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Microsoft Education Input Devices

Microsoft's Adaptive Touchscreen Keyboard 77

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the get-some-research-on dept.
ramandeeps noted a Microsoft research project on an adaptive keyboard that is essentially a touchscreen that updates to make it easier to keep complex keybindings to a minimum. This is part of the 2010 Student Innovation Contest, so if you want one and happen to be a student, you can sign up to do research on the device.

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Microsoft's Adaptive Touchscreen Keyboard

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  • Seen before ... (Score:1, Informative)

    by Misagon (1135)

    Haven't we seen this before?

    I'm not only referring to having seen this kind of technology in a keyboard [artlebedev.com] before.

    I am also asking, have we not seen before, time and time again, Microsoft copying someone else's technology and claiming it to be their own major exclusive new super-invention? ...

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Did they claim that it's "their own major exclusive new super-invention"?

      More like "this is what we research on right now, and we have some spare parts, want to take a look?"

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Rockoon (1252108)
      What Microsoft claims are you talking about?

      Microsofts involvement here is simply that they provided hardware and some funding. The UIST is an initiative of the ACM.
    • Re:Seen before ... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 16, 2010 @11:11AM (#33263890)

      Yes, this is similar except the Optimus keyboard's keys each contain a small OLED. Microsoft uses a full display under a transparent keyboard. So, while not quite unique in nature it should be much cheaper and easily manufactured than the Optimus.

      Again, this is only MS Research so chances are like most projects, consumers will not see it.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by counterplex (765033)
        So kind of like the optimus tactus? http://www.artlebedev.com/everything/optimus-tactus/ [artlebedev.com]
        • by Coren22 (1625475)

          I want one...unfortunately still just a concept.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by wed128 (722152)

          Kind of like that, except with transparent mechanical keys sitting on top.

        • by bagsta (1562275)
          I find it very impressive, but as I can see it's a concept ... for the time being... But I would like to see in production...
        • by Amouth (879122)
          not really.. the MS one has an actually keyboard (moving keys) that one is nothing but a big touch screen.
        • by mrjb (547783)
          When it remains a keyboard that looks like a keyboard, except it can change between character sets, there's not that much functionality gained.

          The optimus tactus shows the keyboard playing back video- which IMO, although cool, misses the point. A keyboard is, after all, an *input* device!

          But there are situations in which an adaptive touchscreen keyboard could have serious uses. In medical environments (a smooth, easy-clean surface is less likely to pass on germs); in audio (showing faders on the keyb
        • by owlstead (636356)

          Yes, but this one seems to be easy to manufacture. The biggest manufacturing problem with the keyboard is probably the protection of the screen underneath, and the focus on the keys itself. Obviously, it would have been better looking if they used the Apple style kind of keys instead of the normal large black ones found on most other keyboards. But other than that, this seems to be a cheap touch sensitive LCD with a keyboard on top.

          As for the use, I am not sure that a normal (widescreen) LCD is the way to g

      • by Kalidor (94097)

        Here I was hoping this is a production ready next step to what the Fingerwork's touchstream should have been in it's next iteration. I can only hope this will come to pass as there has only been backwards movement on that technology since the company was bought out.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Posted anonymously to avoid... I dunno, getting fired or something. (Actually, I doubt its a problem to say I've used these before, but better safe than sorry ...)

      I've seen these a few times, and they're really nothing like the OLED-based keyboards. They type far more nicely, they are vastly cheaper to produce, and add a bunch of other capabilities I won't risk getting into, just not knowing what is public and not ...

      But suffice it to say, its nothing like the various keyboard designs with a screen per key.

      • by cgenman (325138)

        I touch type without looking at the keys. Further, with my hands over the keyboard I can see maybe 1/4th of the available keys. Can you comment on how variable key labels might still be useful? Or is this the sort of thing that is useful primarily for new users?

        • by 5865 (104259)

          Might be useful for shortcut keys like when you're using Photoshop or Illustrator.

          The available hotkeys change contexts when you press ctrl/shift/alt and also on where the focus is on, what mode you're in, etc.

          You can even have the entire toolbox on the keyboard so you can have extra horizontal space on the screen (a bit meh to be frank since it's vertical space we're more likely to be wanting especially since the 1080 HD scourge).

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Rockoon (1252108)
          It makes for a self-documenting keyboard interface, as is shown in the video where the guy hits the Windows Key (it could have been ALT, CTRL, or CTRL-SHIFT, etc..) and all the keys but those tied to commands go dark, and the ones tied to commands label themselves with what the command available actually is.

          Looks like the future to me.
        • Do you switch between Latin-1 and Cyrillic or Japanese? Do you play any games that bind actions to the keyboard in a non mnemonic way? On the other hand, touch typing "Quake" probably isn't that difficult to learn.

    • Who did Microsoft steal Kinect from?

    • by gilesjuk (604902)

      Prior art indeed. But as usual Microsoft will bring it to the masses at a cheaper price but lower quality.

  • Enter By Tomorrow (Score:5, Informative)

    by andrewd18 (989408) on Monday August 16, 2010 @11:06AM (#33263834)
    From the contest website:

    The goal of the contest is to develop new interactions on unique hardware that you cannot get anywhere else. We supply you with the special hardware and you show us how innovative you can be with it. ... To reserve a place in the contest and to receive an Adaptive keyboard for development, contestants must submit an entry email to the contest chair no later than August 17th, 2010.

    You also have to return the keyboard by October, so it's not yours forever. http://www.acm.org/uist/uist2010/Student_Contest.html [acm.org]

  • by Arrepiadd (688829) on Monday August 16, 2010 @11:07AM (#33263842)
    So when you press Ctrl+Alt the entire keyboard suddenly changes into a big "Delete"?
  • Explain to me how this is gonna make my Vi editor sessions more productive, and I'll be ready to listen. It seems to me that an adaptive keyboard is a crutch for people who don't want to learn a product well enough to be good at it. I fail to see how having buttons that change with context is really much better than being able to chose the same context with a mouse. Unless you reach that zen level where you stop thinking "Copy the line...press YY..." to just doing it without thinking, then there's not mu
    • Re:Meh. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by IndustrialComplex (975015) on Monday August 16, 2010 @11:46AM (#33264288)

      It seems to me that an adaptive keyboard is a crutch for people who don't want to learn a product well enough to be good at it. I fail to see how having buttons that change with context is really much better than being able to chose the same context with a mouse.

      Well I think I know who wouldn't win this competition. ;)

      If you fail to see how an adaptive interface can be useful, I would point you to successes which are currently in-use. The iPhone, Logitech's high-end remotes, etc. Now the trick with these, is that their interface doubles as their primary screen, so the big thing here is why/how is this going to be better than mouse/screen (as you rightfully brought up).

      But isn't that the point of this competition? We don't know an immediate way this can be implemented to be better, but it isn't impossible that something interesting and useful could come up.

      The obvious example is gaming. Yes I know, you can have all your information up there on your HUD, but couldn't that be a bit distracting or non-immersive? I know when I play paintball I don't have an overlay telling me how tired I am, how many balls are in my hopper, what my gas pressure is. At least for the latter two, I'd have to look down to check it. It opens up the possibility to make the main screen a pure display, and move the status and interface elements elsewhere and accessible, but not gone.

      It wouldn't ALWAYS be the best thing to do, but sometimes it might be, and when it is, it would be possible.

      One application which I would LOVE to have context aware menus/toolbars/interfaces shifted OFF of my screen is for applications like Excel or other cases where screen space is more important to me than having an always present but not always used tools surrounding my workarea.

      Web browsing could be another interesting aspect as I currently use only 5/8ths of my keyboard for typing. Having the remaining 3/8ths turn into large, but useful buttons (Forward, Back, Stop, Refresh).

      And one aspect where I would KILL for a device like this?

      Home Theater & entertainment. Think about how nice it would be to have a keyboard which could display a whole set of commands for controlling your movies/music without having to take down the visualization, or walk to a position where you can see the screen then manipulate a mouse, select what you want, etc. Everything could be right there on your keyboard and tailored just for your application.

      Of course, I don't have to wonder about that last part, since I currently use an old iPhone as a device to control my computer when I'm listening to music/watching movies/etc. Hitting a button and having it shift from a remote control for my cable box, and turn into a small but useful keyboard/mouse has been great.

      I'd love to enter this competition, if I had known about it earlier (and was still a student).

      • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        The advantage of an adaptive keyboard would primarily be:

        Smaller size (you can change the keys themselves based on context so you need fewer actual keys to get the same functionality
        Brauder language support (make it easier to type charcters that aren't part of your native language but have those keys go away when you aren't using them)

        However if you could combine this with something like Apple's multi-touch trackpad you could have a dock/task bar, a small number of keys (say 4 lines worth) to provide the ta

    • Explain to me how this is gonna make my Vi editor sessions more productive

      You'll need to write the kernel driver first, and you'll probably need to write some applications. Hopefully, the long hours of coding will inspire a use for it.

      Perhaps you could try your hand at some APL?

    • Well you're right that this isn't useful with respect to applications you master. But, the fact is that we're all novices with respect to the software we don't use all the time. And we all interact with a lot of software day-to-day that we shouldn't really need to become experts in.

      To give a random example, I was doing video editing awhile back. I'm not a professional video editor, nor is video editing really a hobby of mine. But I needed to do some fairly involved editing as a one-time thing. I was obvi
    • by Belial6 (794905)
      It is going to be useful in the EXACT same way that a keyboard with letters printed on it is useful. Certainly, anyone willing to learn would learn a product well enough to be good at it, will just learn where all the letters are on the keyboard without them being printed. Ok, that was a little snarky, but it is still true. Printing on keyboards is there for those that are not typing by muscle memory. While you will not be better with Vi, I might give Vi a chance if I don't have to have a manual next to
    • by blincoln (592401)

      Explain to me how this is gonna make my Vi editor sessions more productive, and I'll be ready to listen.

      It probably wouldn't make your vi sessions more productive, but it might make vi accessible enough for people like me to use it. I hate vi and emacs and have for literally decades because their UI is intentionally non-accessible. I shouldn't need a printout with instructions to use a text editor. That's why I've always used pico/nano on Unix and Linux.

    • by Snowmit (704081)

      By your hilarious logic, keyboards should come completely unlabelled, because any labelling is just a crutch for people who are too lazy to learn to touch-type.

      There are tonnes of applications for a self documenting input device, the least of which is preventing needless staring at a manual while you learn a new program's interface.

      The important point though is that this is an innovation contest. Thousands of students will spend more time thinking about this than you did before dismissing it and it's highl

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      Explain to me how this is gonna make my Vi editor sessions more productive, and I'll be ready to listen.

      When you hit Escape, the various keys that don't mean anything are greyed out, and the ones that do are labeled with their function. If you're not looking at them, it won't affect you at all. If you forget what key you wanted to press next, you can simply move your hands and look down. If you're using an unfamiliar application, the benefit is obviously magnified.

      It seems to me that an adaptive keyboard is a crutch for people who don't want to learn a product well enough to be good at it.

      It's also a crutch which can support you until you learn it well enough to be good at it, or in cases where you don't have time to be good at it.

      P.

  • This is weird. If this is just a keyboard, and I should be focusing my attention on a monitor, then all the eye candy on the keyboard is really a fail. Switching keyboards on the fly is pretty cool, but then the upper screen should be chopped off and the keyboard made smaller.

    BUT if there is no monitor, then I have 3/4 of a touchpad devoted to a keyboard, and I can't see a lot of my work above.

    Even the Timex Sinclair had a better viewing area: typing area ratio. The keyboard takes two tasks and makes them

    • by JustinOpinion (1246824) on Monday August 16, 2010 @12:47PM (#33265066)
      One use for that display area is for ambient data. There are things like the "ambient orb" that display the status of, say, the stock market using the color of the orb (you can buy the official ambient orb [ambientdevices.com] at a ridiculous price or build your own using some LEDs and an Arduino [google.com]...). It turns out that these kinds of peripheral information systems work quite well. You don't really ever look at them, but you're sufficiently aware of their status that you can react if something changes.

      There are a bunch of things you could turn into ambient data: stock market, weather predictions, calendar notifications, network traffic, server status, build status (some people hook them up to automatic test suites, so that a broken codebase is immediately apparent), and so on. The idea is to give the user information without demanding their focus/attention. It works quite well.
  • So by looking on the keyboard instead of the screen I now somehow get a productivity increase? How? Isn't the hand in the way somehow? Also, how do I know what I did? Do I have to watch up and down all the time?

    Also, I can think it's horribly painful after a while to watch 30 degrees down all the time on your neck.

    I think this could be fun for a 5 year old though.

  • No more trouble finding the any key... it will just turn into one which you can slam with your head.

  • by masdog (794316)
    Please tell me that I'm not the only person who thought about LCARS [wikipedia.org] from Star Trek when watching the video. I can see that sort of utility in an industrial environment where your input device changes based on the screen your viewing.
  • The only advantage a keyboard has is that you can use it by feel. This keyboard constantly changes based on context and you have to keep looking at it to see what mode it's in and what options you have. You look at the keyboard, you press a button. Something changes on the screen, you look at the screen. Then you look at the buttons again. Then you press another button. Then you look at the screen again... It's horrible UI design, not to mention ergonomics. If you're going to have a fancy dynamic in

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Jeremy Erwin (2054)

      The whole point of the contest is to find a use for the keyboard. Perhaps you're not cut out for this sort of competition.

    • Re: (Score:1, Troll)

      It's likely to cost much more than a real keyboard,

      Be slower than a real keyboard,

      Cannot be touchtyped (no feedback)

      So all the downsides of a touchscreen interface with none of the advantages ....

      The Optimus keyboard had the right idea - real keyboard with reconfigurable labels ,,,,

    • by blincoln (592401)

      You look at the keyboard, you press a button. Something changes on the screen, you look at the screen. Then you look at the buttons again. Then you press another button. Then you look at the screen again... It's horrible UI design, not to mention ergonomics.

      Meanwhile, back in the traditional keyboard world, when someone is learning a new application, they look at the manual, then look at the keyboard, and press a button. Something changes on the screen, and they look at the manual, then the screen, then the

  • Are there a lot of (work?) places where everybody speaks a different language, but nobody speaks a common one?

    That's about the only place I would see any real usefulness...

  • by Anonymous Coward

    The optimus was a really cool concept but no one bought them because it was so expensive to a have a separate OLED per key! Also, the design led to some very hard keys that were not great for typing. This project allows for the same kind of customization and dynamic features that the optimus offered at what I can only guess as a fraction of the cost.

  • They'll patent this "innovation" out the wazoo, balls up their own implementation, and then in five years sue Apple when they steal a ten year old Japanese implementation of it. Lawyerzoid, I choose you!
  • FTFA:
    http://www.acm.org/uist/uist2010/Student_Contest.html [acm.org]
    The current requirements for running the keyboard are below:
    1. A computer running Windows Vista or Windows 7. 32-bit only.


    So you're required to be nerdy enough to want to enter this this contest and create a demo of your idea, but noob enough to still be running 32-bit? Half of Windows 7 PCs run the 64-bit version [neowin.net]

    "To reserve a place in the contest and to receive an Adaptive keyboard for development, contestants must submit an entry email
    • So you're required to be nerdy enough to want to enter this this contest and create a demo of your idea, but noob enough to still be running 32-bit?

      If you are running Windows, you're not a true nerd anyway. :-)

      "To reserve a place in the contest and to receive an Adaptive keyboard for development, contestants must submit an entry email to the contest chair no later than August 17th, 2010."

      Not much notice /.!

      Slashdot readers are expected to be able to invent and code something innovative in a single night. ;-

      • by Omestes (471991)

        If you are running Windows, you're not a true nerd anyway. :-)

        I'd say that your not a true nerd if your running any single OS. Granted, in a OS monoculture Windows might be the least nerdy (though OS X might be, depending on how you look at it), but a true nerd should be playing the field, using the strengths of each OS.

        I have an OS X media box, a Windows gaming rig, and an Ubuntu (for now, trying to find the time to find a better distro) work horse laptop.

        To make this even sillier (it is an OS pissing con

  • Jeez. They're actually having a contest to try and find something useful to do with this thing.

    It's really true: once institutions gets big enough all they can manage are incremental improvements. Game changing breakthroughs, should they accidently arise internally, are actively put down by beneficiaries of the status quo.

    Why not work toward solving a known problem like, say, the miserable state of mobile input technology. The main reason you can't do as much on a smart phone as you can on a desktop comput

  • by PhreakinPenguin (454482) on Monday August 16, 2010 @02:30PM (#33266352) Homepage Journal
    Somehow I think if this were released by someone more open source friendly, everyone here would be basking in how awesome it is. But since it's put out my Microsoft, everyone shits all over it. Way to never let me down Slashdot.
    • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Somehow I think if this were released by someone more open source friendly, everyone here would be basking in how awesome it is. But since it's put out my Microsoft, everyone shits all over it. Way to never let me down Slashdot.

      Hm. Where's your evidence for Slashdot attacking this Microsoft research idea? I do agree that if you surf at -1, you'll see plenty of rapidbly anti-Microsoft statements, and comments amounting to "this is stupid". But that's true if you look at the comments to any Slashdot story. (A story about FOSS with have plenty of "Open source sucks!" comments.)

      A better representation of what Slashdot considers credible is the highly-rated comments. As of right now (2:50 pm EST), there are 8 comments with a score o

  • You know how stupid Buck Rogers looked to you when you were a kid? That's how stupid Star Wars looks to your kids.

  • Is this contest what I think it is? A way to come up with ideas about how to market this hardware?

    Now, don't get me wrong, I don't diss this keyboard just because it's from MS. I am using Microsoft Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000 v.1, because it has a nice curve up, I type faster with it for real, the insert/home/page up are in one row and under those there are the delete/end/page down and the arrows are correctly underneath that, up is on top, and the three other arrows are in one correct row. Why is all

  • Way to re-invent a 20+ year old interpretation of (off the top of my head for the MTV generation):
    A: The desk keyboard in Tron
    B: The LCARS interface from Star Trek.

    I must go back to a very old quote:
    "There is noting more amusing then some young kid discovering something old, thinking it's new...."

  • A correct link for the article above is here [microsoft.com].
    • Ignore that, it seems to be a problem with Microsoft's site not actually fetching the page requested every so often. Sorry for the confusion. (Also, yes I notice it's the same link now haha)
  • As others have pointed out, this isn't so great for productivity, since you must now change your gaze between screens all the time. However, as a tool to help you learn keyboard shortcuts, it's pretty nice.

    The productivity tool that might be interesting is a keyboard where, when you hit a special key, converts all the keytops into a large touchpad of sorts for moving the cursor.

    But really, what apps need most is just a truly well thought out keyboard interface. Most developers either rely too much on WIMP

  • I have a Windows developer friend (we all have one), and every now and then he'll come up with some hair brained tweet/email, "see, look at the cool stuff Microsoft is doing!" I got glowing reviews of the Zune, Vista, that Songsmith thing, Surface....and now THIS keyboard... He also informs me the new Internet Explorer is going to "kick ass!" and Windows Phone 7 is "amazing"...

    Meanwhile, after spending who knows what into crap like the Zune, Surface and now THIS, why is none of it made into something S

He keeps differentiating, flying off on a tangent.

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