A few weeks ago, we detailed a Microsoft patent which seemed to showcase new radial software keyboard styles to circumvent the terrible on-screen keyboards currently available on consoles. The new radial software keyboard would allow you to select characters using joysticks, using auto-prediction methods to help you write. This latest patent goes a bit further.
Dubbed "Dual Input Multilayer Keyboard," the patent details how new layers of keys and symbols would surface, based on directional movements on either a joystick, and now, via a touch gesture. This sort of input method would (if it works) not only help solve the cumbersome input methods on console, but perhaps also on tablets and phones, particularly when holding a mobile device in landscape mode.
I'd say it's clear that Microsoft is intent on improving the typing experience not only on its Xbox consoles, but also for its xCloud streaming platform. When playing games in a landscape configuration, having a software keyboard take up half of the screen is simply awful. If this dual-thumb method works, it could enhance the overall experience immeasurably, and thus, help it attain mainstream proliferation. It could also help improve the typing experience on devices like the Surface Go, Pro, Book, and the mythical Surface Andromeda while attempting to type on-screen in a landscape configuration.
The technology can be implemented as a virtual keyboard. Selecting a single output for the keyboard requires a user to provide two inputs. Each input is provided with reference to a different layer. Providing the first input to the first layer activates a second layer specific to the key selected with the first input. Each key in the first layer can be associated with a unique second layer. The output (e.g., a character) is determined from the second layer by providing a second input. The combination of the first and second input selects the ultimate output.
As always, patents don't necessarily mean we'll ever get our hands on these concepts, but they're intriguing nontheless. Let's hope we see them materialize for real in the near future.
Thanks to Steven for the tip!