Engineering news

Is the virtual keyboard soon to be a reality?


Swedish university plans to develop prototypes this year

A research team at Mälardalen University (MDH) in Sweden has been developing technology to create a virtual keyboard, and is set to deliver prototypes this year.

Lars Asplund, professor in Robotics at MDH has been working on Project Virtual Keyboard since 2005, which can be used for wearable computing, ipads, iphones or any computer. He said: “Keyboards today look almost the same, and work in almost the same way, as 19th-century typewriters. Our virtual keyboard makes possible a completely new form of interaction.”

The virtual keyboard or “Senseboard” is a device made up of two bracelets, which are placed around the wrists or over the hands. Sensors feel the position of the users fingertips and hand movements, as well as the surface they are typing on so that it can ascertain which key is touched. The Sensboard is intended to be used with devices such as Google Glasses or Oculus Rift, whereby the user can see the keyboard in front of them as they type. The two bracelets will also function as a computer mouse and as a unit for gesture input.

Asplund said: “It opens up many areas of application, both for businesses and for individuals, such as use in small spaces, for interviews to avoid the barrier of the journalist’s computer screen, and by individuals who want to avoid the ergonomic problems that are common when using a physical keyboard and computer mouse.”

The university is set to develop working prototypes this year, with the aim to enter the Senseboard into the fast-growing virtual reality market. However, the university still needs to find an extra £1 million in funding before it can reach this next stage. Asplund said: “We have the ideas and the technology and now we want to develop prototypes. To do so, we need more funding, which is often the main challenge for research.” 


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