The problem of how to use a keyboard in a virtual environment has been a tricky one for developers. The finger-operated keyboard is still the best way we have for user to input information quickly, particularly in productivity-driven or desktop scenarios, but also in games, social applications and content browsing.
You would be forgiven for thinking that the solution would to learn to touch-type so that you can still use a keyboard while wearing a headset. But, this is surprisingly difficult in a virtual environment.
Logitech and HTC Vive have combined to bring the keyboard into virtual reality for the first time with the Bridge Developer Kit.
By combining the HTC Vive tracker with a Logitech G gaming keyboards, the Logitecg Bridge developers kit allows users to see a 3D model of their keyboard and real-time representations of thier hands.
In a blog post Logitech’s director of innovations and strategy, Vincent Tucker, wrote:
“It is this software piece that presents the user with an overlaid virtual representation of their keyboard in any VR application, complete with animations when keys are pressed. It’s compatible with all apps that are developed based on SteamVR. The developer’s application does not need to manage anything, the overlay appears automatically as soon as the associated Vive Tracker is turned on.”
You can see a video showing the virtual keyboard here.
The tactile feel
The solution is still in its testing stage at the moment, and no public release date has been given.
“Virtual keyboards are great for simple interactivity, but for productivity and collaboration there’s nothing quite like the tactile feel of typing on an actual physical keyboard,” Darshan Shankar, Founder and CEO, Bigscreen, Inc said. “Being able to see your keyboard in VR makes it significantly easier to type and interact with our computers.”
The tracker measures the user’s hand movments and follows them in real time, which allows the user to better situate themselves in relation to both what they are seeing and what they are doing with their hands.
Importantly, the kit also allws for the customisation of their keyboards, meaning that users can remap all of the key functions based on the context in which the keyboard is being used.
“Enabling the Web is critical to the expansion of VR and having a keyboard is essential to making that happen,” Diego Marcos, A-Frame API designer from Mozilla, said. “That’s why we’re excited about the work Logitech is doing on this front. We are so impressed with what they’ve created and know that it will only get better with time.”
The pair of companies will be accepting applications over the next 10 days for one of the 50 available to take part in the beta programme. You can apply here.
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