back to article No horrific butterfly keys on this keyboard, just you and your big, dumb fingers

Despite roughly 15 years of innovation, virtual keyboards – like those found on a tablet or smartphone – are still truly hateful to write on, particularly when it comes to penning lengthy passages of text. Samsung's solution is something called SelfieType, which sees you type upon an invisible keyboard, with your phone's camera …

  1. Baldrickk Silver badge
    Angel

    They may have sucked

    But I still want one of those laser keyboards, purely for the aesthetic value.

    1. James 139

      Re: They may have sucked

      Laser keyboards are easy mode though, this is when you set your virtual keyboard to INSANE! mode.

      1. NoneSuch Silver badge
        Devil

        Want a keyboard, get a laptop...

        Amazing how people get a tablet to be "mobile" then spend thousands on accessories that replicate what a $500 lappy can do.

        Some peoples kids...

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: They may have sucked

      If they used a proper laser I would guess you can probably buy it off some people with strangely scorched fingers.

      :)

      1. Tigra 07 Silver badge

        Re: They may have sucked

        "If they used a proper laser I would guess you can probably buy it off some people with strangely scorched fingers."

        And no fingerprints to unlock their devices!

      2. LeahroyNake Silver badge

        Re: They may have sucked

        Tiny sticker on the back.

        Don't look directly at the laser, if you do you may also need to learn how to read Braille.

        1. Admiral Grace Hopper Silver badge
          Alert

          Re: They may have sucked

          WARNING

          Do not stare at laser with remaining eye.

    3. Peter2 Silver badge

      Re: They may have sucked

      Really? I've still got mine (somewhere in my collection of old but "you can't bin that" tech stuff) and i'd be willing to part with it if your willing to part with enough cash.

    4. Jamie Jones Silver badge

      Re: They may have sucked

      I've no idea how good they are, but geatbest sell them, and I've reliably used them for lots of stuff:

      You'll presumably want to select GBP from the top drop down menu:

      https://uk.gearbest.com/pen---pencils/pp_3003773264317246.html?wid=2000001

      https://uk.gearbest.com/keyboards/pp_597022.html?wid=1433363

  2. Neil Barnes Silver badge
    Unhappy

    I'm forced to wonder how it copes with people keeping their fingers on the virtual home keys. Also, how does it cope with shift and control keys - and where's the delete and backspace?

    Add the complete lack of tactile feedback that the average table generates and I can't really see this being any more than a gimmick.

    Which is a shame 'cos it's a really nifty bit of a programming challenge.

    1. JDX Gold badge

      Yeah it sounds great fun but with limited uses. That said I think it would be far more user-friendly than trying to type on your screen on a tiny keyboard since this gives you proper space to type on your table or whatever.

      1. Robert Helpmann?? Silver badge
        Unhappy

        Can't say it sounds good for anything I use a keyboard for. This probably means our desktop support people will be by any moment now to prise my grasp from my full-bodied desktop keyboard to replace it with so much light and air.

    2. Pascal Monett Silver badge
      Pint

      I watched the video

      Apparently, the software detects finger movements, not so much positions on the table. It is also apparently quite performant, unless this is another Magic Leap moment - but I doubt that.

      The team that wrote that definitely deserve a cold one.

      1. Crypto Monad

        Re: I watched the video

        I would guess it tries to guess the most likely words you are typing, based on relative movement of your fingers, and on the previous words typed - i.e. predictive text on steroids.

        Probably fine for the odd message home. Not so good for coding.

    3. vtcodger Silver badge

      Home Keys

      I'm forced to wonder how it copes with people keeping their fingers on the virtual home keys.

      asdfjkl;!!! and furthermore, asdfjkl; ...

  3. Andytug

    The laser keyboards (and this) do have one potential application though

    A dentist friend bought one as it meant less infection risk, the (easy to sterilise) worktop was then also the keyboard, as opposed to a dust and bacteria-trapping conventional one.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The laser keyboards (and this) do have one potential application though

      A bit stronger laser would have taken care of the table sterilisation too..

      1. Simon Harris Silver badge

        Re: The laser keyboards (and this) do have one potential application though

        Add a UV laser and it could cure resin fillings at the same time.

    2. IchangedtheGame

      Re: The laser keyboards (and this) do have one potential application though

      I remember seeing a Prototype one of these back in 2005 at an IT Reseller I worked for, Samsung are a bit late to the Game aren't they !

      1. Tony Paulazzo

        Re: The laser keyboards (and this) do have one potential application though

        Samsung are a bit late to the Game

        So were Apple, didn't seem to hurt them tho' :) Sometimes it's not about being first but being better...

        DISCLAIMER: I hate Apple with every fibre of my being - but they do <did?> make quality kit.

  4. Andytug

    Didn't they do one that you could project on to a wall, as a demo?

    IIRC you had to kick a football at the relevant keys to type...…..not sure how you ctrl-alt-del though!

    1. Havin_it

      Re: Didn't they do one that you could project on to a wall, as a demo?

      Kick the projector

  5. bryces666

    that keyboard would be useful

    If they can make one that works, and that doesn't need to send everything off to a back end AI server to work if out.

    On my phone I previously used the Dragon swype keyboard until they stopped supporting it. While looking for a replacement I found they all sent data back to servers to assist processing and this can include usernames and passwords! Got a little more paranoid from that and stopped using any except the built in Samsung keyboard which does swype but with poor accuracy compared dragon's.

    So I really hope they can nail this down, I'd love to type at normal touch-type speeds on a phone.

    1. a pressbutton

      Re: that keyboard would be useful

      I'd love to type at normal touch-type speeds on a phone.

      ... is that not called dictation?

  6. Mephistro Silver badge
    Happy

    "...we'll cautiously reserve judgement until we don't get our hands on SelfieType."

    1. Vector

      Yeah, I'm gonna go out on a limb and call fail on this one.

      This is one of those "works great in the lab" things that will likely trip over all the variances of the real world.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A possibly better solution would be for the camera to recognize typing on any keyboard that happened to be in-front of it, from the most comfortable ergo-keyboard, to a role of A4 with qwerty printed on it. The user then has somewhere to aim for, and the scanning AI has some way of calibrating what the user thinks they are aiming for.

    Maybe I'm just mad.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      And, so nobody could steal that keyboard, you could tether it to the device with a cable.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        > And, so nobody could steal that keyboard, you could tether it to the device with a cable.

        And if the recognition accuracy wasn't good enough then you could have a mode whereby the security cable was actually capable of carrying, say, USB data and passing the actual key presses to the device?

    2. Kurgan

      This is actually a nice idea (and I'm not joking). Some random unused keyboard (or a printed sheet that can be fold away) could provide for far better accuracy and for something to aim at while "air typing".

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        The hardware and software needed to get it working would be of sledgehammer/walnut proportions, you'd need to ensure correct alignment, your mobile battery life would take a hit and even then it would still be worse than a USB or bluetooth keyboard.

        Doubtless there's some silicon valley VC spunking cash on a bunch of tech bros to get it working at this very moment!

  8. Paul Slater

    Seems like it would only be useful to touch typers. Despite over 30 years in the game I still look at the keyboard about 50% of the time

    1. maffski

      A foldable keyboard that actually works?

      Presumably you could just print one out

    2. Mephistro Silver badge

      @ Paul Slater

      It's even worse. The keys are placed in rows and columns, unlike an standard keyboard. Even touch typists would need to adapt to this keyboard, and re-adapt again when they wanted to use an standard keyboard.

      Potentially a good idea, but it needs lots of polishing yet.

  9. Cynic_999 Silver badge

    Chorded keyboards

    These are mouse-sized keyboards that have 4 buttons (one for for each finger of one hand), and two or three thumb buttons. In use you press a combination (pattern) of the 4 buttons often followed by one of the thumb buttons to type a character. The 4 finger buttons give you 16 different combinations, and the three thumb buttons thus allow 48 different base characters (additional can be achieved with case lock or symbol lock). I have read that after some practice you can type faster and with fewer typos than with a full qwerty keyboard, and it is a physically small device that leaves one hand free.

    The fact that you cannot do the equivalent of "hunt and peck" but have to follow a pretty steep learning curve to type anything sensible has meant that they are not popular - but certainly solve most of the same problems addressed by the "keyboardless" approach without the associated problems or complexity.

    e.g. https://web.archive.org/web/20070818222814/http://www.infogrip.com/docs/BatPCRef.pdf

    1. dvd

      Re: Chorded keyboards

      I had one of these - I hoped that it might help my RSI, but in fact it made it about a million times worse.

      It's sill in my box of bits somewhere.

    2. druck Silver badge

      Re: Chorded keyboards

      You mean like the 1980's Microwriter Quinkey for the BBC Micro?

      1. Martin an gof Silver badge

        Re: Chorded keyboards

        They made a PDA out of it too. I seem to remember a version designed to be held in the hand with the buttons around the back - sure someone I knew had one in the early 1990s - but can't find a reference now,

        M.

        1. SonofRojBlake

          Re: Chorded keyboards

          I remember these! Specifically, I remember some bloke claiming he could type with the device INSIDE HIS POCKET.

          1. AndyMulhearn

            Re: Chorded keyboards

            I remember these! Specifically, I remember some bloke claiming he could type with the device INSIDE HIS POCKET.

            Well, he said he was typing. Imagine standing talking to someone with your right hand twitching in your pocket and a broad smile on your face. I can't imagine that ever being a good look...

          2. 96percentchimp

            Re: Chorded keyboards

            He wasn't typing.

          3. MarkTriumphant

            Re: Chorded keyboards

            I had one (an AgendA), and I don't remember typing with it in my pocket, but I could use it at night without turning on the lights. I would really like a Bluetooth version of that keyboard. Sadly, the only one that I know used LED output, so not useful these days.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hello RSI

    Don't try using one of these for any length of time. Banging your fingers on a desk will cause RSI and make arthritis worse

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Hello RSI

      Refs? Cites? Links?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Hello RSI

        my life

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Banging your fingers on a desk

      I suppose you could always re-purpose a spare mouse pad or something...

    3. John H Woods Silver badge

      Re: Hello RSI

      Presumably you could use a softer surface, like a mouse mat? But it looks to me like you could touch the desk as lightly as you wanted - perhaps not even at all...

    4. Bill Gray

      Re: Hello RSI

      As a former RSI sufferer, I wonder. (Switching from hunt/peck QWERTY on an 'ordinary' keyboard to touch-typing Dvorak on a split keyboard made the problem go away, though I've no idea which bit did the trick... took me about a month to get back to speed; in another month, I was considerably faster than I'd been to start.)

      I just tried "touch-typing" on the table in front of me. Obviously, I don't have to hit as hard as I would on my mechanical keyboard. I could imagine a camera looking at my fingers and figuring out what I was 'typing'. Your mileage may indeed vary, the plural of anecdote is not data, and I've not tried it for years on end. But I _think_ it might actually be gentler on my wrists.

    5. Just Enough

      Re: Hello RSI

      "Banging your fingers on a desk will cause RSI and make arthritis worse"

      So don't bang your fingers. I doubt the force you hit the desk with plays any part in the keyboard working.

      I am reminded of touch typists I've worked with, who learnt on typewriters. You sometimes had to politely point out that they didn't have to hammer computer keyboards to make them work.

  11. en.es

    Interface fail?

    At least you could see what you were typing on the projection laser keyboard - there doesn't appear to be any clues in the picture shown here, unless the lights and camera angle have washed it out too much...

  12. SVV Silver badge

    SelfieType, which sees you type upon an invisible keyboard

    How the hell are you supposed to type on it if you can't see it (or feel it)? Do you just "press" a "key" and see what character it types, and think "Oh, well, if the A key is there then the * should be about there?

    Sod that, invent me an invisible mouse instead.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Assuming that demo is even real, the typing speeds are below what I can get on a phone touchscreen with the late lamented Swype.

  14. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge
    Coat

    So basically...

    They looked at last year's Mac book pro... Saw they keyboard with so little travel that it's pretty much irrelevant and thought.. 'less is more on a keyboard? Hold my beer Apple'...

    Mines the one with the IBM model M catalogue in the pocket...

    1. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge

      Re: So basically...

      Samsung would make it require a desk with curved edges too.

  15. sodium-light

    Ermmm

    Typing this on a cheap Blackberry Key2 LE. An absolue pleasure to use. The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog. Sphinx of black quartz actually f*** this I've got things to do.

    1. alferdpacker

      Re: Ermmm

      so pleased there's a typo in there

  16. RAM Raider

    How long till Apple release an invisible keyboard for £4000?

    1. FlamingDeath

      They already did, but advertising it was difficult

      They couldn't make it shiney

      1. Bill Gray

        Don't see why not. I'm reminded of the Invisible Pink Unicorn (blessed be Her Hooves), which reflects the union of faith and reason. We know through faith that She's pink, but can demonstrate through reason that She's invisible (i.e., we can't see Her.)

        I'm sure suitably faithful Apple users would be confident that the keyboard was shiny, even if they couldn't see it.

  17. TheProf Silver badge
    Coffee/keyboard

    Not enough room

    I've Tippexed the letters QWERTYUIOP on my fingernails, starting with Q on my left hand little finger, but I've no room for the rest. And Y to P look pretty ropy as I can't write very well with my left hand.

    Plus I'm out of Tippex remover so I'm going to look like a Lexiconic-Punk on the way home.

    I never used to have this much trouble when I wrote with a fountain pen. Hey, a pen with accelerometers and gyroscopes. Now we're getting somewhere.

    1. bpfh Silver badge

      Re: Not enough room

      Digitiser pens won’t work. Either calligraphy level slow or an indecipherable mass like my local doc who refuses to write scripts other than by hand and the pharmacy has to call her up for a verbal explanation of what the squiggles mean... No AI could deal with that...

    2. Jamie Jones Silver badge

      Re: Not enough room

      "I never used to have this much trouble when I wrote with a fountain pen."

      Paaah. Won't somebody think about us left-handers?

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Gen Z would be the target audience

    All the kids who were raised with iPads and smartphones from the age of 2 and think a full travel IBM PC keyboard is an anachronism that belongs in a museum along with landlines and cassette tapes.

    I've always though there was a potential market for this if it could be made to work really reliably. I think Samsung is nuts if they think people would use it without the laser projected keyboard, but the combination of that and the 3D scanners used for facial recognition should work fine in a pinch even for those of us who prefer proper keyboards. If I had some reason to enter a longer than normal email on my iPhone, I wouldn't mind setting it down on a flat surface and typing away on it for a couple minutes. I could do better like that than I could with the on screen keyboard since it is so small and uses only two thumbs.

    The main audience for this are 13 and under right now, so there is still time to get it right!

    1. Kurgan

      Re: Gen Z would be the target audience

      While I could use such a virtual keybaord, the new generation actually types faster on the default on screen keybaord, because that's the one they learned to use. My wife, who is 55 years old but has been using a smartphone since the first iphone was invented, and rarely uses a computer, is far better (and feels a lot more comfortable) at typing on the smartphone than on the computer. Also, she prefers using internet on her ipad than on the computer. So, smartphone/tablet users of the future will surely find it useless. They will be fine with the on screen keyboard.

  19. -tim
    Pint

    Can musical instruments be far behind?

    I bet they could do great things if they could get the camera to work out air guitar!

    1. Admiral Grace Hopper Silver badge

      Re: Can musical instruments be far behind?

      The harp manufacturers are way ahead of you

      1. pakman

        Re: Can musical instruments be far behind?

        Something like this had already been done in 1928 (admittedly not using camera technology). A few weeks ago I stopped to listen to a street busker playing one of those (and bought the CD). It was fascinating to watch.

  20. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

    I cant even use a laptop keyboard for then 2 minutes before reverting to a real one, never mind these virtual / rollup / laser / on screen abominations.

  21. PeeKay

    Leap Motion comes to mind

    Seeing the 'bones' on the woman's hand made me think of Leap Motion, which I would imagine could pretty much do what's being shown. See https://www.ultraleap.com/product/leap-motion-controller/.

  22. Uplink

    How about a Magic Leap?

    It's a heck of a lot of work, but just make the whole computer virtual. Put your Magic Leap on (hopefully you get a future version with better field of view), look at the table, ta da... fully working laptop or desktop computer.

    And you get the same inability to touch type as with this invisible keyboard.

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