http://www.digitaljournal.com/tech-and-science/technology/new-microsoft-patent-hints-at-a-future-without-the-keyboard/article/503370

New Microsoft patent hints at a future without the keyboard

Posted Sep 25, 2017 by James Walker
Microsoft has been granted a patent for an input device that could offer a future alternative to the keyboard. The company has envisioned a future where gestures and tracking could be used to create a keyboard in any environment.
Microsoft HoloLens: Transforming world with holograms.
Microsoft HoloLens: Transforming world with holograms.
© Microsoft
The patent, filed in 2014 but granted last week, was spotted by CB Insights. It describes a "holographic keyboard display" that can be used in many kinds of augmented and virtual reality environment. Microsoft proposes several different implementations of the technology that each have different applications.
In all the situations, a virtual keyboard hologram becomes the user's input target. The device used to signal different keypresses can vary depending on the situation. In some cases, it might be a hand hologram that represents the movement of the user's hand relative to the virtual keyboard. In other scenarios, the input detection could look for hand gestures or monitor a user's eye gaze from smart glasses.
Microsoft  keyboard-hand  interface patent
Microsoft "keyboard-hand" interface patent
Microsoft
READ NEXT: Bing for Business helps companies make sense of their data
In the patent, Microsoft said it has proven "challenging" to develop a holographic keyboard interface that feels immersive enough for actual use. The company is investing heavily in augmented and mixed reality via its HoloLens headset. Although HoloLens already excels in some areas and is being used commercially, it falls short in many others. Text input is one such weakness.
Microsoft  keyboard-hand  interface patent
Microsoft "keyboard-hand" interface patent
Microsoft
"Generating [a] holographic keyboard-hand interface that provides an immersive and realistic touch-like interaction has proven challenging," Microsoft wrote. "For example, while interacting with a keyboard hologram, the user may move or change positions, or the user's hand(s) may drift inadvertently."
In response, Microsoft's solution uses depth information to create a "virtual hand plane" in the holographic environment. This offers more precise tracking of the hand, making the proposed keyboard-hand interface more feasible. This solution could be used to interact with keyboards that are in front of the user or projected on a large screen some distance away.
Microsoft  keyboard-hand  interface patent
Microsoft "keyboard-hand" interface patent
Microsoft
READ NEXT: Ford uses Microsoft HoloLens to accelerate its car design
The patent lists gaming as an initial application for the technology. If implemented into headsets like HoloLens, you could supply games with text entry without removing the headset and reaching for a keyboard. The tech's likely to have more long-term significance in the workplace though, offering users a way to seamlessly enter text while they work.
As VR, AR and closed headsets gain momentum, a new approach to text input will be needed. Physical keyboards and regular touch interfaces aren't available once you're wearing the headset. Although current experiences don't generally require textual input, the growing commercial applications of the tech could make AR email responses, calendar reminders and web searches commonplace. Microsoft's evidently thinking about the problem, even if the patent filing doesn't guarantee the proposed system's in production.