Goodbye Keyboards, Hello Air Writing!

March 7, 2013, By Sanjeev Ramachandran

First came the pen. Then came keyboards, and later, the touch screens. Now, it’s all up for  air writing. Yes, you heard that right. A wristband developed by Karlsruhe Institute of Technology now interprets air writing, and even as you read this a next generation technology is born.

The Air Writing system, developed at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), involves sensors attached to a glove to record hand movements, with a computer system capturing relevant signals and translating them into text.

The work has won as much as $81,000 grant from Google. The scientists want to fine tune the process and make the glove more comfortable to wear with the money they’ve received from the “Google Faculty Research Award”.


The system could even be integrated into smartphones directly, turning devices into virtual pens. Tiny acceleration sensors and gyroscopes are attached to the thin glove, recording the movements of the hand and transmitting them to a computer system via a wireless connection. The first job for the computer is to make sure that the user is actually writing.

While writing, the system decodes the letters using pattern recognition. For every letter of the alphabet, a statistical model of the characteristic signal pattern is stored.

The system can learn individual handwriting styles, and currently has a vocabulary of 8,000 words.

Right now, it has a rather poor error rate of 11 percent, although this would drop to three percent once it gets adapted to the individual writing style of the user. The team is now working on refining the system, as well as on making it smaller.

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