MICROSOFT'S RESEARCH TEAM has developed a keyboard for text input on smaller screens on wearable devices which recognises handwriting.
Redmond's Analog Keyboard Project was developed to explore handwriting recognition techniques and has been demoed on Google's Android Wear operating system running on a Motorola Moto 360 smartwatch. Users can enter text by drawing handwritten letters on the watch face.
Microsoft Research said the idea behind the development recognises that soft keyboards are getting harder to use as touch screens get smaller.
The company explained that on a 1.6in smartwatch screen, for example, a soft keyboard with 10 keys across has keys less than 3mm wide. The team recognised that speech recognition is a viable alternative, but did not think speaking into a watch is appropriate or even possible in noisy environments.
"Handwriting, unlike speech, is discreet and not prone to background noise," writes the Microsoft Research Team. "And unlike soft keyboards, where many keys have to share the small touch surface, handwriting methods can offer the entire screen (or most of it) for each symbol."
The research team said that this method allows each letter to be entered more comfortably, even on small devices, than on a tiny Qwerty keyboard.
"In fact, it has been shown that some handwriting systems can be used without even looking at the screen. Handwriting interfaces require very little design changes to run on round displays, which are becoming increasingly popular," the team said.
The prototype of the custom keyboard for the Android Wear OS is currently available to users to download on version 0.1, which only supports square screens with 320x320 screen resolution and the Motorola Moto 360.
The prototype can be seen in more detail in the video demo below, running on round and square Android Wear devices. µ
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