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Is there some kinect-like device with an application that lets users type in the air and reads what keys they would have typed, were there a keyboard? Even a prototype or a research effort?

It seems relatively easy to implement compared to, say, speech recognition, and very useful for some scenarios, but I don't know of any attempts to implement it.

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3 Answers

up vote 6 down vote accepted

Though not yet available, it's possible that Leap Motion, a USB peripheral device that senses hand and finger movements with a "resolution" down to 1/100th of a millimeter, will do the trick.

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+1 I'm waiting for my developer kit! –  msanford Aug 22 '12 at 14:58
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I.TECH's and Celluon's virtual keyboards good enough?

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+1 for a reasonable answer, and quite nice actually, but no, not really good enough. I don't need to see a keyboard, but I do want to type on air and have it figure it out. It is the next best thing though. –  psr Dec 13 '11 at 0:29
    
So you've figured it out in the span of an hour? Do share! My main question would be how does one know which 'key' they are pressing in the air. –  DA01 Dec 13 '11 at 0:35
    
The challenges of such an approach are so many - 1) You cant see the keyboard 2) No perception or visual feedback of what button you touched ..The concept sounds fun though –  Mervin Johnsingh Dec 13 '11 at 0:50
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you can put a sticker on the beamer so the keyboard don't show ;) –  Naoise Golden Dec 13 '11 at 0:50
    
@DA01 - "Figured it out in the span of an hour". Huh? Yes, the only possible feedback would be on a screen (showing a keyboard being hit) or sound of clicks, but that's the price you pay. Clearly you need to be a touch typist to have the slightest hope of using this. –  psr Dec 13 '11 at 1:06
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Consider the UX options:

  1. Users aim at buttons they can see on the screen yet instead of air, they use a touch pad (or hover pad e.g. Leap Motion), to read the finger movements and display on the screen and press downs cause clicks. - This is similar to typing on a touch screen, only the display and touch pad are not in the same area. Since this does require a pad of some sort, you might as well put keys on it :-)

  2. Users aim at buttons they can see but can't feel on the screen (e.g. a TV) without touching the screen and an "air keyboard" calculates the pressed buttons (based on the position of the users eyes, the fingers and the screen boundaries)? - This is similar to Logitech's Air Mouse which I own, yet do not like (it doesn't consider the screen boundaries and eye position, only position relative to non-intuitive adjustable alignment).

  3. Users type on a non existing keyboard that they can't see of feel? - Without feedback users wouldn't know where to press.

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My hope is the software will know which key users are pressing by which finger they move in what direction. So they don't have to "hit" anything or aim at anything. So the need for feedback is greatly lessened, I hope. Assuming it doesn't "type" when you scratch your nose, for example. –  psr May 31 '12 at 22:53
    
Even if you type with 8 fingers, there are more than 8 letters on each row, not including digits and symbols. Besides, I suspect most users don't use more than 6 fingers and some not even that much. You can refer to this link for an image of which keys each finger should be used for and see that it doesn't seem feasible: typing-lessons.org/preliminaries_4.html –  Danny Varod Jun 1 '12 at 3:35
    
Nice image. But since you are not limited to a physical keyboard those things are probably solvable in a way that leverages people's typing skills, even if it isn't 100% the same. (e.g. some gesture toggles a special keys mode). My theory is that in the future most people will use voice but people who are doing a lot of computer interaction will use air keyboards for mobile devices or when they don't want to sit at a desk. Not that this device is that good yet). –  psr Jun 1 '12 at 17:30
    
For (3) - you could do something like "switch on" the keyboard by pressing all 8 home keys at once. Wherever you like. When the device sees 8 fingers move in unison, it "zeroes" to wherever you happen to have pressed them. –  David Wallace Jan 17 at 6:58
    
@DavidWallace That could help with the initial zeroing, however, without physical keys to feel, the user may skew sideways/up/down overtime while typing and end up on the wrong row/column. –  Danny Varod Jan 17 at 8:19
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