Motion-sensing devices have been around for a long time. You or your relatives probably have a light fixture or two near your front door that goes on automatically when someone walks up the steps. Many modern office buildings use this technology to help save energy, with lights and power turned off by a computer system if no movement is detected in a room after a certain length of time. The Wii and Kinect systems take this concept to the next level, translating the user’s movements into onscreen images that allow gamers to directly interact with icons and animated characters. Up until now, there hasn’t been much subtlety in this movement, as you’ll know if you’ve ever tried these games. Sometimes random swings are just as good as purposefully aimed ones in a virtual baseball game. When it comes to typing, random just won’t work, however. Accuracy is essential and so far the only way to get both speed and accuracy is to use a keyboard.
Of course, when a software or hardware developer sees this problem, they work on finding a solution. At last year’s ACM Symposium on User Interface Software and Technology in Cambridge, Massachusetts, a group of researchers from Cambridge,UK demonstrated a new device that uses a wrist-mounted laser-based sensor that accurately translates the position of the user’s hand and fingers into keyboard and screen commands. This device was created as part of the Digits program run by Microsoft, and while it’s not on the market yet, we should be hearing more about this system in the near future.
As these new ways of interacting with the computer gain in precision and speed, it’s possible that we’ll someday have an alternative to the keyboard that matches the fast touch typing speeds and accuracy that good typists can reach. For now, though, you’ll have to save the Wii for virtual bowling, and use the keyboard for your real text input.
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