Microsoft Research's gesture keyboard could kill the mouse

Subtle hand gestures, such as swipe and pinch to zoom, over the keyboard will allow you to reproduce basic mouse movements.

As someone who has built up his typing speed to 50wpm, I'm reluctant to take my hands off the keyboard for mouse movements, and over the years have memorized important features and functions in Word and Excel. So any excuse I can get to avoid the mouse, I will use.

There have been attempts at gesture-based input, notably the Leap Motion controller. That proved a bust, because it was dependent on app-specific drivers. In the end, it was just a cool demo device on how well it displayed your hand's articulations.

The folks at Microsoft Research, however, have come up with something that might work a little better. It's still in the prototype phase – one thing you have to say about Microsoft Research, they have no qualms about showing off something years before it's ready to ship – but already shows some promise.

The Type–Hover–Swipe keyboard is a slim keyboard with gesture control sensors embedded between its keys. When you want to do some basic mouse movements, like scrolling up and down, simply raise your hand from the keyboard and make a gentle motion.

Research has released a demo video showing it in action. Switching between apps is as simple as hovering over the keyboard, although really, Alt-Tab works just fine for more. More interesting is the racing game simulation, where you basically hold your hands over the keyboard in a driving position.

That looked a little clumsy, but as Microsoft says, the sensors are only 64 pixels, so it's fairly low res. There are other methods to compensate for this and recognize proper input.

As always, this is a work in progress. The keyboard has no release date, and there's no promise it will be released, or even be released in the form demonstrated. But if it can spare users the waste of time of shifting to the keyboard, then that will be a benefit for all.

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