Facebook prepares a virtual keyboard for any surface

Researchers at have just presented a virtual keyboard based on hand tracking using cameras integrated into a virtual reality headset. It does not require any additional peripherals, and can be used on any flat surface.

Virtual reality headsets Oculus Quest and Quest 2, which has just been released, offer an experimental hand tracking function (hand tracking) very practical for handling certain objects or navigating menus without a joystick. By using the external cameras, the headset is able to identify the hands and track the movement. However, the gestures are limited, and the follow-up a little capricious.

Visibly Facebook, dont Oculus is a subsidiary, is still working on this function. In an article presented to the UIST 2020 conference, researchers from Facebook Reality Labs unveiled their work on a new hand-tracking technique that is precise enough to write on a keyboard virtual.

The use of a virtual keyboard requires for the moment to wear gloves with markers. © ACM SIGCHI

Typing as fast as on a physical keyboard

The technique allows you to write on a flat surface, without a keyboard physique no touch input. The system uses the cameras of a helmet and a convolutional neural network temporal to represent the movement of the hands. It incorporates a language model and a beam search algorithm to compensate for tracking errors, but also for hand placement errors. Without the tactile feel of the keys, users’ hands tend to drift slightly. To improve finger detection, users had to wear gloves with markers.

The results are very promising, with a speed typing rate of 73 words per minute, equivalent to that obtained with a physical keyboard. Researchers still have some work to do, however, as the virtual keyboard is currently limited to lower case letters and does not work well with any word that is not in the dictionary. In addition, the system had to be calibrated for each user, requiring each time to record more than an hour of input on a physical keyboard. Their tracking system is also much more precise than the one found on helmets like the Quest. However, this technology could eventually make it possible to use virtual reality headsets or augmented to work anywhere.

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