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Kitty virtual keyboard solution

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June 4, 2004

The increasing power, efficiency and miniaturisation of personal computing devices has sparked a transformation in the way we look at inputting data - cumbersome keyboards are definitely out and speech recognition systems are not yet successful enough to offer a seamless alternative. As part of our ongoing look at new keyboard concepts, Gizmag investigates a system that combines finger-mounted input with touch-typing movements as its method of data entry.

The increasing power, efficiency and miniaturisation of personal computing devices has sparked a transformation in the way we look at inputting data - cumbersome keyboards are definitely out and speech recognition systems are not yet successful enough to offer a seamless alternative. As part of our ongoing look at new keyboard concepts, Gizmag investigates a system that combines finger-mounted input with touch-typing movements as its method of data entry.

KITTY (Keyboard-Independent Touch-Typing) is a wearable "virtual" keyboard that uses touch-typing as the basis for data-entry. Using spiralling, printed-electric-circuit wires that wrap around the fingers, KITTY transmits information about the relevant keystroke wirelessly via a wrist-worn transmitter and also provides the user with tacticle feedback (so that you know when you've "toughed" a key).

One and two-handed versions of KITTY are available and one design concept intergrates the system into a single glove. Production costs are expected to be low since the device uses signals generated by the opening and closure of electric circuits, the same process as used by existing keyboard technology. This means that KITTY does not rely on continuous signal processing (as do other concepts such as the "Virtual Keyboard" by Senseboard and is therefore less prone to errors and less of a drain on power sources.

Another advantage is the lack of a fixed reference position - KITTY does not require a flat surface and the system can also be modified to cater for one-handed data-input.KITTY requires no calibration and the design, using fingers and thumbs as locations for the electric contacts, enabled anybody to use the device regardless of the size of their hands. The system also allows you to pick things up move around without restriction while still wearing the device.Two glove-based wired prototypes of KITTY now exist along with one mock-up demonstrating the spiralling printed-electric-circuit wire design. A more sophisticated wireless prototype followed by a market-ready product is planned as commercialisation and licensing of the technology progress.

About the Author
Mike Hanlon Mike grew up thinking he would become a mathematician, accidentally started motorcycle racing, got a job writing road tests for a motorcycle magazine while at university, and became a writer. As a travelling photojournalist during his early career, his work was published in a dozen languages across 20+ countries. He went on to edit or manage over 50 print publications, with target audiences ranging from pensioners to plumbers, many different sports, many car and motorcycle magazines, with many more in the fields of communication - narrow subject magazines on topics such as advertising, marketing, visual communications, design, presentation and direct marketing. Then came the internet and Mike managed internet projects for Australia's largest multimedia company, Telstra.com.au (Australia's largest Telco), Seek.com.au (Australia's largest employment site), top100.com.au, hitwise.com, and a dozen other internet start-ups before founding Gizmag in 2002. Now he writes and thinks. All articles by Mike Hanlon
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