Augmented Reality Device Turns Arm Into Virtual Keyboard, NEC ARmKeypad’s Release Date Set For 2016 [Video]

The NEC ARmKeypad is an augmented reality device which turns your arm into a virtual keyboard along the sleeve of the hand. To a certain extent, this AR device looks like tech from Iron Man or Halo 5’s Spartan suit, although it requires both a smartwatch and a set of smartglasses in order to function.

In a related report by the Inquisitr, a new augmented reality game called Pokemon Go allows gamers to catch them all virtually in the world.

Google Glass was among the first commercially viable augmented reality smartglasses. Google Glass is a wearable smartphone which overlays the reality of your normal vision with digital information, or graphics, that augments what you see. In short, augmented reality combines the digital and the real world.

So far, examples of augmented reality devices have been largely tied to increased productivity and better socialization capabilities while on the move. Voice recognition and simple hand gestures are, so far, the primary methods of control. But the NEC ARmKeypad hopes to change how people can work within a virtual environment.

The main issue with smartphones and tablets is that they can be slightly cumbersome while on the job. For example, in a factory or medical environment, it can be difficult to juggle your smart device while working on various tasks with both hands.

“I wanted to make a keyboard of the body so I created this device for people who work in maintenance or factory jobs,” said Shin Norieda, a researcher at NEC who created the device, in an interview with Vice. “They can just go hands-free.”

Technically, a virtual keyboard can also be projected onto any flat surface detected by smart glasses. Earlier in 2015, Google even patented a virtual keyboard, which they called a “touch typing emulator for a flat surface.” The basic concept is that an audio devices listens for the sound of tapping on the flat surface in order to detect where the fingers are located on the keyboard. But such an implementation is not desirable for anyone trying to be in the middle of the action.

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In the new Halo 5 video game, the Spartan suits apparently are projecting a virtual touch screen interface directly from the arm, but since the action is always from a first person perspective, it is possible Master Chief could have used a similar device. To explain how this augmented reality device turns an arm into a virtual keyboard, Norieda explained how the ARmKeypad uses two devices to create the effect.

The augmented reality smart glasses are paired with a smartwatch which tracks the physical location of the user’s arm. Based upon this information, the virtual keyboard is project along the user’s arm. The first version was finished in 2011, but was largely limited to larger buttons, although the current version is apparently accurate enough to support smaller virtual buttons.

Norieda says he developed the augmented reality device for the arms of medical doctors/nurses and industry workers, but he believes a larger consumer release is possible some time in the future. The developer does not mention it, but it is even possible the U.S. military might be interested in such technology so future soldiers can work with virtual interfaces on the battlefield.

The NEC ARmKeypad’s release date is all set for 2016, although the developer says the artwork in the current user interface needs some brushing up for its final version. Otherwise, industry workers should soon expect to be able to use an augmented reality device on their arm.

[Image via NEC]

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