In context: When you think of keyboards, your mind is probably instantly drawn to the traditional, QWERTY-based physical devices you see in just about every modern home, business, and office throughout the world. Or perhaps you think of the smartphone and tablet-based digital keyboards many of us interact with daily. Either way, neither of these keyboard form factors are enough for some companies, and it seems Samsung is one of them.
The company today announced that it will be showing off five "innovative" products from its C-Lab start-up incubator. One of the products is "SelfieType," a piece of software that can use a device's front-facing "selfie" camera -- whether it's a laptop, smartphone, or tablet -- to create an invisible keyboard for users to take advantage of.
To use SelfieType, you angle your device's front-facing camera toward your hands and begin typing. So long as all of your fingers are visible, SelfieType's "proprietary" AI engine should be able to analyze your finger movements and interpret them as valid key presses.
The software itself seems quite innovative, but in the real world, we wouldn't be surprised if users have a tough time using it. Just about every digital keyboard out there offers haptic feedback when a button is pressed -- usually a quick vibration combined with an audible "click." Further, when operating the average digital keyboard, users can see precisely which key they're pressing at any given moment, and mistakes are easy to fix.
By necessity, SelfieType appears to be throwing all of that out the window. The software doesn't seem to have any audio or physical feedback, nor does it allow you to look down and see what buttons you're typing.
This is a problem the SelfieType team will likely need to solve before moving forward, but it's hard to say how they might go about doing that. Obviously, you can't add haptic feedback or a holographic keyboard display to a table or airplane tray without external tools, which SelfieType's developers want to avoid.
Still, this is an exciting concept, and if the SelfieType team can overcome the issues laid out above, it could be a compelling product. Not everybody wants to lug a physical Bluetooth keyboard around with them, and others might find the small size of a smartphone or tablet keyboard to be overly restrictive.
If SelfieType takes off, perhaps it could solve both of those problems, but only time will tell. The software is not yet available to users, and it will likely be a while before that changes.