Apple Watch & Google Glass have the potential to revolutionize society. But they won't. At least not without one critical piece: a simple way to type.
Right now, Google and Apple are forging ahead on perfecting voice recognition for user input. The problem is, even if they get it from 95% where it is today to 100% it WILL NOT solve the input problem. Do you really see yourself dictating emails out loud in your office? Sending text messages by yelling into your wrist in a crowded bar? Of course not.
When you have to limit your app library for your smartwatch & AR glasses to either apps that are only passive (like translating signs in foreign languages) or voice activated (like phone calls on your wrist) these tools are still admittedly pretty great, but you are cutting out a huge swath of probably 50% of apps you use on your phone right now that DO require typing.
There are some proposed solutions out there like projected keyboards, which is clever but not very useful unless you have great lighting and a flat surface. There's the option of using your phone as an input device... that's annoying. There's the idea of Brain Computer Interfaces (BCI) but at the moment the best we can do here is one slow letter at a time and I'm not sure about you but I don't have the meditative clarity of thought to restrict my stream of consciousness to a single word or letter.
The best form of text input right now is using Qwerty keyboard (well really probably whatever stenographers use or a Dvorjak) but some form of typing system that is not naturally intuitive but something that most high school kids now learn to the point where it becomes instinctive. For as unsuccessful as Palm Pilots turned out to be, they also showed with their Graffiti language the same principle-- our brains are plastic enough to be trained on new sorts of language input to the point where we can do it without thinking.
So keeping in mind that our brains are trainable and that typing is the best and fastest way we have to input text, the final piece of the puzzle we need is called Soli, a technology that Google ATAP announced during Google I/O this year that uses radar to track your precise hand movement (for a live demo see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0QNiZfSsPc0).
Considering all of these factors, the Futurism team is putting out an open-source call to arms for our readers to help us figure out the most efficient way to type with a wearable. Let's call it "SignTyping." And it goes a little something like this:
What the hell is that you may ask? Well it's simple to explain, but hard to master. Take your right hand (or your left if you are left-handed) and set it on any surface (like a table or your leg). For the letter "A" tap your ring finger once. For the letter "N" rest your thumb on table and tap your middle finger once. For the letter "D" pick up your thumb and tap your middle finger twice. There, you just spelled the word "AND" on your Apple Watch or Google Glass. And of course the most common letters are assigned to the fewest number of taps. Still seem clunky? Well how about v1.1, Guitar-Hero style:
With 5 fingers, you have 31 combinations of fingers. For "A" you would tap your ring finger, for "N" your middle finger with your thumb down for "D" your index and ring at the same time. With both v1.0 and v1.1 we aren't taking into consideration things like capitalization, symbols and punctuation, so realistically you would need both taps and finger combos to achieve all the necessary characters.
A v1.2 could also incorporate two hands which gives you a total of 1,023 combinations. Much more efficient, but also requires a smart device on each wrist-- possibly less practical? A v1.3 could take into account other gestures like sliding your finger as well, though this could get tricky.
The other thing that's really important to consider in the efficiency algorithm is comfort-- certain finger combinations are easier to perform than others (try typing a few words with the Guitar Hero system and you'll see). The leap motion, for example, will probably never replace the mouse because it's just more comfortable, more efficient, and less tiring to rest your palm on a surface.
The bottom line is we need your help! This isn't something that is likely to pass the patent process without a lot of infringement so we are opening it up to the public domain. Together we can come up with the most elegant solution. And hopefully do so before we start all teaching some other system all our middle-schoolers or everyone starts using talking out loud using voice commands on the subway...
The Futurism Team