Microsoft Develops Analog Keyboard Prototype For Android Wear, Solves Small Display Dilemma

Have you ever tried hunting and pecking on a miniature keyboard that's been crammed onto a smartwatch's tiny display? Unless the tips of your fingers somehow resemble that of a stylus, you're in for a challenge. Interestingly enough, it's Microsoft that might have the most logical solution for typing on small size displays running Google's Android Wear platform.

Microsoft's research division has built an analog keyboard prototype for Android Wear that eliminates the need to tap at tiny letters, and instead has you write them out. On the surface, such a solution seems like you'd be trading one tedious task for another, though a video demo of the technology in action shows that this could be a promising solution -- watch how fast the guy in the video is able to hammer out a response.

The biggest benefit to Microsoft's solution is that it allows you to utilize the entire screen. Otherwise, let's say you're rocking a 1.6-inch smartwatch with a software keyboard that has 10 keys across -- they would have to measure a scant 1/8th of an inch, or just 3mm wide to fit.

Analog Keyboard

"Handwriting, unlike speech, is discreet and not prone to background noise. And unlike soft keyboards, where many keys have to share the small touch surface, handwriting methods can offer the entire screen (or most of it) for each symbol," Microsoft explains. "This allows each letter to be entered rather comfortably, even on small devices. In fact, it has been shown that some handwriting systems can be used without even looking at the screen. Finally, handwriting interfaces require very little design changes to run on round displays, which are becoming increasingly popular."

As of right now, this is just a prototype, though Microsoft is making the software publicly available in order to receive feedback from read-world users and scenarios. It's free and should work with any Android Wear app that uses text input, though it needs to be side loaded using ADB (Android Debut Bridge).