Picture: Tap Systems
Tap Systems has been working for years on unusual input devices that allow typing even when you can’t see your hands in VR headsets.
Simply tap your fingers on any surface, and the system converts the motion into text or other input. The system could also be useful for input with AR headsets.
For the “Tap” model unveiled in 2018, users had to wear five interconnected rings over their fingers. These were connected via Bluetooth to a receiver, which was then connected to a smartphone or PC, for example.
The new model of the finger keyboard, called TapXR, only requires a wristband, which then communicates with the respective device via Bluetooth.
Keyboard wristband for virtual reality
The relatively slim device detects finger movements without personal calibration. According to the manufacturer, the recognition is 99 percent accurate.
Buyers can get started right away, but they have to learn the inputs first. They tap their fingers on a surface similar to Morse code, which generates written words.
This works on a table as well as on the user’s own arm or thigh. An inertial measurement unit (IMU) works in six degrees of freedom (6DOF). This allows the wristband to function precisely in any positionfor example, with the fingers against the wall.
“Users will now be able to type, select menus and interact faster, without fatigue, and with tactile feedback,” said Dovid Schick, Tap CEO. “This enables far wider usage of XR for things such as productivity, commerce and the metaverse.”
Skilled users can manage up to 70 words per minute, according to the manufacturer, even though the system only works one-handed. Admittedly, a classic two-handed keyboard is still faster.
Suitable for VR and AR and beyond
Tap Systems also presents application areas on 2D surfaces: A graphic designer draws on a tablet with the stylus and taps additional commands on the tabletop with her fingers at her side.
The wristband works with any compatible Bluetooth-connected system and supports numerous operating systems from Windows to Apple systems. Compatible VR and AR platforms include Meta Quest, Windows Mixed Reality, Hololens, Magic Leap, Pico, HTC Vive and Realwear. The manufacturer claims a battery life of 10 hours or 14 days standby.
The more advanced technology has its price: While the predecessor was available for $180, $299 is due this time. Worldwide delivery is planned for the first quarter of 2023. There will be two sizes and six colors to choose from.
Meta is also researching the Metaverse wristband
Meta is also currently working on a wristband that converts even subtle finger movements into inputs. However, this does not use motion and acceleration sensors. Instead, it uses electromyography to detect electrical muscle activity and machine learning.
The better the algorithm is trained, the less the hands and fingers have to move. The system then decodes the signals already at the wrist and converts them into digital commands. At Connect 2022, Meta showed the current progress on its input wristband in an impressive video.