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by Nanea Kalani, Business editor

This drawback results in alternative, often clumsy, forms of data input, such as handwriting recognition pads or typing messages on a miniature numeric keypad.

But, a solution to faulty data input features has arrived on the market: a light-projected keyboard for PDAs and other hand-held devices.

Canesta, a San Jose-based electronics company, has designed what it calls an integrated projection keyboard to eliminate having to lug numerous gadgets around when working on the move, according to their Web site, canesta.com.

The development allows users to convert any flat surface, such as tabletops and airplane and train seat-back trays, into a keyboard. “You simply take your PDA, it shines a keyboard onto the table, and you just type on the table as if it were a keyboard,” said Jim Spare, Canesta’s vice president of product marketing, in an interview with BBC News.

“ The electronic perception technology watches your fingers move and translates that into keystrokes in the device,” Spare continued. “It can also do mouse functions so you get the ease of a full-size keyboard, but it appears anywhere you want to use it.”

The innovative light-projected keyboard is made possible by a small sensor with three chips–one that beams the keyboard image, and two that pick up the movement of typing fingers, said Spare. When typing on the infrared keyboard, typing movements interact with the light and sends signals to the sensor.

Industry experts see the new technology having great possibilities. “Giving machines such perceptual capabilities would make possible a whole new class of devices and products,” said Kevin Werbach, co-organizer of PC Forum, an annual gathering for technology-industry executives and entrepreneurs.

For example, the automotive industry has applied the technology to enhance safety features, according to Siemens Automotive. The company has created a three-dimensional sensor for cars, to “map out” drivers’ and passengers’ exact locations in real time, to improve airbag deployment.
Also, medical facilities and hazard areas could benefit by having light-projected input devices for sanitary purposes. And, video game controllers could become a thing of the past if the infrared technology is used to create games that could be played using gestures instead of hand-held controls. The possibilities are endless.

The device sells for about $200. For more information visit canesta.com.


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