Back in the summer, before Apple launched its Apple Watch and when Android Wear was only just seeing its third model announced, we were talking about the idea of a Microsoft smartwatch – one that was said to come out this very month, in fact. Those rumors may have seriously cooled down in recent months, but Microsoft is still clearly thinking a lot about smartwatches. Over the weekend, news of a surprising smartwatch effort from the company emerged, not in the advancement of any Microsoft-branded wearables, but as it shared word of an experimental keyboard it had baked up for Android Wear.
Like many of the rest of us, Microsoft is curious about the best way to do text entry on a device as small as a smartwatch. Sure, voice recognition offers some benefits, but it’s not always practical – sometimes you really do need to enter text manually. We’ve seen efforts like Minuum’s unusual linear keyboard, but Microsoft’s thinking about something much more straightforward: handwriting recognition.
Well, not anything like you might accomplish with a proper stylus; instead, Microsoft’s keyboard recognizes text letter-by-letter as you trace out characters on your smartwatch’s display. This so-called Analog Keyboard has its limitations: it’s lower-case-only for now, only works on the Gear Live and Moto 360 (the G Watch has an unsupported 280 x 280 screen resolution), and won’t recognize even mild profanity (we know, total deal-breaker, right). But it’s still something that sounds fun to experiment with, even if it’s not a viable everyday typing solution just yet.
Microsoft makes some good points about how this kind of system could be useful – once you get used to it, for instance, it should be possible to type without even looking at the watch – so if you’ve got one of those supported Android Wear models, hit up the source link and give it a try for yourself.