COMDEX: Virtual keyboards let you type in air

Call it air guitar meets computer keyboard. Two firms here at Comdex, Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. and Senseboard, are showing off gizmos that attach to your hands and track your finger movements so you can type without a keyboard to input data into a personal digital assistant or other handheld device.

Both products are meant to meet the needs of mobile computer users struggling with cumbersome, tiny, or nonexistent keyboards. Senseboard plans to ship its Senseboard keyboardless keyboard early next year priced at about US$150. The Samsung product, called Scurry, will be available first in Korea and is scheduled to go on sale in the U.S. in early 2003, priced at about $50.

To watch the devices in use is freaky, to say the least. A young man hunched over a counter at the Senseboard booth was typing in thin air on what appeared to be an invisible keyboard. The developers envision subway cars filled with commuters typing in midair as they key messages into their mobile phones, Pocket PCs, or Palm devices.

Really Hands-On

To use the Senseboard device, you simply slip a soft rubber pad onto each palm and start typing as if a keyboard was in front of you. A demo of the product didn't work so well, however, and produced the gibberish "DNiSP" when the tester was asked to type "Comdex."

The Senseboard product clearly needs work. Representatives say the poor performance demonstrated for show attendees is not typical. Senseboard works by tracking the muscle movements in the palm of the hand. When you extend your left pinky finger in midair and strike it down as if you were going to strike the "Q" key Senseboard displays the letter "Q" on the monitor.

Samsung's Scurry works by attaching motion sensors to each finger. It doesn't detect muscle movement, but rather uses gyroscopic technology to detect angular movements of fingers through space. This approach works better: Demonstrations on the show floor were far more impressive than its competitor's performance in terms of accuracy. However, both devices are too bulky. Nonfunctional prototypes of the final products are much smaller.

Just a Start

Both models demonstrated this week are wired. However, vendors say by the time their products become commercially available they will support the wireless Bluetooth protocol. Also, both products require specialized software for handheld devices. For example, Senseboard software includes a dictionary program that predicts words based on common grammatical sentence structures to boost keying accuracy.

Clearly, both companies are pioneering a brave, new, slightly weird world of technology that is still young in development. The approach that both companies are taking has strong roots in the futuristic trend of wearable computers. But operating their products successfully is clearly going to take some practice.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Tom Spring

PC World
Show Comments

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Luke Hill

MSI GT75 TITAN

I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Laura Johnston

MSI GS65 Stealth Thin

If you can afford the price tag, it is well worth the money. It out performs any other laptop I have tried for gaming, and the transportable design and incredible display also make it ideal for work.

Andrew Teoh

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

Touch screen visibility and operation was great and easy to navigate. Each menu and sub-menu was in an understandable order and category

Louise Coady

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

The printer was convenient, produced clear and vibrant images and was very easy to use

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?