Microsoft has patented a radial keyboard designed for Xbox joystick typing

Judging by this patent, Microsoft is looking into ways to improve the "cumbersome" text inputs found on modern game devices, specifically Xbox One and Windows Mixed Reality.

The patent discusses the current nature of text inputs on Xbox One, noting that manually moving across a QWERTY-like interface with a joystick is a pain to perform.

Text entry via virtual/on-screen QWERTY keyboards is cumbersome on gaming consoles using game controllers and the emerging virtual reality (VR), augmented reailty (AR), and mixed reailty (MR) platforms. The QWERTY layout was designed and optimized for a two-handed, 10 finger input. However, it is inefficient and unnatural for the gaming, VR, AR, MR, and other input modalities (e.g., gamepad interaction, gaze, hand gestures, etc.) These modalities, by nature, are less efficient compared with simultaneous ten-fingers input.

Inefficient and unnatural indeed. Thankfully, it looks like Microsoft may have found a way to improve the situation, using a radial dial that looks vaguely similar to the interface that comes with the Surface Dial, albeit controlled by a joystick, presumeably either on an Xbox One controller or a Windows Mixed Reality controller.

Users will be able to navigate a radial dial, which according to the patent can also represent other shapes, such as a rectangle, selecting characters quickly using the joysticks. The dial will expand characters you're most likely to select next using machine learning to determine which word you're trying to write, allowing you to quickly auto-complete to your next word.

It's awesome that Microsoft is exploring ways to improve typing on console, especially considering the potential social disadvantage some players will be at once keyboard and mouse support arrives in the near future. A new interface for typing via joystick might also improve accessibility for some users.

Microsoft managed to squeeze surprisingly capable typing on the tiny screen of the Microsoft Band in years past, so who knows? Patents don't always lead to products, but this looks remarkably intuitive. Let's hope it makes it out of the patents office and onto our consoles.

Jez Corden
Co-Managing Editor

Jez Corden a Managing Editor at Windows Central, focusing primarily on all things Xbox and gaming. Jez is known for breaking exclusive news and analysis as relates to the Microsoft ecosystem while being powered by caffeine. Follow on Twitter @JezCorden and listen to his Xbox Two podcast, all about, you guessed it, Xbox!

  • This reminds me of a keyboard app I used for a short time on my Galaxy S2. Couldn't find it in a quick search though.
  • They were granted this patent? This doesn't seem like a new idea. On the other hand, I can't think of anything that uses this, so maybe it is. Cool idea nonetheless.
  • Virtual analog we see in many mobile games is also patented (but at the meantime, extremely easy to avoid), go figure... hnnn.... on second thought, the layout (UI) and the execution (UX) of this dial KB is prob unique / distinct enough. And, it didn't mention anything about touch screens. It's for gaming, VR, AR and MR.
  • BMW iDrive Dial uses text input. It's so much faster and lets you keep eyes on the road, compared to touch-based solutions.
  • Steam big picture has something like this iirc
  • Might be nice for a Andromeda type device.
  • They have plenty of time to mess around and none for phone.
  • Any phone Microsoft puts out now will most likely fail again; I have no idea why everyone is holding their breath for this so called Andromeda. It will have no apps, and it will be Windows Phone all over again.
  • Reminds me of the ultra weird thing in the Steam tv mode.
  • Valve did something like this. It worked great. IDK why they ended up not using it.
  • The App controllercompanion uses the idea for years! (they have a vbery good picture and Video on the website) I love it and use it every day with my Xbox One Controller. It worked already with the Xbox 360 Controller and I missed this function on both consoles so much! :D Hope the App won't have any legal issues now :/
  • this is my old lumia 3650 !!
  • sorry, my old Nokia 3650 ;)
  • Great... but given the number of apps on Xbox that insist on using their own "in-app" keyboards (in such a way that even the chatpad doesn't work to enter passwords etc) this won't make much of a difference even if it is significantly easier to use than a normal onscreen keyboard.
  • Netflix, I'm looking at you. *Shakes fist*
  • Yeah, too right. Bought the chat pad so people couldn't see when I type my password, only for every app that requires one to have it's own keyboard. Then you get that awkward moment where everyone has to look away while you type your password in. Like in the store when you're using chip and pin. Lol
  • Actually, the wireless Logitech keyboard we've been using has worked with Netflix. On the rare occasions we're doing a search, we've used it.
  • If only you could plug in any USB keyboard into your Xbox. If only ...
  • That's not convenient for many people.
  • How is that any less convenient than a controller? We've been using a wireless keyboard with our original Xbox One the whole time. Our controller stays in a drawer.
  • It's just overkill for most people, having a keyboard laying about that you might use once or twice a week. Having to put the controller down, pick up the keyboard. It's more inconvenient than anything... Just to type one or two words. Keyboard isn't exactly a thing most people want taking up room on their coffee table in their lounge.
  • I'm with you.
    People with KB connected are the minority. But, with xbox & game supporting KBM, things might change (a lilo), who knows?
  • Well, since we either use the keyboard or our Logitech Harmony, and never a controller, this works best for us. I'm banking on the expanded mouse support, my self. Our keyboard has a built-in track pad. Sheer heaven.
  • I don't want a keyboard in my living room. I barely want the console visible.
  • I'll take a wireless keyboard & mouse over a controller any day of the week, in any universe.
  • I see 4 keyboards in my living room and i like it:
    - 2x gaming PC (Cherry MX Board)
    - Dell XPS 13 2in1
    - Media keyboard for the HTPC
  • Finally a logical solution, having box app open on SP4 just to type is also a pain and doesn't always work!
  • This seems very similar to the BMW idrive text entry interface. Except BMW uses a scroll wheel rather than a joystick. The BMW idrive system even provides predictive results as you're typing that is relevant to the field you're in.
  • I'm a touch typist, so a regular keyboard will always the fastest, most efficient way for me.
  • Doesn't Steam already do this in Big Picture mode?
  • Chatpad rules. Never had the password issue others have with whatever apps theyre using.