The problem with typing on Glass

By Russell Holly on 16 May 2014 03:15 pm

Voiceless typing on Google Glass is an interesting problem, but so far there's not one complete solution.

As Google Glass explorers continue to find or invent new uses for their wearable computer, the need to type has occasionally come up. This is an interesting problem, because everyone using Glass already has a smartphone in their pocket that is already perfectly capable of discrete typing though all of the same services Glass offers. The problem comes in when you're decided to post a photo from Glass, or on the off chance that you'd need to enter a password or manually enter in a word that Glass doesn't understand when you speak it. There's currently no official solution, but several groups are attempting to solve this problem by adding virtual keyboard to the Glass UI. Recently the guys at Minuum released a video that details how they would implement such a solution, but there's also a test going on right now through some students at Cal Poly - San Luis Obispo that paints a clearer picture of the challenges this kind of input will face as it moves forward.

The Minuum video did a great job of making the idea of typing through Glass look like something that you might actually want to do. It demonstrated a rapid typing system using head tracking and tapping alongside their already incredible software keyboard to create a complete thought. The Cal Poly test helps bring this back down to reality a bit. Their test APK can be installed on any Glass unit, and it walks you through three different keyboard types with two different assistive technologies. You can either swipe around from letter to letter and individually peck in your words, or you can use head dracking to move around and just tap the touch panel on the side when your reach the letter you want. The three keyboard layouts were T9, traditional computer keyboard, and a circular keyboard. Each of these layouts offered distinct strengths and weaknesses when using them, but they all had one thing in common. None of them were even remotely enjoyable to use.

Each keyboard made it possible to type things directly on Glass, and in most cases I gradually got faster as I used each mothod more. By the end of each typing test, however, my arm was tired and I had accomplished very little. Entire sentences took nearly a full minute to type, and passwords that required special characters (which, in my opinion, they should all have) meant flipping back and forth between keyboard lauouts to find. It's like using the keyboard on your phone right now, only ever character takes up most of the screen and you have to either swipe through the alphabet or tilt your phone to get to the next letter. It's doable, but tiring and ultimately not worth it. Minuum's angle is that their guesswork and prediction engines will probably cut out a lot of the nonsense involved here, but that does very little to address password input.

For now, I remain unconvinced that putting a software keyboard directly on Glass is the answer. It seems like allowing some kind of cross device input from your phone would be a better way to address this problem, but that creates a dependancy between the two devices. If Google's long term plan is for Glass to be a standalone device, this is obviously not a long term solution. Whatever the answer is, I don't think we've stumbled across the right answer just yet.

Reader comments

The problem with typing on Glass


I hope it works better then it looks. Do you guys think this device is really going to be a thing? Or did i miss the boat and its a thing already.. lol

It's a thing for people with a spare $1500 kicking around.

And right now it's a beta product. Google makes that known.

I imagine that when the "final" product comes out, it will have a reduced price.

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What about eye-tracking to move the cursor and blinking to indicate a "click". Obviously it needs to have the word predictability of the BlackBerry 10 OS built in and "swipe up" feature when it correctly guesses words.... With my BlackBerry Z10 I find that I barely have to type out words anymore... The secret.... IMPORT YOUR ENTIRE MAILBOX when you set up a new account (not just last week or month).... and USE THE SWIPE FEATURE whenever you can. The more sentences your phone has in it (like from all my thousands of emails that were synced in when I added my email accounts) and the more times you use the Swipe-Up feature to flick-type words in, the more robust the predictability database will be!

I was shocked to be honest, as many of my emails and sentences use very technical language and are usually typed in a certain standardized format for my work. Once my Z10 had all that data in it, it would actually allow me to practically FLICK-TYPE the entire sentence in.... would predict words before I even typed the FIRST LETTER! Scary but freakingly AWESOME!

I'd imagine you'd have no choice but to use a peripheral of some kind. If gloves were advanced enough, all you'd need to do is monitor the motions of the fingers and someone could type no matter where their hands were. Maybe two watches could do it if it was advanced enough, but we're talking about being able to feel the individual tendons in your wrist and mapping it to the finger motions. Interesting dilemma! Any examples in movies where they have solved this problem?

I am a bleeding edge techie kinda guy but I don't seem to have a desire at all for computer glasses. Something amiss here.