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I have been told, on more than one occasion, that I have "alien fingers." What is meant by this, I suppose, is that my fingers are uncommonly long and thin. More polite observers of my unusual manual anatomy may comment that I "should have been a piano player"—an observation that sometimes smarts even more, since I took lessons for years, but never got much past a glitchy grade-school performance of Für Elise.

The most woeful consequence of my extraterrestrial-like digits, however, is that as a result of them, I have found typing on virtual keyboards (like the one on my iPhone) to be incredibly annoying. Of course, I'm not alone in this—most everyone prefers a physical keyboard to a virtual one. But the challenges of the virtual keyboard tend to be more prevalent among those with unusual fingers—especially fat ones, or short ones, or long ones, or generally misshapen ones. With this in mind, IBM has submitted a patent application that would turn the virtual keyboard's weakness—its non-physicality—into an asset.

Specifically, according to a patent application first spotted by New Scientist's Paul Marks, IBM has a notion that virtual keyboards might adapt to each user's particular anatomy. As the inventors write in their application (first filed in 2009, though only recently published), "as each person has a different physical anatomy in terms of finger size, length, range of motion, efficiency gains could be achieved in terms of speed, 'comfort' and error prevention by adapting the keyboard to a user's unique typing motion paths."

Great idea.  To read the rest of the article, click here.
Category: Science