This Google patent application had us at 'laser keyboard'

Google applies for a patent that could allow Project Glass to laser-project a keyboard onto your arm.

Google's laser keyboard patent application.
(Credit: US Patent and Trade Office)

Among the challenges that developers will face once they start building for Google Glass this year is one that is basic, but very important: how will users communicate with the device?

Glass has a microphone, and a button for taking pictures. But what if the user is in a noisy environment or wants to create a long message? Is there any way to include a keyboard?

The answer is yes, according to an intriguing new patent application filed today with the US Patent and Trademark Office. Patent 20130016070, "Methods and Systems for a Virtual Input Device", shows a version of Glass that includes a laser projector in its arm. The glasses project a keyboard on to the hand of the user, who can then use his or her body as a touchscreen.

As noticed by Unwired View, the patent describes a use in which the glasses' camera interprets a user's gestures, so that they can accept input both via tapping virtual keys and by moving the hand.

It's only a patent application, of course, and there's no telling whether the ideas described will ever make it into a product. But it does show that Google engineers are thinking hard about the Glass' input problem, recognising that for wearable computing to go mainstream, it will likely need to expand beyond voice control. Laser-projected keyboards could be one way to make that happen.

The laser keyboard projected on to the hand, communicating back to the glasses' camera using gestures.
(Credit: US Patent and Trade Office)


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