We've been hearing about virtual keyboards for several years now, and they usually take the form of a keyboard template that's projected onto a flat surface. A team at Sweden's Mälardalen University, however, is developing something a little different. It's a system that combines a pair of bracelets with a wearable device such as Google Glass, to create a virtual keyboard that only its user can see.

The system, which is still in the pre-prototype phase, draws upon technology developed in a previous Mälardalen study on robot vision.

The bracelets, to be worn on the wrists or hands (depending on the final design) will contain sensors that are able to ascertain the positions of the finger tips, and movements of the user's hands. They will also be able to tell how far the user's hands are above the closest flat surface, such as a desk top, table, book or anything else.

That data will be wirelessly relayed to a device such as Google Glass, which will display a keyboard within the user's field of vision. As the user taps their fingers on the real-world flat surface, the keys of the virtual keyboard will correspondingly be activated.

The bracelets will also allow for mousing and gesture control – hence the need to determine the position of the user's hands in space. Using that technology, they could even be used for applications other than typing, such as controlling games or performing music.

Models of what the bracelets might (or might not) look like

According to the university, advantages of the system would include the facts that it could be used in small spaces, it might lessen the ergonomic problems of physical keyboards by giving users more freedom of positioning, and it could allow people such as journalists to conduct face-to-face interviews while also typing and glancing at their keyboard. Additionally, unlike existing virtual keyboard systems, users wouldn't have to set up a separate projection device – although they would have to slip on the bracelets and glasses.

The Mälardalen team is currently seeking funding from commercial partners, to bring the system to production. It hopes to have the product completed within a year. More information is available in the video below.

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