Student creates invisible virtual keyboard for iPhones

A lot of ordinary people upon seeing Aatma Studios’s concept of an iPhone with a holographic keyboard thought Apple was working on one (Fox News certainly fell for it). Florian Kräutli, a computing student at Goldsmiths, University of London, had a better idea.

Instead of a laser-projected virtual keyboard, he uses the iPhone’s sensitive accelerometer sensor to measure the strength and frequency of microscopic vibrations that occur when “typing” on a surrounding surface area. Enter Vibrative Virtual Keyboard…

It ‘s an app that runs on jailbroken devices and, as he explains in an interview with The Telegraph newspaper, is more of a proof of concept. A more sensitive accelerometer could easily make his software quite usable, the youngster admits.

The system, dubbed Vibrative, uses the three-dimensional accelerometer in Apple’s smartphone to measure the characteristics of each tap on the table, such as the strength and frequency of the vibrations it causes, and compares them to “training data” to work out its approximate location.

The app relies on specific vibration patterns that differ from one surface to another so it must “learn” each surface’s vibration patterns.

The location is converted into a key press on the “virtual keyboard”. Currently, the system determines the intended key correctly about 80 per cent of the time, so the data is also fed into an auto correct dictionary to ensure the words are spelled correctly.

That’s quite a remarkable accuracy for a proof-of-concept.

“The signals I’m collecting are very weak”, he tells the paper, adding that accelerometers in smartphones may be set to be less sensitive than they are capable of to conserve battery power.

I hope someone at Apple is watching Florian’s work.

We’ve been stuck with the same old boring virtual keyboard on iPhones for more than five years now because Apple does not allow third-party keyboard apps like Android does. It’s difficult to describe the benefits of third-party virtual keyboard apps until you try one.

For example, most Samsung phones have an awesome feature called T9 Trace, a technology developed by Nuance where you type words by swiping between letters. Check it out in a commercial below.

Cool, eh?

I can attest that T9 Trace is remarkably accurate and one of the easily overlooked Android features, one that cuts down typing time drastically . You don’t even have to accurately swipe from one letter to another. Just relax and start dragging your finger and  approximating letters of a desired word and T9 Trace will get it most of the time.

I’ll be the first to admit that it’s magical.

Matter of fact, I instantly wanted this on my iPhone.