Microsoft's prototype keyboard understands gestures

The gestures are designed to replace some more advanced keyboard shortcuts

What Microsoft Research's gesture-sensing keyboard "sees" when a user hovers his hand over the device.

What Microsoft Research's gesture-sensing keyboard "sees" when a user hovers his hand over the device.

Microsoft's research division has developed a keyboard that can interpret basic hand gestures, potentially bridging a gap between touch devices and more traditional input methods.

[See the keyboard in action in a video on YouTube.]

Presented at the Computer Human Interaction (CHI) conference in Toronto, the prototype keyboard has 64 sensors that detect the movement of hands as they brush over the top of the keyboard. Swiping a hand over the left or right side, for instance, can bring up left and right side menus in Windows 8.

The main goal is for users to be able to keep their hands on or very close to the keyboard while typing and using input gestures, said Stuart Taylor, a Microsoft senior research engineer.

Some of the gestures can replace existing keyboard shortcuts, like the Alt and Tab combination for switching between applications.

"What we've found is that for some of the more complicated keyboard shortcut combinations, performing gestures seems to be a lot less overhead for the user," he said.

Gesture control in touchscreens is commonplace for tasks like flicking through photos or pulling up menus. Even some mice can interpret gestures, but keyboards have largely stuck to their traditional input method.

Taylor said Microsoft's keyboard can interpret a number of gestures, though only a few were working at the conference in Toronto. He also said it's not designed to replace a mouse.

"It's less about fine-grain navigation, which would still be performed with a mouse or touchpad," he said.

The team has been working on the project for about a year-and-a-half and will continue to refine the gesture interpretation. The sensors on the keyboard are in pairs, with one sensor emitting infrared light and the other reading the light reflected back. It's not unlike the technology in Microsoft's Kinect gaming system.

Since it is still a research project there are no immediate plans for commercialization, but technology like this could give Microsoft a much-needed leg up in the computing race.

Nick Barber covers general technology news in both text and video for IDG News Service. E-mail him at Nick_Barber@idg.com and follow him on Twitter at @nickjb.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags peripheralspopular scienceMicrosoftComponentsInput-Output

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Nick Barber

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Breitling Superocean Heritage Chronographe 44

Learn more >

SanDisk MicroSDXC™ for Nintendo® Switch™

Learn more >

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Panasonic 4K UHD Blu-Ray Player and Full HD Recorder with Netflix - UBT1GL-K

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Razer DeathAdder Expert Ergonomic Gaming Mouse

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

David Coyle

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

I rate the printer as a 5 out of 5 stars as it has been able to fit seamlessly into my busy and mobile lifestyle.

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?