A Computer Science student attending Goldsmith’s University in the UK has created a unique, one of a kind type of app for the iPhone. It allows, the Telegraph is reporting, any flat surface to be turned automatically into a virtual keyboard that can be used to enter characters into any iPhone app that accepts such input. The idea, says PFSK is to allow users to imagine a keyboard on a flat surface, just below where an iPhone is sitting, that is able to capture imaginary keystrokes.
If it sounds confusing, that’s probably because in reality, the imaginary keyboard can be made real by drawing one on an ordinary piece of paper and setting it on a table. Tapping on the keys that have been drawn can then cause characters to appear onscreen. It all happens, the Telegraph explains, by manipulating the three dimensional accelerometer built into every iPhone. What it does is note when the phone is moved, and though it might not seem like it, that’s what happens when an iPhone is sitting on a flat tabletop and someone taps on the table next to it. Turns out, the accelerometer in an iPhone is so sensitive that it can differentiate between the vibration caused by tapping on different parts of the table. The student at Goldsmith’s, Florian Kraeutli, uses data that comes directly for the accelerometer to calculate which imaginary key has been pressed by its relative position to other imaginary keys.
On a paper drawn keyboard, all becomes clear. Tapping on the different keys causes slight differences in noise, which correspond to differences in distance between ear and tapping, and of course the texture and density of the table. All of this is taken into consideration by the algorithms Kraeutli has written and are woven together in such a way as to allow the creation of a virtual keyboard on any surface. To make it happen, user need only define for themselves where the keyboard is, then tap where a sample key would be located. They would then repeat that same exercise for two more keys and that’s enough for the algorithms to build the virtual keyboard. After that, it’s all about typing away on an imaginary keyboard and watching the characters appear on screen, as if by magic.
The app isn’t available for sale just yet, and might not ever be, Kraeutli hasn’t decided yet. That’s because they keyboard is only about 80 percent accurate. He’s hoping to improve on that, and if he does, it’s almost a certainty that users around the world will be able to type characters into their iPhones, using nothing but an imaginary keypad.