Keyboard shortcut tech keeps an eye on your fingers

The Finger-Aware Shortcuts system bases key functions upon which finger is used to press that key(Credit: University of Waterloo)

If you're finding that there just aren't enough shortcuts on your computer's keyboard, an experimental new system from Canada's University of Waterloo may be what you need. It accesses different functions assigned to the same key, based on which finger you use to press it.

Developed by a team led by Master's candidate Jingjie Zheng and Prof. Daniel Vogel, the Finger-Aware Shortcuts technology utilizes the computer's existing camera with a mirror placed over it, so it can see down onto the keyboard.

Using computer vision algorithms, it's subsequently able to identify which finger (and which hand) is being used to press a given key – it's also able to identify different hand postures, such as whether the other fingers are extended or folded while the key is being pressed. As a result, the function of any one key can vary depending on which finger is used, which hand that finger is on, and what position the hand is in.

Taking things a step farther, additional functions can be accessed by pressing one key with two fingers at the same time. A sort of scrolling feature is also possible – while a key is held down with a finger, users can then move through onscreen menus by moving that hand's thumb up and down.

"Our goal is to provide people with as many keyboard shortcuts as possible using just the keyboard that we use everyday," says Zheng. "There's been research looking at how physical modifications to the keyboard can offer more availability and expressivity, but there's been one extra input dimension from your hands all the time."

The Finger-Aware Shortcuts system is described in a recently-presented paper, and is demonstrated in the video below.

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