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Input Devices Microsoft Hardware

Contest Winners Show Potential For Pressure-Sensitive Keyboard 129

Posted by timothy
from the more-input-is-good dept.
Chris Harrison writes "About a month ago, Microsoft sent out prototype pressure sensitive keyboards to 40 international teams. They had four weeks to hack and cobble together some cool ideas. The innovation contest that centered around the keyboards released the winners last night (after a voting period Monday night at the ACM UIST conference). Some pretty neat ideas, ranging from pressure-sensitive password entry (Safelock), magnetic pens for cursor control (Hidden Forces), and even cool climbing (Rock Climbing) and land-deformation games (BallMeR)."
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Contest Winners Show Potential For Pressure-Sensitive Keyboard

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  • Finally! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Rah'Dick (976472) on Thursday October 08, 2009 @06:20PM (#29686803)
    Finally a keyboard that recognizes when I slam my fist into it! Make that a keybinding for "stop whatever the fuck you're doing and respond already".
  • Very Impressed (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Chelmet (1273754) on Thursday October 08, 2009 @06:39PM (#29686955)
    I like this, and see pressure sensitive keyboards being predominant in the not too distant future, based primarily upon the supplemental embedded video at the bottom of the linked page. All of the proposed uses, from deleting word at a time, to recognising typos, to movement in games, I can't see any argument against. Its just a genuinely innovative device. A lot of the competition entries are rather useless as they stand, but go a long way to show the potential of the platform. One problem I've always had with PC gaming is not being able to play driving games properly without a controller, as on/off left/right is useless. I suppose this would solve that problem, as I'd now have an analogue keyboard. As to the typing/password recognition, of course it would have teething problems en route to full user acceptance, but all of the criticism levelled so far is easily surmountable. Someone loses a hand, or their typing changes - easy! As per online banking and whatnot, the user can answer a few predefined questions (independent of typing style) and reset the memory. A brute force attack could be prevented by limiting the number of attempts. Okay, so a couple of problems would always be present, such as typing with a coffee in hand or logging in to your girlfriends facebook, but overall I am thrilled by the idea, enough to make my second /. post ever, and am very much looking forward to owning one, providing they don't come with optimus maximus pricetags.
  • Re:Finally! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by somersault (912633) on Thursday October 08, 2009 @06:42PM (#29686973) Homepage Journal

    The most useful initial application for me would be to simulate a shift keypress when you press a little harder than everyday typing pressure.

    Could be amusing for automatically writing in caps when you get ANGRY, and handy for running in oldskool FPS games that don't support the full analog range of the buttons - which could be easily supported right now in any game that already supports analog games controllers.

  • Re:Finally! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mhajicek (1582795) on Thursday October 08, 2009 @06:49PM (#29687027)
    I'm thinking of motion control in games, where pressing harder means going faster or hitting harder. I might sprain my fingers playing L4D though...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 08, 2009 @07:15PM (#29687269)

    PS2 controllers had this functionality for years, but to my memory only really Metal Gear Solid made full use of it. Maybe this keyboard is more attuned or something, but I'm skeptical that people will make use of the technology.

  • by Simonetta (207550) on Friday October 09, 2009 @11:48AM (#29694025)

    The most obvious ap for a pressure sensitive keyboard is for music and MIDI input. Because the standard PC/PS2 keyboard encodes both key-press and key-release as separate events (distinct scan-code sequences sent from the kbd to the PC), the PS2 makes a good *CHEAP* MIDI tone module input device.

        Each key is mapped to a MIDI note or a MIDI parameter. Key press sounds the note and key release turns the note off. Any $1 microcontroller can be programmed to act as an interface. It's not a 'real' piano-type keyboard, but it doesn't cost $120 either.

        The major disadvantages of using a PS2 keyboard as a MIDI input are three:
        - Not every combination of keypresses produces corresponding polyphonic chords. Every manufacturers PS2 keyboard has 'dead' combinations of keys due to the internal row/column matrix.
        - The keys are too small and are not linear. Nevertheless, accordion players learn to get around this problem.
        - There is no MIDI velocity. There is no way to affect the sound's volume or tonality by varying how hard the PS2 keys are pressed. MIDI piano keyboards measure the time between a key's leaving the top position and its reaching the bottom of its movement. This becomes the Note Velocity value and is a programmable parameter of the note's sound, usually volume.

        A pressure-sensitive keyboard would solve problems 1 and 3 above. It would be most welcome in the DIY MIDI community, IF it were both CHEAP and easy-to-program. By cheap, I mean less than $20 US and easy-to-program means that additional pressure parameter follow the same hardware quasi-SPI electronic waveforms as the current PS2 format and not be dependent on internal Windows APIs for its implementation. And, I almost forgot, the new keyboard must be absolutely low-powered. If it consumed more than 2-3 milliamps, then it would be worthless. Current HPs and Dell PS2 keyboards consume between 1 and 2 milliamps at +5 volts, while the 1995-2000 era Microsoft split-keyboard actually consumed about 80 milliamps or more. Which made them worthless for battery-powered off-PC applications.

        If a pressure-sensitive keyboard isn't both cheap, low-powered, and easy-to-program, then it is just another stupid useless expensive toy keyboard destined to be stacked up in the back of Weird Stuff Warehouse six months after its grand release.

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