the road.

RE: Minimalism
ColonelKlink @ 3/23/2002 10:53:05 PM #
Of course the employees at CompUSA won't know what the heck it is...(Bad experience buying a $400 Wacom Tablet)

Here's my virtual middle finger...

I.M. Anonymous @ 3/24/2002 2:08:44 AM #
like anyone is going to be wearing this in public and use it !

RE: Here's my virtual middle finger...
I.M. Anonymous @ 3/24/2002 2:13:43 PM #
Hello? Isn't it the next millenium? Why don't we have
mental keyboards? You know, wires connected directly into
the brain that can be used to send data directly into the Palm? That would be nice

RE: Here's my virtual middle finger...
I.M. Anonymous @ 3/24/2002 3:01:42 PM #
I hear Sony is working on cerebral-implantable Memory Sticks and BT Info Sticks.

But seriously, I just read that a lab somewhere was successful in implanting a chip in a monkey's brain and the monkey was able to move a cursor on a screen as a result. Maybe this is where we are heading.

RE: Here's my virtual middle finger...
I.M. Anonymous @ 3/25/2002 12:53:53 AM #
I work for a company that develops BCIs (brain-computer interfaces). And no, ours don't require you to stick a chip in your brain! :) And there definitely are applications for portable computing, although probably more obviously for wearable getups. Imagine being able to control a wearable computer simply by gazing at icons in your personal display... It's all coming in the next few years. I mean, it exists now. I get to play with it all day long. Man, my job rocks. :)

Graffitti Keyboards.

I.M. Anonymous @ 3/24/2002 11:47:32 PM #
I am so happy using my stylus on a custom keyboard overlay (over the graffitti area) that I designed using "Quicktype" (freeware) that I can't imagine wanting one of these gadgets. For those that write characters on their PDA, wake up! Quicktype rules. I'm a crappy hunt and peck typist but I cruise along at about 30 wpm with my stylus with very little learning involved. The "swipe for a whole word" function is very useful.
If you want blazing, "real keyboard" speed than you are going to want a real keyboard anyway just for the tactile feedback if nothing else.


Nathan

Virtual keyboard yes.. qwerty, no

I.M. Anonymous @ 3/25/2002 10:21:33 AM #
The idea of a virtual keyboard for a PDA is really exciting. However, people need to stop thinking in terms of qwerty layout, or even a keyboard at all.

The best solution, other than pure mental or voice control is likely to be a glove type device that connects, either wirelessly or with wires to you PDA. You hold the PDA with the left hand and then by using your thumb touching your index finger tip would produce an A, touching the side between the tip and first knuckle a B, first and second a C, and so on.

You can get at least 28 separate combinations using single finger thumb combinations.

The technology is easy, learning is easy, letters can be printed on the glove. You get nice tactile feedback, you don't need a solid surface. You don't need a huge device or sled attached to PDA. Its discrete. Of course its going to make our thumbs more muscular and agile (like mobile phones are apparetnly)

And of course a left hand version is very easy to develop.

RE: Virtual keyboard yes.. qwerty, no
I.M. Anonymous @ 3/26/2002 12:20:51 AM #
your concept is interesting but it is much slower than when you have 10 different fingers that can hit keys in sequence. two thumbs versus 10 digits cannot compare in speed. plain and simple.

RE: Virtual keyboard yes.. qwerty, no
I.M. Anonymous @ 3/26/2002 1:47:49 AM #
I find all the whining about having to learn (gasp! Education? what a novel concept!) absolutely laughable, but I sympathize with the user who just wants to use a device without spending too much time getting up to speed.

I'm a user interface aficionado and I've learned to touch type in the QWERTY and Dvorak keyboard layouts. I achieve 80 WPM with Graffiti, and I'll even learn FITALY if I have to.

I'm glad that the technology has finally become available to make "air" keyboards possible. I'm a fan of one-handed chording keyboards and finger-touch combination entry methods, I can't get enough of it!

I do not like using American Sign Language to enter text for the simple reason that others can easily read what you're entering by just watching your gestures.

RE: Virtual keyboard yes.. qwerty, no
I.M. Anonymous @ 3/26/2002 3:40:20 AM #
I am not talking about replacing a qwerty keyboard for desk top use. My device simply allows for speedy (compared to grafitti) entry of large amounts of text to a pda without all the hassles.

You'd be suprised at the speed you can attain, and combined with an intelligent layout of characters, speed could be up at 40-50 wpm

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