Gesture recognition devices may indeed offer more functionality than is possible using just a keyboard and mouse, but in order to use them, users have to lift their hands up and away from that keyboard. A team at Microsoft Research decided to address that problem, and created a prototype mechanical keyboard that recognizes hand gestures performed on or immediately above the keys.
The Type-Hover-Swipe keyboard features a 16 x 4 array of infrared proximity sensors embedded in a printed circuit board. Each sensor node peeks out from between the regular key caps, tracking the movement of the user's hands as they touch the keyboard or hover above it.
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Although the array only manages a resolution of 64 pixels, it operates at high frame rates – above 300 hertz. That's enough for it to detect rapid movement, thus allowing the keyboard's machine learning algorithm to recognize a number of both static and dynamic "motion signatures."
These include swiping up, down, left and right; changing applications by hovering the hand in place; pinching to zoom; pointing for index up and down; and even a steering wheel gesture that allows users to control an onscreen car in a racing game.
More details on how the keyboard learns and recognizes gestures are available in the video below. There's currently no word on possible commercialization of the technology.
Source: Microsoft Research