Microsoft has unveiled a new project from their Microsoft Research labs – a mechanical keyboard capable of motion and gesture controls.
The project, titled Type-Hower-Swipe in 96 Bytes, seeks to bring motion controls to desktop PCs without the need to move the user’s hands far away from the keyboard. Microsoft’s prototype keyboard achieves this by using a 16 x 4 sensor array consisting of 64 infrared proximity sensors that are placed in between the keys that directly attach to the silicon membrane inside the keyboard.
“We present a new type of augmented mechanical keyboard, sensing rich and expressive motion gestures performed both on and directly above the device. 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,” explains the company.
The prototype is only capable of low-resolution capture – at only 64 pixels – but has a high refresh rate of at least 300 Hertz. According to Microsoft, they’re able to recognize motion and gesture controls through a process they call “motion signatures” which combines Binary Motion History Image and Intensity Motion History Image data to capture and recognize different gestures.
The system is currently capable of recognizing a large number of gestures including swiping (up, down, left, or right), zooming in or out, maximizing windows, and initializing Search. It is also capable of recognizing motion including counting numbers with fingers, lifting and landing a finger or a whole hand on the keyboard, performing a looping motion with a finger, and performing a wave motion on the keyboard. Microsoft is also developing full fingertip touch based interaction.
At the moment, the project is purely focused on research and Microsoft did not mention if they were planning to develop the project further into an actual consumer product. The project was initially presented at this week’s Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems 2014 in Toronto.