In the Future You May Be Texting with “Fingertip Keyboards”

BiTipText lets you type messages by tapping on a mini keyboard worn on both index fingers, using your thumbs.

Jeremy S. Cook
a month agoWearables
Users enter text by tapping their thumb tip on the keyboard, which is then displayed on a wrist-mounted display. (📷: Dartmouth HCI Research)

You’ve seen it over and over, and perhaps are even doing so right now: people bent over a phone, quickly thumbing letters into the screen at a sometimes-impressive pace. What if instead of typing on their device, users could instead just tap on their fingers? Such is the possibility presented by "BiTipText," a bimanual eyes-free text entry method by researchers across a number of universities.

BiTipText features capacitive skin overlays, made out of flexible PCB "cones" attached to the user’s index fingers. An MPR121 touch sensing chip interprets these raw inputs, sending data along to an Arduino Uno board for control. This allows for text input using both the right and left hands simultaneously, as opposed to previous work involving only one augmented finger.

After much research into the correct “keyboard” implementation, users were able to attain an impressive 23.4WPM input speed at a .03% uncorrected error rate.

Beyond simply having more space for entry, the two-handed design also means that software can interpret user intention based on whether they come from the left or right hand. This can help the system determine the desired word based on the sequence of presses, even if they’re not spot-on position-wise. The possibilities for such a device are exciting, including quick text entry, and the ability to interact with electronics without even pulling out your phone!

Jeremy S. Cook
Engineer, maker of random contraptions, love learning about tech. Write for various publications, including Hackster!
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