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Input Devices Displays

What Will Replace Computer Keyboards? (xconomy.com) 302

jeffengel writes:Computer keyboards will be phased out over the next 20 years, and we should think carefully about what replaces them as the dominant mode of communicating with machines, argues Android co-founder Rich Miner. Virtual reality technology and brain-computer links -- whose advocates include Elon Musk -- could lead to a "dystopian" future where people live their lives inside of goggles, or they jack directly into computers and become completely "de-personalized," Miner worries.

He takes a more "humanistic" view of the future of human-machine interfaces, one that frees us to be more expressive and requires computers to communicate on our level, not the other way around. That means software that can understand our speech, facial expressions, gestures, and handwriting. These technologies already exist, but have a lot of room for improvement.

One example he gives is holding up your hand to pause a video.
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What Will Replace Computer Keyboards?

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    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 14, 2017 @11:13PM (#55370973)

      Exactly. Answer: probably nothing. What is millennial Silicon Valley's obsession with 'replacing' things? I'm sorry all of the good concepts were already taken when you were born and all you get are incremental improvements, but 'disruption' for its own sake quickly becomes arrogance quickly becomes supremely annoying quickly becomes a dead end. The best sci-fi and speculative fiction was about solving problems that actually existed at the time, and not about manufacturing them.

  • It is actually quite obvious: A combination of eye tracking, voice, motion capture, and predictive AI.

    • by DontBeAMoran ( 4843879 ) on Saturday October 14, 2017 @04:50PM (#55369735)

      Wow, you are totally wrong.

      It is actually extremely obvious: A combination of ears tracking, sneezing, chicken dance capture and subjugated pattern-matching subroutines.

    • Re:All the above (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Tuidjy ( 321055 ) on Saturday October 14, 2017 @05:21PM (#55369891)

      Don't these morons get tired? I have been hearing this since the fucking Eighties. If it is not one thing, it's another.

      Nothing will make the keyboard obsolete. NOTHING.

      It may become much less common it is now, but it will always remain the tool of choice of the person who needs precise control, versatility with a minimum of physical effort. Its looks may change, but as long as we have blocks of keys on a flat(ish) surface, we will have keyboards, and they will be better than the more user friendly, casual, etc. input devices.

      I do not want my every twitch interpreted. I do not want my mind read and immediately obeyed. I do not want to have to say five words to specify a less common symbol. I do not want my eyes tracked when lives may depend on a false positive... or even a few dozen dollars.

      There is a time and a place for alternatives. But obsolete? Gone and forgotten? Anyone who says that is either ignorant, or trying to provoke a reaction.


      I just spent 30 seconds trying (and failing) to locate an alternative that was being pushed in France in the 80s. It looked like two modern gaming mice, with a ton of buttons that were easy to access without moving your fingers too much. You could create a lot of different inputs with button combinations. I wasted a few days getting better at the contraption than anyone I knew. My father saw me, and asked me to spent eight hours getting better at using a keyboard. Guess what turned out to be faster, more accurate, and not noticeably more tiring?

      • by mark-t ( 151149 )

        I do not want my mind read and immediately obeyed.

        If you didn't want it, then why would it obey it? Or are you supposing that what you want isn't part of your mindset?

        • by Tuidjy ( 321055 )

          Do you immediately act on all your desires?

          I do not know about you, but I often think that something may be a good idea, and then reconsider. Or sometimes, I get startled, and my first reflex is quite unsuitable for modern society. Or sometimes, I get upset with somebody, but force myself to wait until some time has passed, and I will not be the prime suspect.

          You must be one of the wisest, most coldly rational, and most self-controlled individuals on the planet. Sure, for you and your kind, direct mind c

          • by mark-t ( 151149 )

            Do you immediately act on all your desires?

            No... but why would you think a computer that could read your mind would do so? The very same so-called "filters" that you use to stop yourself from saying or doing every little thing you happen to think about could, at least in theory, also be used by a computer that can so evaluate a person's mental state to limit the data that a computer would accept from you as input.

            Not to mention it would be a boon for people with disabilities who cannot communicate any o

      • Keyboards will be replaced, but whatever they'll be replaced with hasn't been invented yet.

        No touchscreen nor speakwrite has either the accuracy nor bandwidth of an actual keyboard. Likewise on phones: popular input methods are fit at most for a status update on this week's MySpace replacement (I lost track of what's in fashion today), while N900 or hopefully Gemini [indiegogo.com] are fit for a multi-hour hacking session. Try writing C or Perl code on a modern "smart"phone, go ahead.

        • Re:All the above (Score:4, Insightful)

          by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Saturday October 14, 2017 @06:53PM (#55370239) Journal
          It seems like there are two(for broad simplification purposes, there are definitely more or at least cases that mix elements of both) 'styles' of use; one of which is fairly hard to imagine replacing keyboards in; the other much more amenable(already partially done in some cases).

          There are the tasks that involve relatively precise symbol manipulation. Programming is probably the most extreme case(human readers might be disgusted by your spelling, grammer, and atrocious taste in formatting; but they are likely to understand what you meant than the compiler or interpreter is); spreadsheet data munging, word processing, and the like are the other big ones. You can substitute something for a keyboard in these cases; but it is generally pretty clunky and you really need a reason to bother. Speech-to-text, say, works; and can be a valuable assistive technology for those who can't type for one reason or another; but it isn't actually all that impressive compared to typing if you have the option of either(both because it is somewhat error prone; because some operations have extremely terse expressions on the keyboard "move right one cell" is expressed with one touch of an arrow key, which is far faster than saying it, and certainly at least as fast as even a specially defined codeword of some sort; and because people, without substantial practice, aren't terribly good at speaking the way they want to write; pauses, 'umm', etc.)

          Then there are tasks that can be done by manipulating symbols; but are really about snapping together some primitives the system is already familiar with in one of a reasonably limited number of ways according to what is basically a template provided by the system. Creating a calendar event or starting a phone call are probably reasonably good examples: For a calendar event; you are snapping together one or more items from your contacts(if it's a 'reminder', it just contains you; if it's a meeting or something, it will have additional participants), a date/time, and a location(sometimes just a human-readable description intended for the participants, in company settings often a conference room or the like that is also a specialized type of contact that is known to the system so that room availability tracking works). Placing a phone call is an even simpler case: you are specifying a contact and a known operation to perform against that contact(and possibly an additional detail if the contact has a work, home, and mobile number or the like, in which case the command has to be 'call X at work').

          This set of tasks is inherently somewhat limited, because (barring markedly more expert expert systems than we yet enjoy) you can really only perform them if the system already has a template defined; but many of the common cases are really, really common; so it isn't prohibitive to enumerate and support those cases; which reduces the ambiguity involved and makes it easier for a relatively imperfect input mechanism to assemble the correct answer (or at least recognize that it needs to ask you to repeat yourself) because the context automatically excludes the vast majority of possible inputs.

          If your plan involves a grim future where computers are basically just for scheduling meetings and asking Alexa to buy things; it becomes much easier to imagine replacing the keyboard; but that is much less about improvements in speech to text or other new input mechanisms than it is about defining down the list of possible activities until you no longer need precision, general purpose input, or other things your alternative input mechanism is bad at.
      • by msauve ( 701917 )
        "Nothing will make the keyboard obsolete. NOTHING."

        Millennials might. Perhaps you haven't noticed - look for instructions on something, and rather than low bandwidth, high content text, you'll more often find Youtube videos which are high bandwidth, low content. A picture is worth a thousand words, my ass. A thousand words is worth 1000 kilobytes of video.
      • There might be more enthusiasm for getting rid of keyboards in places that don't use languages built around small alphabets, since they have always relied on a (sometimes fairly dodgy) software layer munging their input into characters; but for anyone using latin, cyrillic, or similarly-sized alphabets, the ability to provide the entire alphabet plus numbers and a bunch of common symbols with just two hands and one modifier key(if you want to do it with one hand, the modifiers get a little more complex, tho
      • You're referring to some sort of chorded keyboard:

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

    • by elrous0 ( 869638 )

      Skynet won't need keyboards.

  • Spoons (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward

    clearly the answer is right in front of us, spoons will replace them!!

  • Nothing (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 14, 2017 @04:39PM (#55369661)

    What a stupid question.

  • by mfh ( 56 )

    Nobody better touch my corsair k95 mechanical keyboard. :)

    The G-keys up the side are so good for binding keys for any games or productivity and it's mechanical so that's awesome too.

    I'm on the fence about interfaces that watch your hand movements. They seem like they would be prone to repeat stress injuries far worse than mouse & keys. Still waiting to see what people come up with. Perhaps a kind of malleable putty that lets you bind your own commands in it to whatever shapes or keys you come up with?

    • Yep, I agree. I'm typing this on an IBM 122 key Model F made in 1985. More than eight pounds of clicky goodness.

      • Color me jealous. I had a clicky keyboard (not the Model F) on my Christmas list.

        • The old terminal keyboards can often be found pretty cheap because they won't work on modern computers. If you search for "Soarer's converter" you'll find info on a converter which can be made for easily under $25 and will bring these old terminal keyboards like mine into the 21st Century with USB communication and full programmability.

          • Interesting!

            What does "full programmability" mean? I ask because I use a keyboard remapper written in C that "hooks" the Windows input, so it maps things like J to , and does so for every program (even command-line based programs, like the Win10 Linux terminal). So far it's worked with every version of Windows since (IIRC) 3.1, but I fear some day it's going to stop working. (And indeed it doesn't work with Edge, although I fortunately don't use Edge.) And I've never been able to get something similar w

            • In the keyboard world the "states" you refer to are called layers. There are programmable keyboards, which allow you to move things around which are already on the keyboard, and fully programmable keyboards which allow you to not only rearrange the layout but also add keys/functions which aren't in the original layout. Soarer's also allows - I can't remember how many - layers. So you can have, for example, a qwerty keyboard and press a key or combo of keys and switch to a layer programmed with a dvorak layo

  • No, not really. There are times when we want to talk to people. There are times when we want to text them. There are times when we will need to write them a letter. The point is I don't always want to say something out loud. I won't want to speak to my computer. So, short of gaining the ability to read my mind, I am going to need to enter commands or data in some other non-verbal fashion. Let me know what you think that non-verbal keyboard replacement might be.
    • I know in Star Trek: The Next Generation era they had touch screen everything... However even towards the end of the series and supplement shows they seem to go further back to physical buttons. There isn't any real replacement for a physical button, that is well designed for its purpose. The problem is for the past 25 years, computers have been given cheap old keyboards, while functional fail to give the joy of typing. While I enjoy a good mechanical keyboard, I find good quality membrane keyboards also

      • by Megol ( 3135005 )

        A bad keyboard is still better than a touchscreen for almost any use. Well, finger-painting is better with the touchscreen.

    • by mark-t ( 151149 )

      So, short of gaining the ability to read my mind...

      And why do you suppose this would be forever technologically impossible?

  • Leela, knocking on bathroom door: "Bender..... are you jacking on in there?"

  • Probably nothing (Score:4, Insightful)

    by sconeu ( 64226 ) on Saturday October 14, 2017 @04:43PM (#55369687) Homepage Journal

    It depends on the job, but in general, I'd say nothing.

    Voice requires insane amounts of processing power compared to a keyboard, is lower bandwidth, and is difficult to use, except for normal words.

    Try reading some C (or your language of choice -- except maybe Ada) out loud and see what you'd have to do to get the voice parser to recognize stuff as characters not words.

    As to my bandwidth argument, a trained typist can easily type 60 characters per second (60 wpm), or better, whereas voice is much slower.

    Not to mention the noise factor in an office, when someone would be using speech.

    • by bogaboga ( 793279 ) on Saturday October 14, 2017 @04:48PM (#55369713)

      What Will Replace Computer Keyboards?

      Question is: Do they *need* to be replaced? If so, why?

      • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

        I used to be able to type really fast and accurately until my arthritis got worse. So as much as I actually love typing, something that isn't affected by arthritis would be nice.

        I'm sure most people who can't type particularly fast would like something new too.

      • They are old, therefore they are bad and must be replaced, even though all the alternatives are worse. See also: headphone jack.

    • Your logic is ok, your math is bad. Sixty wpm is more like 60*7 (word average) = 420 chars per *minute*. I've never heard of anyone who can type sixty characters per second.

      But what your writing about is transcription, not writing what you're thinking as you go. Typing is actually pretty bad for that as your speech doesn't form grammatically correct (just witness all the bad sentences spoken aloud by anyone not reading notes - and even those that are).

      Yes, I can type faster than I can talk normally
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      As to my bandwidth argument, a trained typist can easily type 60 characters per second (60 wpm), or better, whereas voice is much slower.

      60 words per minute or about five or six* keystrokes per second, not 60, is what the stereotypical self-taught nerd manages. That includes me: I can do a hair better but the main thing is that I can easily type without looking at the keyboard for most keys. This leaves me more room to think and possibly say useful things. A trained touch-typist should be able to do quite a bit more than that, 120-ish WPM over long stretches. Of course, that training was a little more common in the typewriter era.

      Many many o

    • by mhkohne ( 3854 )

      Ohh. If noise is a problem, we could use this to get offices.

    • Try reading some C (or your language of choice -- except maybe Ada) out loud and see what you'd have to do to get the voice parser to recognize stuff as characters not words.
      You read it out like what it means, not as single characters.

      char* strcpy(char* dest, char* src) {
      *dest++ = *src++;

      Function returning a pointer to char, named 'strcpy', two arguments: a pointer to char called dest, a pointer to char called src.
      Body: dereference 'dest' with post increment becomes dereferenc

      • by Dog-Cow ( 21281 )

        All you've demonstrated is that dictating C sucks. Period.

        • Why?
          In Pascal you would more or less say the same :)
          Unless you program in a very close to natural language (AppleScrip, HyperTalk), dictating a piece of code always sucks.

    • skilled typists are actually 100-120 words per minute or about 15-20 characters per second. average typists like me are 50-70 words per minute, still way faster than anyone can talk or gesture or any other shit.
  • ...cold, dead, fingers, etc.

    The GUI has "completely" replaced the command line in the last 20 years. And, yet, there are still a lot of us (very few proportionally speaking, but a lot in an absolute sense) who use the command line either as a large fraction, or even a primary way, of controlling their computers. Despite the fact that the GUI is easier to just pick up and use, the command line remains more powerful if you're willing to take them time to learn it, and makes it possible to do obscure things.

  • by DontBeAMoran ( 4843879 ) on Saturday October 14, 2017 @04:47PM (#55369705)

    Nothing will replace the computer keyboards that we know and use today.

    What will happens is that computers themselves will be replaced by something else. Are smartphones and tablets "computers"? Yes and no. Are smartwatches "computers"? Yes and no.

    The only things most people count as "computers" are desktops and laptops.

  • keyboards give tactile feedback. They give the ability to enter information quickly and accurately, and they do not require noise to be made (unless you have a Model M), and don't require a computer at the other end to guess what you mean. Whether the presumed successor is a gesture-based method (which the computer will get right...How often?) or the assumption is more comprehensive voice input, it requires a whole lot of computing power to turn these into reliable input and are generally inefficient.


  • If a keyboard has the following characteristics, it is the perfect input device for me:

    - mechanical Switches (blue ones, with click for me)
    - heavy weight
    - rubber feet
    - included usb hub
    - tenkeyless

    This is extremely hard to get. The Keyboard 4C comes close, but the ruler at the bottom is total crap. So I am hoping for a Das Keyboard 4c+, which has just some rubber feet instead of the slippery ruler.
    • Your shout out for the 4C would have worked better if the Das Keyboard 4C Professional web page didn't return "Page not found." for the "Buy Now" button.
  • The wealthy will have brain implants. The very wealthy will have "people" to do that sort of thing.

    • Oddly, that's what some people (bosses, not necessarily very wealthy) used to have, before PCs came along. And having those people (secretaries, usually female) meant the managers at Xerox Parc couldn't see the Xerox Star for what it could have been: a PC before there were PCs. What Important Person (read: themselves) would want to type into a computer, when they already had a secretary to do that?

      At least that's the story I've heard. And there were of course other issues with the Star, like the price.

  • Keyboards require sophisticated language plus motor skills to operate, voice recognition still requires language skills, gesture recognition still requires motor skills.

    So obviously, none of those are candidates for the upcoming brave new world in which humankind will be either pampered or enslaved by machine overlords.

    The only logical successor to current input technology is whatever humans can use without requiring any training/education: Primitive vocal utterances of current emotional state (like cry
  • There will be the consumers who don't need any kind of "advanced" input device. They'll happily just swipe and click wherever they are told to do so... That's essentially being click-cattle.

    Those who actually work with computers already use the keyboard and will most likely use them in the foreseeable future. It's simply a local optimum and probably your only solution when you want to enter complex data and or commands. Just look at the mouse. Despite of it being around for decades now, neither one of the 2

  • Screw you and the very leading question you rode in on. Agenda, anyone?

  • ... and grabbing your crotch to initiate a search for porn!

  • by LynnwoodRooster ( 966895 ) on Saturday October 14, 2017 @04:54PM (#55369765) Journal
    Steve Jobs presenting the MacBook Wheel [youtube.com]. That is the future!
  • There is already a well published proposal [xkcd.com] to eliminate the keyboards.

    The first step in any scientific thesis is the literature survey, as every PhD student knows. Not paying attention work already done will lead to reinventing the wheel and secondary papers confirming the path breaking original paper. Your paper will be counted as a mere citation and the paper will end up as the leaf node in the citation tree. So pay attention it first.

  • Hm... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by xlsior ( 524145 ) on Saturday October 14, 2017 @05:43PM (#55369977) Homepage
    ...There's a reason that PC keyboards are essentially the same today as they were 40 years ago -- THEY WORK, and they work well.

    Speech to text, waving your hands around in the air and other innovations are cute, but all have massive downsides: can't be used in a noisy office, you can't keep waving your hands around in the air for hours on end.
    Keyboards can be used in any environment, and are much less ambiguous than voice control. The same goes for mice -- trackballs, touchscreens, eye tracking, etc. have all been around for many years, all work reliably, yet none of them have any significant market share compared to the mouse.

    I'm sure you can find some alternatives input methods in niche use cases (and for certain devices like mobile phones), but I'd still fully expect my 2040 computer to still be bundled with a boring old keyboard and mouse.
    • by gweihir ( 88907 )

      Indeed. Keyboards will be "phased out" the same as pencils or paper were. Oh, wait, they were not. Because they do work well and they are familiar to any educated person. If it is not broken, do not fix it.

    • 40 years? More like 140... computer keyboards are essentially the same today as typewriter keyboards were more than a century ago. A little tweaking around the periphery; but that's about it.

  • Computer keyboards will be phased out over the next 20 years

    [citation needed]

  • by CptLoRes ( 4510239 ) on Saturday October 14, 2017 @05:52PM (#55370021)
    The core idea seem to be that keyboards will go away the moment when we have 'flawless' speech recognition. But guess what. Speech is a terrible computer interface. It's slow, imprecise and physically taxing to do for long periods of time. Just imagine a room filled with developer, all talking over each other trying to code using speech.
    • Exactly. How long does it take to type:

      for (i=0; i<10; i++) {

      compared to saying

      for, no, the word "for", bracket, I mean open bracket, i equals 0 semi-colon* i less than, I mean less than symbol, oh fuck it

      * look at that, four syllables for a single keypress.

      Keyboards aren't going anywhere for a long time yet.

  • When my 25 year old Cherry Keyboard fails, I buy a new one.

  • This is just another instance of somebody that has nothing worthwhile to say making ridiculous grande claims. Keyboards will be around for the foreseeable future.

  • And I'm supposed to hold up my hand to create this response, or what? And no, I do NOT want to dictate to my computer (nor do the people who live or work around me want me to do that).

  • Computer keyboards will be phased out over the next 20 years

    Oh, will they? Who's declared this? The Elders of the Internet?

    Keyboards aren't going anywhere, certainly not within 20 years.

    • Computer keyboards will be phased out over the next 20 years

      Oh, will they? Who's declared this? The Elders of the Internet?

      I seem to remember someone predicting this in about 1973. Probably around the time I heard we were all getting hoverboards.

  • The total number of people using computers will continue to rise dramatically, so that the percentage of people using keyboards will continue to fall over time. But the core set of people who were using keyboard for functional reasons will continue to use keyboards. For instance, programmers, or writers, or people who use spreadsheets, etc.

    So the question is not "What will replace keyboards", the question is "What will people use computers for?" If they're using computers for virtual reality, then goggle

  • off directly into a computer!

  • The future of keyboards is VR.

    We will log into a VR system, sit down at a virtual desk and keyboard, and type away.
    • We will log into a VR system, sit down at a virtual desk and keyboard, and type away.

      The same way we are all using 3D already.

  • by mspring ( 126862 ) on Saturday October 14, 2017 @06:57PM (#55370255)
    which have been phased out by now. Ever heard of muscle memory???
  • Ob (Score:5, Funny)

    by Hognoxious ( 631665 ) on Saturday October 14, 2017 @07:11PM (#55370303) Homepage Journal

    Based on history, worse computer keyboards.

  • efficiency (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Crass Spektakel ( 4597 ) on Saturday October 14, 2017 @07:16PM (#55370327) Homepage

    There is only one relevant factor for computer interaction:


    I can type 500 characters per minute on my G80-3000 cherry keyboard with an error rate less than 1% thus producing highly complex content faster than some people can speak or listen. Also I can read text at a speed of 5000 characters per minute allowing me to consume highly complex content faster than any person alive can speak or listen. In fact I HATE youtube videos because they often need ten or twentyfold the time it takes me to read the same content from text.

    Give me something which allows me to interact even faster and you got me as a customer.

    But honestly I think there isn't anything close to accomplish that. Maybe we'll see direct brain links in a couple of decades but I can not even remotely imagine anything else increasing my performance.

    But if your problem is not "efficency" but "made for idiots" then there might be something around the corner. Which I am not even remotely interested in.

  • by redelm ( 54142 ) on Saturday October 14, 2017 @07:45PM (#55370441) Homepage

    Speech was the first communication device, ~200k years ago. Then came stylii and reed-pens ~4000 years ago and typewriters ~150 years ago. All have been improved (language precision, steel nibs 1815, electronics) but all are still around and used as appropriate.

Bell Labs Unix -- Reach out and grep someone.