Microsoft Research has demoed a new augmented mechanical keyboard that allows users to use motion controls either on or slightly above the keyboard to interact with their computers. The prototype was curiously made using keycaps from an Apple keyboard.
A low-resolution matrix of infrared (IR) proximity sensors is interspersed with the keys of a regular mechanical keyboard. This results in coarse but high frame-rate motion data. We extend a machine learning algorithm, traditionally used for static classification only, to robustly support dynamic, temporal gestures.
The gestures that the keyboard can recognize include traditional gestures like “pinch-to-zoom” and swiping to static gestures like holding a single finger above the keyboard to advanced gestures like turning an imaginary steering wheel.
It’s unclear whether the augmented keyboard, referred to as the Type-Hover-Swipe, could eventually turn into a real product, but it’s another step in Microsoft exploring motion control after its Kinect device. Apple, too, has been exploring motion sensing with its purchase of PrimeSense, the 3D body sensing firm that developed the technology for Kinect. The Type-Hover-Swipe keyboard is also similar to the technology of Leap Motion, who former Apple iAd chief Andy Miller worked for for close to two years.
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