Microsoft has released ‘The Analog Keyboard Project’ for Android Wear. The Microsoft Research project is aimed at providing the optimal keyboard for smaller devices and it’s nice to see a new Microsoft that is open to bringing their software on a platform that is ready for users, not waiting for their own smartwatch.
The keyboard focuses on you drawing out characters on the screen. You write out words one character at a time, and while that may seem slow, it’s not meant for writing emails. The simplistic UI does ensure that you get the most area possible to write. You can watch the video embedded below to see the details.
There are some technical limitations of the software currently. It supports screens with a 320 x 320 resolution and the Moto 360, so it is not available for every Android Wear device. It doesn’t do capital letters, or fancy words well. Most annoying is that you have to side-load the app, as it is not available in Google Play. You can read more technical details on the application and about the project here.
Google itself does not ship a keyboard with Android Wear, instead focusing on voice and Google Now. While that is probably the fastest and quickest way to interact with a smart watch, there are obvious draws to that being the only option. There are places you don’t want to talk to your wrist, and places where it would not be appropriate to do so. For example, if my friend texts me while I am in lecture, I’d rather give a short response typed out from my wrist — especially if a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ will suffice.
Further, Microsoft is ensuring they are part of the services people will use on Android Wear. In my opinion, this is best way to get users to give Microsoft’s own platform a chance when it comes out. If the Analog Keyboard becomes a ubiquitous input mechanism for Wear users, as Google Maps and YouTube were for iOS users, Microsoft will have ensured they have one Android Wear ‘must-have’ already on their platform.
But in the meantime, this is one more reason I now want a Moto 360. Convince me otherwise, Microsoft.Further reading: Android Wear, Microsoft