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Input Devices Hardware Hacking

Microsoft Hardware Demos Pressure-Sensitive Keyboard 212

Krystalo writes to tell us that Microsoft hardware has an interesting demo of a pressure-sensitive keyboard they have designed. While there are no currently announced plans to turn this into a shipping product, there are many cool uses that one could imagine a device like this providing. "The device will be put to use in the first annual Student Innovation Contest in Victoria, Canada, where contestants will be supplied with a keyboard prototype and challenged with developing new interactions for it. Contestants will demo their creations and attendees will vote for their favorite at the conference on October 5. $2,000 prizes will be given to the authors of programs deemed as the most useful, the best implementation, and the most innovative."
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Microsoft Hardware Demos Pressure-Sensitive Keyboard

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  • by Bobfrankly1 ( 1043848 ) on Friday August 07, 2009 @04:48PM (#28990661)

    Yeah, I know they meant it distinguishes between a light hit and a hard hit.

    They really need a better name.

    Perhaps simply calling it "Variable Pressure Keyboard"

    Velocity Sensitive is commonly used in the music industry in describing a keyboards that react to pressure. That work for ya?

  • by infolation ( 840436 ) on Friday August 07, 2009 @05:12PM (#28991009)
    The parallels with synthesiser keyboard technology are quite interesting. The video in the article talks about using the force the key's hit with to determine whether a key was pressed in error. Soft key hits are likely to be unintentional 'glancing blows'. This is also the classic problem with non-touch sensitive synth keyboards - they suddenly make adept pianists appear to be clumsy morons because every glancing key hit produces a 'wrong note'.

    However, in synth terminology, keyboards are distinguished as 'velocity sensitive' (how fast the key is initially hit, like a piano) and 'pressure sensitive' (how hard the key is pressed after the initial strike, like a clavichord pitch-bending a note, sometimes called 'polyphonic aftertouch'). The microsoft keyboard is both velocity and pressure sensitive, with multiple simultaneous channels of pressure sensitivity. The pressure aftertouch has some interesting applications in creative software, where artists have to input several layers or dimensions of data simultaneously. (My field is film post-production so I'm specifically thinking about 3-D). This is currently implemented in most software using a messy combination of simultaneously mouse and modifier keys. But using pressure sensitive keys would accommodate several other simultaneous continuously-variable 'dimensions' of data input.
  • Re:Ummm... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anachragnome ( 1008495 ) on Friday August 07, 2009 @05:23PM (#28991105)

    If "Contests" like this were actually trying to encourage rewarding students for the innovations (as opposed to simply exploiting them), why not give them a slice of the pie, say...5% of the profits generated?

    I have YET to see a single "contest" that offered such a reward.

    And while I'm on the subject, have you ever noticed that even the losers give up IP rights, so that if the student improves on the idea after the fact, it still belongs to the company sponsoring the "contest", with NO rewards at all? One more aspect that points to the real motives of the sponsors.

  • by 93 Escort Wagon ( 326346 ) on Friday August 07, 2009 @05:51PM (#28991331)

    Velocity Sensitive is commonly used in the music industry in describing a keyboards that react to pressure. That work for ya?

    It'd take a bit more work to implement this; but I bet there'd be a small market (centered around Redmond, WA) for Velocity Sensitive Chairs.

  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Friday August 07, 2009 @06:30PM (#28991649) Journal
    You'd really need a fairly broadly adopted standard for that to work out. Chorded keyboards [] are crazy powerful, especially per unit area/number of keys; but they find only the most specialist applications and users because they have a nontrivial learning curve, and are quite obscure.

    Unless you wanted to confine yourself to only the most trivial of substitutions, you'd need broad adoption to motivate people to put in the effort of learning the new system. Even systems that merely involve software remapping of normal keyboards have had a hard life. Nobody who isn't a court reporter or something would bother to put in the time to learn a system that would tie them to a particular obscure hardware brand.

    I'd like to see it, more expressive and powerful input devices are always a good thing; but the history doesn't leave me hopeful. The world is, and has been for a while, full of extremely powerful input systems for specialist users, court reporters, stenographers, musicians, etc. With the exception of the basic piano-style keyboard, those powerful, but initially opaque, interfaces have remained niche and expensive compared to your basic, boring 144 key keyboard, T9 for cellphones, and some fairly simple touchscreen stuff.
  • by Khashishi ( 775369 ) on Friday August 07, 2009 @06:38PM (#28991697) Journal

    No, velocity sensitivity doesn't react to pressure, but how fast you strike the key. The term you are looking for is aftertouch.

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