Machine Vision

No Keyboard, No Kidding

June 1, 2005 By: Sensors Staff Sensors

In the middle of a dark night, you suddenly dream the answer to your company's $64,000 question. But you've got to get it in writing before you lose it. You stumble down the hall, guided by a weirdly glowing red light emanating from the den, where your PDA sits on the coffee table. The ghostly glow draws you like the proverbial moth to the flame. You drop onto the couch, stretch out your hands . . . and begin typing on the full-sized virtual keyboard projected in soft, clear light onto your coffee table.

A dream? Nope. It's the Integrated Canesta Keyboard, a dreamy solution to the problem of supporting typing-intensive applications on tiny mobile or wireless devices—or anywhere full-sized, mechanical keyboards just don't work well.

Canesta powers its virtual wonder with "electronic perception technology." Lasers; infrared radiation; high-performance, low-cost embedded sensors; and software enable myriad devices to collect and interpret 3D images in real time. And it all happens by battery power—no additional burdens for the host processor.

In the case of the ghostly keyboard, just three components make the magic. A laser "pattern projector" about the size of a cigarette lighter projects the image of a full-sized keyboard onto any convenient flat surface (briefcase, flip-down airplane tray, etc.). As you type on the glowing image, a light source illuminates your fingers so that the sensor can see them.

The sensor instantly resolves your finger movements into ordinary serial keystroke data and transmits those data to your wireless or mobile device. Voila—you type away, with nary a care about drowning your keyboard in coffee. It's essentially the same process for mouse users.

Besides their benefit to users of tiny mobiles, virtual keyboards would also work wonders for larger, nonmobile devices in cramped workplaces. Other intriguing possibilities: environments where reliability and cleanliness are issues—hospitals and clean rooms, for example.

Rather than selling direct to consumers, Canesta works with OEMs and device manufacturers. They can grab some glow of their own by integrating the keyboard into their products or offering it as an add-on.

Contact Canesta, Inc., San Jose, CA; 408-435-1400,

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