Patent Filed for Laser-Projected Keypad with Google Glasses
By Barry Levine / Top Tech News. Updated January 18, 2013.
As if an interactive data overlay on everything you see wasn't enough, Google may have another futuristic innovation in mind for its Project Glass interactive eyewear. The technology giant has filed a patent application for a tiny laser to project a virtual keypad from the side of the glasses onto a surface such as your hand. The glasses can then tell the numbers or letters chosen by how you move your hand.
The keypad, or keyboard, could be projected onto any surface, but the movement of the body part or the background pattern becomes part of the interpreted input. The glasses already have voice input, so the projected pattern is for those times -- even in the future, as close as it may be -- when a user just needs to input information silently.
Such input could be appropriate for those times when speaking your thoughts or commands through the glasses' voice commands is simply not appropriate. Hopefully, libraries will remain relatively voice-free zones long into the future, for instance. On the other extreme, some environments could simply be too noisy for voice input to work.
Pattern on a Surface
Google Glass will have a tiny camera on one stem, and, according to the patent application, the camera could then process the gestures on the projection. The projection could, for instance, be a keypad cast on a left hand, and that hand's movement -- a thumb moving this way, the hand turned that way -- could modify the pattern and thereby indicate a choice of numbers or letters.
In fact, there's nothing in the patent application, Methods and Systems for a Virtual Input Device, to prevent the projection from being something other than an alphanumeric grid like a keypad or keyboard. The application, No. 20130016070, describes the projector casting "a pattern on a surface," so the projection could conceivably be, say, an image of a rotating Earth, which the user can "spin" or select a country with one hand.
The location of a gesture -- that is, what a finger might be selecting -- could be based on any number of changes to the image, such as the brightness level, a change in the area, or a comparison between the projected image and a background.
Projected input devices, such as keyboards, are not new. One can buy such a laser-generated keyboard for $150 at Walmart, or another such product at Hammacher Schlemmer for $200. The U.S. Patent Office will need to determine if Google's variation is sufficiently new to warrant a patent, but the novelty here appears to be that changes to the projection by a body part or the background become a key means of interpreting the input.
The Google Glass titanium-framed glasses headset was first revealed at Google's I/O developer conference in the summer of last year. Babak Parviz, head of the Google Glass project, has told news media that the device is still being developed and, at any rate, will represent not simply a collection of input devices, but an "entirely new platform."
The glasses aren't expected to be available for consumers until next year, although the company has indicated it is planning to release a version to selected developers later this year. The price of the first incarnation is estimated to be about $1,500.