Android Wear smartwatches don’t include on-screen keyboards, because it’s easier to enter text using voice recognition than it is to type on a device with a 1.6 inch screen. But what do you do if you’re in a noisy environment where your watch might not recognize your voice? Or how about a quiet space like a library where it might be appropriate to speak out loud?

Microsoft Research has released an early prototype of an Android Wear app that lets you draw letters on the screen to enter text.

analog keyboard

It’s called the Analog Keyboard for Android Wear, and it’s available for download from Microsoft Research. Note that the initial version of the app only supports smartwatches with 320 x 320 pixel square displays and the Motorola Moto 360. The installation process is also a little complicated and requires the Android SDK and a USB or Bluetooth connection between your PC and watch.

There are other companies working on virtual keyboards for Android Wear, including Fleksy and Minuum. But the Analog Keyboard from Microsoft doesn’t attempt to clutter your screen with a full QWERTY keyboard featuring tiny keys that might be hard to hit with a finger. Instead you enter one letter at a time as if you were writing on paper (or an old-school Palm Pilot).

Microsoft is referring to the Analog Keyboard as a prototype… and for good reason. For instance, it currently only supports lower-case characters, not upper-case letters and doesn’t run on watches with 280 x 280 pixel screens. Microsoft says the keyboard can also be a battery hog, since all processing is done on your watch, not on your phone or in the cloud.

But the app does support auto-correct for frequently used words, allowing you to keep writing even as you make the occasional typo… or whatever you call an incorrectly drawn letter.

via The Verge

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6 replies on “Microsoft releases Android Wear “keyboard” for handwriting on smartwatches”

  1. … but handwriting is so inefficient – several vectors per character. For a system which generates letters with one stroke each, and doesn’t hide the display, see my patent (basically, a touchpad on the watch buckle):

  2. I read that about 5 times, and my brain still didn’t quite register it. Microsoft made an android wear keyboard? that is unexpected.

  3. You lost me at the word ‘Microsoft’. Microsoft is an evil monopoly that wants to destroy anything cool or innovative. Just ask my friend who is a Microsoft lawyer. Her name is Sue!

  4. Can’t wait for the holder of the Palm Pilot Graffiti patent holder to tear into this one!

  5. How long before we get a Morse code Android Wear keyboard which simply reads the taps on the watch face? How geeky would that be…

    I think people are underestimating the “wearables” revolution. We tend to think of it as watches and glasses. Both of these are railed against as novelty items which won’t catch on due to limited functionality.
    I think it will very quickly be very much bigger. Gloves and other clothing with built in sensors and haptic information delivery. Perhaps even patches you could wear on your skin under your clothes. Completely invisible to those around us but able take input as taps or give it as subtle vibrations. All working together in a personal mesh.
    A world of people enhanced by technology externally rather than internally. Cyborgs in effect but without the worry of our bodies rejecting the implants. Exoborgs, if you will.
    I’m also surprised that neither Android nor iOS have come up with system wide audio overlay intent systems. Something any app could jack into to pause or merge with whatever audio is playing and play an audible notification instead or on top of it. You see so many people in large cities, and elsewhere, with headphones on. Why not just tell them when it’s time to turn left or that their mother left a message for them?
    “We interrupt your current audio to inform you that you just made a new friend on Facebook.” – hurray.

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