Samsung patent aims to turn your hands into an AR keyboard, ideal for wearables

by: Andrew GrushMarch 5, 2014


Between Samsung’s release of several smartwatches at MWC and the rumors about a future Samsung-made computerized headset, it’s fairly clear that the Korean giant is interested in establishing itself as a major player in the wearable market.

If you need even more evidence that Samsung is looking for ways to make a bigger impact in the world of wearable technology, a new patent has surfaced that describes an AR keyboard input method designed for use in wearable devices like computerized glasses. The patent was originally filed last year at the World Intellectual Property Organization, as well as Korea’s intellectual property office.

Samsung's AR keyboard works by having the three sections of each of your fingers (except the thumb) represent different input characters.

According to Samsung’s patent filing, current computerized glasses and smartwatches have limited space for more traditional means of input, like a standard keyboard or a touchscreen. Samsung says that voice recognition is the obvious alternative in these situations, but notes that there are limitations here as well.

As Samsung puts it, “speech recognition-based input device performs poorly in noisy environment [sic].” It’s also worth mentioning that speaking commands and messages aloud makes it easy for others to overhear your private information.

Samsung’s solution is to bring us an AR keyboard, which works by having the three sections of each of your fingers (except the thumb) represent different input characters. Different layouts can even be used, depending on your choice of language and whether or not you were using one or both hands.

Controlling the keyboard is as simple as selecting the sections of your finger using your thumb, with an on-screen representation of your hand guiding you through the process (as seen below). Alternately, a headset with augmented reality overlay abilities could also project the characters directly onto your fingers (seen above).

Controlling the keyboard is as simple as selecting the sections of your finger using your thumb

So how would the wearable device know what parts of the finger you are touching? The idea is that a camera would track and analyze your finger movements and translate them accordingly.


Is this a practical solution?

We can certainly see where an AR keyboard could come in handy, but there’s some potential downsides here.

First, this method would require a high-end camera in order to properly track your finger movements, which would add to the costs. Second, the device would have to leave the camera and display running while you type, and this could lead to poor battery life. It’s also pretty likely that Samsung’s AR keyboard would have a fairly sharp learning curve.

Even if you get past all of that, you’d sort of look a bit like a crazy person jittering your fingers around in strange patterns as you wrote out messages and other commands. Then again, what modern technology doesn’t make us look a bit crazy? Bottom-line, this is a cool idea, even if far from a perfect one.

It’s also important to point out that just because Samsung has a patent for the technology doesn’t mean they are actively planning on bringing us a device that uses it. What do you think, like Samsung’s idea for an AR keyboard or not? Let us know what you think in the comments.

  • Brandon Miranda

    Genius. Absolutely genius.

  • Gautam

    Brilliant! Could have never thought of something as simple as that. But then again people missing finger(s) aren’t going to like this.

    • blarhgwut

      You know who isnt going to like touch screen keyboards?? People with visual impairment. Im betting there are more of them than people missing digits. To all the people who are going to post this same short sighted point all over the internet at nauseaum (its already on here twice ugghg). this is an invention its not going to fit for every man woman or child. STFU!
      This is real innovation. Not just rehashing the same crap dressing up a pig in a new dress. congrats Samsung.

      • Sumguy

        Hey Blarh, What’s wrong with you? Take it easy will ya?

        Just because you don’t agree with others it doesn’t give you the right to shut their mouths just because you don’t like their opinions. Who are you anyway?

        You need to relax dude.

        Oh and I don’t agree with you, so there.

  • Bone

    Why not place an infrared/heat camera at the bottom on the phone that watches fingers moving, and overlay that input live on the phone screen keyboard to have visual feedback how you are operating in the air. The camera could detect “moving over keys” (horizontal) and “tap” (vertical) input. This is a projector-free version of the projected infrared keyboard fans came up with.

  • Sparky

    Is this a practical solution?
    I don’t think so, at least not for everyone, here’s why:

    1) what about when you wear gloves in cold weather.
    2) when you get a cut and wear a bandaid in your finger
    3) when someone looses a finger or two in an accident
    4) in the dark, in poor light conditions.

    There may be more but I guess you get the idea now.

    • dogulas

      I think if someone is missing fingers they are used to settling for less in that department and will be happy to use an actual on-screen keyboard.

  • dogulas

    Just take your phone out if you want to type. Until the wearable completely replace the mobile phone, that is the best solution. Once the wearables replace them, we will be able to type with our brainwave signals like Stephen Hawking