Pressure Sensitive Keyboard


The Applied Sciences group in Microsoft Hardware have come up with an interesting tool. This is a pressure sensitive keyboard. Our minds went strait to gaming, as theirs did too apparently. They show how this could give you more control in your games based on how hard you push the button. Remember the first time you got to use an analog stick, it sure is hard to go back to a D-pad. We want to know when we’ll get to play with these cool toys made by Microsoft.

45 thoughts on “Pressure Sensitive Keyboard

  1. I’ve always wondered why this hasn’t been done before, are the pressure sensitive keys more expensive by some huge amount or something? Then again I don’t know who would care with the 40-100+ dollar keyboards you can get now that people buy all the time. (I have a Saitek Eclipse II which isn’t too expensive, but you can get keyboards for like 5-10 bucks)

    Maybe the keys are really mushy (they don’t have that click) so they figured people wouldn’t like it for typing. People complained about that when buttons went pressure sensitive on gamepads anyway.

  2. IIRC Logitech has several patents for pressure sensitive keys specifically for PC keyboards, I expect Microsoft to have some competition very soon, that is if support is given to DirectInput.

  3. if you want to play with one and you’re a student they have a contest going where they send you a prototype and you make an application for it!

    …but you have to attend UIST 2009 and what student has those kinda funds??

  4. Sorry, but no.

    The only thing I hate worse than crappy thumbsticks are “pressure sensitive” buttons.

    A button is by nature digital, on or off, making a button “sensitive” is crap.

    Work on something else, some other form of input for the PC, not this.

    The only uses I can see for this are ones that do not directly control the PC, such as a mood sensor for detecting user rage or excitement.

    While it may be technically innovative, the poor ergonomics of a standard keyboard are bad enough, trying to get any form of fine control with this system is asking for repetitive stress problems.

    Perhaps the technology can be integrated into something useful and not dangerous to people’s health.

  5. It certainly is an excellent idea, I could see some great uses for it, but even as demonstrated it could be a serious pain to type, and I could see how in certain games it would actually be more of a set back than an advantage. However, what would really be nifty is if you could simply enable a “normal keyboard” mode where every keystroke you do would be like using your regular keyboard. All in all though, I think this could be majorly successful.
    And I definitely agree with chris, some games I could see the sensitivity being a real pain.

  6. Er, yeah. This has been around for a while. Better electric keyboards (piano) have pressure sensitive keys (and have for many years). Also, several game consoles have had pressure sensitive keys, though they’ve rarely been used.

  7. @wtf
    In case you didn’t read half the comments above you, THEY DID!

    The playstation 2 had this and it came out almost 10 years ago (2000) for god’s sake. They rarely used it in games, but believe, it’s there!

  8. this sounds very interesting and promising. now there can be more control with gaming and imagine they could have it so once you start to flail away on your keyboard it would automatically go into capital letters, now that’s one way to unleash the fury of caps lock.

  9. @saites

    Piano keyboards use MIDI velocity sensing, not pressure. It can control things in the same way but instead of how hard you push down, it’s how sharply you strike the key.

  10. I can see its uses for some purposes, but for others it seems alittle obtuse, for example for playing FPS this keyboard would be great, as it shows in the video, but for other games like mmorpg’s (an extremely popular genre) it could cause problems. Also the program/game being used would have to recognise the command which could be a problem if a sole company has/gets rights to developing it. I would like to see how this performs with various gaming genres though…

  11. How would this “cause problems” with anything, a simple setting change and it becomes a normal keyboard.

    Anyway, its hard to tell if they’ve just intercepted the key matrix, or if they produced a custom button sheet more ideal for pressure sensitivity.

  12. The harder you are pressing, the larger the circle correct (r is increasing)? Wouldn’t the signal (pi*r^2) then increase exponentially?

    I would buy this if it increases linearly so long as the throw isn’t too long. Bonus points if they used springs!

    The possibilities are endless! Imagine walking/sneaking around in a game without having to hold down shift. Or steering/throttle/brake input NOT based on frequency of keytaps. Scandinavian flick?

    Also, You will no longer need to switch from keyboard to joystick to steering wheel in the middle of a game.

    As for ergonomics, why don’t you stick with what you’re using? It’s not like pressure sensitive keyboards will be your only option.

  13. Ahemmm….

    did someone else noticed that some of the example apps looks a bit strange…. one (this 3D world move me around, is well known under Linux) and why did they hide the rest of the desktop ? and how ? I know how to do it under Linux but is it possible under Windows ….

    Does the Mircosoft Science group use Linux as there development system.

    I mean it would be ok to do so, since they really have to work with there system they also need a real OS ;)

  14. Cheaper piano keyboards do indeed use velocity not pressure, but the more expensive models keyboards also do pressure, it’s sometimes called ‘aftertouch’ on musical instruments/MIDI, you can set it to change the pitch so you get a vibrato effect or just volume.

    @tux-fan they might use linux, nothing wrong with that, but they could also simply be using a OpenGL app to show the pressure and have just opened a full (black) screen.
    And it’s not impossible or super hard to hide the desktop either, I have a autohotkey app that dims the screen that isn’t the active window for instance (, but I don’t think this is on the desktop.

  15. Would be better if they started to make some keyboards that was worth using in the first place, all those rubber based keyboard just doesnt have the fell of a good old Ibm Model M one.

  16. This MS version simply uses the existing matrix on the keyboard, and measures the resistance changes resulting from pressure changes. The problem with this method is: the difference in pressure between full-on and full-off is very small, making it very inaccurate for gaming. There are other ways to solve the problem, one of which I’m working on with some success….

    In all of these cases there is the option to change the thresholds for the pressure levels to return it to the function of a normal keyboard

  17. To whoever mentioned “mushy” keys:

    I believe this prototype uses the exact same physical keys and membrane etc. as a standard keyboard, it just swaps out the electronics for something a bit more advanced.

    Therefore the “feel” will be exactly the same.

    I would like to see this tech used to have 5 sensors per key – one in each corner so the keyboard can better detect fumbled keystrokes and do much better spell correction.

    The biggest barrier to this I believe will be compatibility – it would require a special driver and probably serious modifications to the operating system to properly handle and propogate the extra pressure information to applications.

  18. I would like to see this used with IMs or IRC like Messenger.

    making the characters change size (or shade of color?) depending on the pressure? might work to give people a better understanding of someones mood… e.g. the more they hammer the keys the more angry etc.

  19. Yeah sidewinder was OK, but I have one of their old keyboards and it wasn’t, it creaked like a 16th century pirateship with poor maintenance from the start.
    And their ballmouse was OK too but the first optical USB mice although nice in the hand and with good switches had issues with suddenly going dead and you had to unplug it to get it back to life, a bit frustrating in games I found.
    So it’s a mixed bag.

  20. I had the sidewinder USB gamepad;

    I got so upset with the ergonomics that I cut the PCB down until it fit in the left grip of a PSX pad,

    then wired the button matrix to the PSX PCB.

    Eww sidewinder.

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  22. This would be crap for most games IMO. If they were smart they’d market this to ppl who are into music composition using PCs. Varying the pressure on your keyboard can be used to vary the volume of the note. As far as gaming goes, I have yet to find a game where I didn’t want the reaction to be as quick as possible. I’d hate to have it slow me down just because my fingers are too tired/sore from slamming the keys after an hr.

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