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Microsoft's Adaptive Keyboard at UIST

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You may recall us thinking outloud about the idea of an advanced keyboard using LCD displays for each key and a touch LCD panel across the top. We call it our Adaptive Keyboard and it's an idea that Steven Bathiche has been thinking about for many years in our Applied Sciences Group. This year we gave prototype hardware to a group of students and asked them to present their ideas at this year's User Interface Software and Technology (UIST) symposium.

I headed out to New York to see what the students had come up with and there were plenty of good ideas. You can see the official winners here. A couple that stood out to me included WHACK, a system to dynamically remap keys so your passwords are always different and can't be captured by keyloggers, several visual clipboard applications,and one application that allowed the keyboard to be a visual interface for editing videos.

Watch the Microsoft Hardware Blog for more information.



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    The Discussion

    • User profile image


    • User profile image

      Well you better go and patent it cause there guys who sell keyboards like this since 2007..

    • User profile image
      Mr Crash

      another pr stunt from microsoft and they actually have to pay people to use their hardware, that's how bad the hardware is  Devil


      But seriously a dynamic keyboard would be something to have but Microsoft's Adaptive Keyboard isn't there yet it have too many flaws to be useful.

      And that's sad since i know the hardware exists to make a real and usable dynamic keyboard, it's just that companies are too damn cheap, always trying to make it as cheap as possible and by doing so will flush the product down the toilet like the cheap crap it is 

      when will they learn that going cheap is never good, sigh.


      I would really want a dynamic keyboard but i guess i have to wait a few years, sigh  Crying

    • User profile image

      I have so many ideas for this! When can I buy one?

    • User profile image

      This is sooo cool, this would be cooler using a LCARS interface (computer keyboard from Star Trek I'll wait till they've sorted out the bugs though.

    • User profile image

      Yup. it's like the Optimus Maximus keyboard but with a touchscreen at the top.

      I can see it being useful for applications that you use keyboard shortcuts allot with.

    • User profile image

      I think the general idea is neat. I however think that it would be simpler and much more effective, to focus on virtual keyboards on touch screens. A well designed virtual keyboard on a touch screen that pivots (running a through and through touch version of Windows), would be able to accomplish everything illustrated in this video - and a lot more. Developers could then think about adapting the virtual keyboard for various applications and scenarios. I understand that some people like their physical keyboards, but physical keyboards hold us back significantly, as far our ability to innovate user experiences. If MS can create experiences with virtual keyboards that are so compelling, that most people would abandon physical keyboards because of the advantages of the former, I believe we would be able to leave behind physical keyboards - and all the hindrances they cause.

      P. Douglas

    • User profile image
      Nick O'Neil

      This looks cool, I want to have it.

    • User profile image

      Something I hoped the adaptive keyboard would have would be adaptive key spacing. Not everyones hands are the same size so why do we insist on making keyboards one size fits all?

    • User profile image
      Josh Jacob

      i think that mark dude said he's from the university of vagina? lol

    • User profile image

      Install Silverlight to see a vid... no way!

    • User profile image

      @John: Yet, I bet you install Flash to watch some videos *rolls eyes*

    • User profile image
      Marco ​Pariente-​Cohen

      @PDoug: The idea is that not everyone it comfortable with touchscreen Keyboards, especially when it's for your desktop.
      In fact, studies (performed by some of the students at this competition in fact) have shown that people type slower on a touch screen keyboard than on a classic one. The same statistic goes for the comfort involved in actually pressing a button, rather than knocking a finger on a hard, unmoving surface. It gives a feeling like you missed a key. Touchscreen keyboards probably would be even worse for carpel tunnel syndrome...

    • User profile image

      @Marco Pariente-Cohen:

      The problem with many virtual keyboards, is that not much effort has gone into their design. E.g. many people prefer the iPhone and WP7 virtual keyboards over physical keyboards - on account of significant design efforts that have gone into them. Also word prediction and other software enhancements (e.g. some word processing features), can make using virtual keyboards more efficient and fun to use over physical keyboards. In addition, software can bring myriad other enhancements to virtual keyboards allowing users to do things not easy or possible to do on physical keyboards. E.g. dynamically switching both displayed characters and keyboard layouts while you work. Therefore a well designed virtual keyboard can provide greater efficiency than a physical keyboard. Also typing on a touch screen doesn't require as much finger banging as typing on a physical keyboard, and quite a number of touch screens are made from plastic (which is relatively soft), so I doubt Carpel Tunnel Syndrome will be much of an issue.

      I believe virtual keyboards are our future. We can attain far greater UI / UX innovation (demanded by consumers) with them, than we can dragging along antiquated (physical keyboard) technology, that is several hundred years old. As for people being emotionally tied to physical keyboards: they'll get over it, the same way people got over using typewriters.

      P. Douglas

    • User profile image

      Touch is great when you're not writing.  Touch is far too inaccurate when it comes to anything other than clicking or dragging items.  Touch with gestures is very useful so maybe a gesture system similar to sign language will develope so that we can communicate.  The keyboard will only be around for as long as it remains the fastest and most accurate means of text input.  Speech, touch, or other means will never replace the keyboard until those two criteria are addressed.
      There isn't a person on this planet that can input text as fast with a virtual keyboard versus a physical keyboard and maintain accuracy.  Touch is also a very inaccurate description of what phones call touch today.  Touch is more than just placing your fingers on something, true touch has feedback, more so than just a simple audio chirp or vibration.  A blind person can type on a keyboard but without feedback that tells them what key they hit (braille keyboards) they will never be able to use a "touch" system, similarly it's called touch typing because we don't have to look at where our fingers are while we are typing.
      Your comment on typewriters is not accurate.  Typewriters provide feedback and so do computer keyboards.  The typewriter death had nothing to do with it's input but rather it's output.  Speaking of typewriters we all know the story of the qwerty layout and why it came to be.  We don't know why other much faster layouts haven't been accepted like Divorak, or is that any indication of how long a huge change regarding input takes.

    • User profile image

      On it's something like two minute football 3d. You can control the whole game with the mouse. Basically you have helmets as your players and they can run routes. You can pick from several plays and even create your own plays....
      <a href="">Mojoblast</a>

    • User profile image

      On it's something like two minute football 3d. You can control the whole game with the mouse. Basically you have helmets as your players and they can run routes. You can pick from several plays and even create your own plays...

    • User profile image


      Touch can be augmented by using a virtual trackpad, a physical stylus, and / or some kind of magnifier feature, that allows users to work with precision on screen.

      If you are talking about a straight comparison between virtual and physical keyboards (where virtual keyboards do nothing but mimic their physical counterparts) then you are correct. However, when you include word prediction and correction features, as well as other software enhancements, a well designed virtual keyboard will trump its physical counterparts.

      A virtual keyboard could be augmented with the ability to sound out the letters a blind person is typing, in order to provide feedback. In fact, a virtual keyboard that can also read out the words the blind person has written so far (in any text box), would be more useful than the functionality that is provided by physical keyboards today.

      My reference to typewriters, had to do with some people's emotional attachment to them. The issue is not whether physical keyboards provide feedback to users and virtual keyboards do not (virtual keyboards can in fact provide different kinds of feedback, including visual and audio): the issue is people not wanting to stop using physical keyboards, even when virtual keyboards provide overall significant advantages over the former.

      P. Douglas

    • User profile image
      Elk Maverick

      Sorry but someone by the name of Elkin Acevedo already has a patent for the "Display Keyboard".  Check the site of the U.S. Patent & Trademarks Office.  Microsoft should contact him.

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