Despite the rise in touchscreens and gesture-controlled devices, the humble computer keyboard has remained practically unchanged for decades.
But Microsoft is bringing the input device into the 21st century by working on a futuristic keyboard that responds to hand gestures so you could navigate around your screen without having to hold a mouse.
Microsoft Research has developed an augmented mechanical keyboard, an enhanced input device which uses infrared sensors to support the kind of additional gestures found in touch-free devices like the Leap Motion Controller.
Detailed in a paper entitled Type-Hover-Swipe in 96 Bytes: A Motion Sensing Mechanical Keyboard, it looks a bit like a conventional keyboard, but hidden between the keys are a 16:4 array of infrared proximity sensors. These sensors can detect motion on top of, or even a short distance above the keys.
When using the keyboard, hands remain in the conventional typing position, but gestures can enhance the experience by offering more control over apps and other on-screen elements. For example you could explore documents with a tablet-style pinch-and-zoom gesture, while hover gestures can be used to switch between applications.
Microsoft also believes the device can be used for gaming, for example by simulating a virtual steering wheel in a racing game. Check out the video to find out more (via CNET).