How We May Use Microsoft's Adaptive Keyboard Concept

By Wesley Fenlon

Can your keyboard do THIS?

Remember that Microsoft Adaptive Keyboard prototype we showed you a couple months back? It’s a next-gen keyboard dreamed up by the engineers at Microsoft that incorporates a touch panel and a full LCD display into the typical keyboard layout, making it possible to display all kinds of stuff behind the keys with a little programming. Instead of trying to prove that this was the future of keyboards, Microsoft handed their creation off to a collection of students at the User Interface Software and Technology symposium in a good old-fashioned contest.

Three first place winners (one each in the categories of implementation, creativity and usefulness) came up with some seriously divergent applications which prove just how versatile the technology is. One group turned the keyboard into a visual clipboard, another developed a system to frustrate keyloggers, and the third built a game.

The final winner, for creativity, brings us back to painful memories of keyboarding class and the horrors of 90s instructional software. Whack-a-Mole maps the traditional reaction time game onto the keyboard with an image that rapidly appears and disappears on random keys--hammer the right keys fast enough and you’ll earn a high score. We have to admit, the idea of using this concept to teach kids how to type is pretty cool--there’s a lot of potential here for tying visual clues into vocabulary. Use a moving image of the word “apple” to teach a child how to type the word, and they’re going to know exactly what it means.

Plenty of the applications that didn’t win presented strong cases for how versatile Adaptive Keyboard displays are. Check out this (24 minute) video of students showing off their creations, like a color-coded system for programmers, an app for audio and video editing, and a new annotation interface.