Logitech Using Vive Tracker to Bring Your Keyboard and Hands Into VR for Efficient Typing

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Logitech is creating a new system called BRIDGE which aims to make it possible to bring a properly tracked keyboard into VR while showing the user’s hands for accurate typing. Though retail plans haven’t yet been announced, the company is offering a development kit to select developers.

VR promises to one day take computer productivity to the next level by letting us trade physical monitors for an infinite spatial desktop that unlocks our applications from flat windows. But with so much of today’s productivity computing reliant on keyboard input, and with VR headsets blinding users from the outside world, it can be difficult and frustrating to be productive for common tasks in VR, even if you’re an expert touch typist.

Logitech wants to solve that problem, and they’ve introduced what they’re calling Bridge, a system which works with the Vive Tracker to bring a properly scaled, modeled, and tracked keyboard into the virtual world to make typing in VR a breeze.

Bridge will be built into SteamVR, meaning it can potentially work with any VR application on the platform with little work from the developers themselves. However, if developers want, they can customize the keyboard model, possibly to make it better fit the theme of the VR experience or even to change the symbols on the keys to provide app-specific context.

Having a properly tracked model of your keyboard inside the VR environment is a good start, but you really also need to see your hands and fingers. Logitech thought of that too, and it appears that they’re employing the Vive‘s front-facing camera to extract the user’s hands and then clip the view to the outline of the keyboard model.

Logitech isn’t ready to sell Bridge, but the company says they’re offering 50 development kits and a beta version of their SDK to select developers (valued at $150). The company is accepting applications for the Bridge development kit through November 16th, and says that if there’s strong interest they’ll consider offering a larger quantity.

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This isn’t the first time someone has tried to make typing easier in VR, but it’s one of the most high-tech we’ve seen so far. Other approaches we’ve seen have involved projecting into the VR space a section of an external camera view that aimed at your keyboard. That works relatively well for visual reference, but the result is a completely flat representation of your keyboard, most likely with a stretched perspective since it relies on a 2D camera. Not to mention, since your keyboard isn’t tracked, if you move it out of the projected view, it will get clipped out of the virtual world.

SEE ALSO
4 Virtual Reality Desktops for Vive, Rift, and Windows VR Compared

There’s been a number of attempts at effective text-input methods in VR using motion controllers and virtual keyboards, but nothing that’s come close to matching the speed of real keyboard input. Voice input is effectively employed by both the Oculus and Windows VR platforms, but mostly for voice-command rather than dictated text input.

Update (11/4/17): A prior version of this article indicated that the Logitech Bridge development kit would cost developers $150; Logitech reached out to clarify that the Bridge development kit is valued at $150, but is free of charge for developers chosen to receive it. The article has been updated to reflect this.

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  • Luke

    very cool logitech!

  • Anand

    They should come up with simplified/miniature trackers for things like keyboards, mice, controllers

    • Icebeat

      they should come up with a miniature trackers for everything, the current one is too big for my taste.

  • Jean-Sebastien Perron

    We need a version for Oculus

    • Armando Tavares

      We need an universal way of doing it. Something that any VR/MR device can plug in and use.

      This all ‘wave your hands around’ to play VR content wont fly for much longer. People will want access to stuff (RPGs and RTSs, MMO or otherwise) that can’t be used unless you have a keyboard.

      I for one, do. Tbh I’m not interested in ANY way whatsoever, in playing stuff like LoneEcho. I’ll do it because I’m curious and want to try it, but I won’t spend any serious time in it. I want a way to play World of Warships/Tanks for example and for that I need my keyboard.

  • Armando Tavares

    Acknowledge keyboard/hand tracking to be a must, is a HUGE step in the right direction. So, kudos for that. However, doing it this way, is not, because it’s directly connected to a specific device. How would it work with Oculus? Or Win MR?

    What keyboard manufacturers need, is to come up with a cheap, that doesn’t tax the CPU too much, UNIVERSAL way of the keyboard (or some other device) doing it on it’s own.

    Other keyboard manufacturers will soon follow and, fortunately, some (like ASUS) are within the Win MR universe.

    • dk

      there is no hand “tracking” it’s a 2d cut out from the video of the vive camera…..it’s done the same way as this https://youtu.be/oB9HCasvffc it’s basically a shadow of your hands

      • Armando Tavares

        Yea I know… even though there is keyboard positional tracking (hence the VIVE tracker attached to it).

        I called it ‘tracking’ to make it simple(er) and everyone get’s what I’m talking about. However some other system, aimed at some other device, may be forced to go the ‘hand tracking’ way (Oculus has no cams).

        IR sensors in every key comes to mind….

        Thx for your input dude :)

        • dk

          some people can easily be mislead to think that there is hand tracking in the logitech demo when it’s just an image of where r the hands

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  • Citizen One

    OMG, LOL! … Logitech, you are soooo far behind the curve! It is saddening and embarrassing to see what Logi is doing here. Have they thought about how completely useless this tool/SDK is? 1) How many users are sitting at their desks eager to type on a keyboard when using VR? The whole idea of VR is to have an immersive experience ie using your hands, your feet, your whole body! 2) Have they done any market Research, consumer surveys with their target group? No! 3) This is not only utterly off in terms of what users want and need, it also discredits the reputation of them as an innovative company. Come up with something truly innovative in VR please, otherwise just remain silent on this frontier and continue to build old legacy hardware.

    • dk

      it’s a tracked monitor …..it can be used for anything ….it’s not just a console

      • Citizen One

        Logi is just using the live video from the HTC cam so users can see their fingers. There is ABSOLUTELY NO tracking of the fingers nor any other model to capture what the fingers are actually doing, so your claim is wrong: this CANNOT be used for absolutely anything since you would still need a software that captures the individual fingers and hand. Hyperbolic claim I would say…

        • dk

          lol ….the claim is absolutely true…….u can use a vr headsets for absolutely anything …..including something involving a keyboard

          ……………….and yes I hate it when people claim that there is hand tracking in what logitech is doing

          • Citizen One

            Well, you did. You said it’s a tracked monitor, but it’s really just a monitor.

          • dk

            the point was it can be used for productivity or game scenarios or whatever u can imagine and in plenty of those cases u might need a keyboard

    • CrazyWinks

      I think the productivity application is a great step. Pointing a controller at an on screen keyboard is fine for a quick entry but definitely not ideal for any sort of real world work applications. VR shouldn’t ONLY be about gaming. Replacing my desk full of monitors, that I could virtually take anywhere to work would be pretty awesome. ‘Working’ on projects while sitting by say, a river or mountain top.
      Yeah, I’m in.

      • Citizen One

        There is device for that already. It’s called notebook or tablet… but yeah, I can see why need a virtual 3D environment to look at a 2D screen… Makes perfect sense!

        • VR space is not restricted to a tiny little view into your business software, it expands your working space to 360 all around you. you just need to think outside the box, literally :D

          • Citizen One

            Your reply makes no sense. You’re using a 3D medium for 2D purposes. And don’t tell me what VR space is. I have been a programmer for VR from day one…

          • NooYawker

            How’s that working out for you? Work on anything we know? What’s day one btw? The day the oculus or vive was released or are we going back decades.. are you old enough to remember when VR was first being worked on?

          • Citizen One

            The tone of your reply shows you’ve still got a lot to learn when communicating on social platforms: you’re becoming personal as soon as you run out of arguments. Fact is: if you need and want to use your keyboard then VR is the wrong platform. Being a developer I can just tell you that working for hours with an HMD on to >code< is not fun nor does it give you any incremental benefit. VR was made for 3D experiences and I find it absurd to develop something that allows people to use their keyboard in VR. This is backward thinking. It is detrimental to the progression of VR. They should be thinking about something that supports true 3D interaction.

          • NooYawker

            You’re like a small child. Go back and read your posts and see what kind of tone you had. And see if you attacked anyone personally.

          • NooYawker

            This guy is obviously incapable of seeing beyond his own nose. He doesn’t want a VR keyboard so he shoots down anyone who does. And he claims to be a VR dev. Such short sighteness won’t take anyone, let alone a dev very far.

          • Aye, I don’t mind a difference of opinion but I can see Citizen One is adverse to the possible uses of VR for 2D workflows. I would explain it further as my last reply made no sense to them but then the defensive attitude makes it pointless.

    • NooYawker

      It solves a problem for people who use say virtual desktop. The reality is people use a keyboard in VR. How is this behind the curve? They’re the only ones working on a viable keyboard solution for VR. You like pointing a laser at a keyboard??

      • Citizen One

        I am surrounded by developers working on VR apps and games and none of them puts his HMD on to use a virtual 2D screen in VR to work on anything. How daft is this anyway? You want 3D immersion when you use VR not a 2D display which you already have in the real world. You clearly havent understood the concept of VR…

        • NooYawker

          So all hose developers and you included think no one browses the web in VR? Use apps like big screen beta? For a group of devs you sure don’t seem to see the big picture or understand the consumer market.

          • Citizen One

            Indeed. Me and my pals develop software for true VR conveying immersion in 3D space, we dont put our HMDs on to see a virtual 2D screen in VR using a keyboard. LOL. This is absurd.
            VR E-commerce is already taking place in 3D space, but you’re of course welcome to use your Logi keyboard to experience VR. It’s just the completely wrong device for a novel medium. They will be happy you’re extending their products’ lifecycle for them.

          • NooYawker

            Man, you really just completely ignored what I wrote didn’t you? Like I said you and your 2nd rate developers, who can’t afford your own office is renting a shared space, are out of touch. You think only what you do counts and everyone else doesn’t. To think no one types in VR is just plain ignorant. But that’s ok, you seem like a big success.

          • Citizen One

            Dude, you’re just the regular online basher / hater: when you run out of arguments, you are starting to insult others. There are companies that progress and innovate interaction with VR – be it by speech recognition, finger tracking or gesture recognition, not by “bringing a keyboard into VR”. This is just counterproductive for the advancement of this medium. Get your fundamentals straight and learn a bit from the cracks like John Carmack, Mike Abrash and the likes.

          • A keyboard in VR to support the existing hundreds of thousands of apps that exist already is a stop gap that allows people to continue using those apps in their Virtual Environment until they are converted to fully VR versions.

            What is not to understand that this is wanted by many consumers at the moment?

            Do you honestly think that you understand this segment more than Oculus and Microsoft and now Logitech? These are giants. Oculus are releasing “Dash”. Microsoft OS will support app pinning, BigScreen allows you to bring your Netflix and non VR Games into a huge VR environment and so Logitech have created a keyboard solution for those people.

            Without this keyboard you have to raise the headset up, find it, lower the headset. It solves a problem that exists no matter how much a purist you want to be.

        • Kris Bunch

          Citizen One you are making a huge mistake by thinking as a dev you and your pals can dictate what the market will do. if you want to be successful you will need to create a product that the consumer wants. I want to be able to use a virtual desktop so I can have a huge screen instead of my 24 inch wide screen. I already play traditional PC games using my Oculus with BigScreen. I also surf the web that way, watch youtube, watch netflix etc and for that I need my keyboard. I am lucky, I am a touch typiest and to use my keyboard in VR is easy for me. But we need this integration. Not to mention the secret content in VR, P0rn. You cannot directly access many of the 180/350 viewers for that content unless you use your mouse and keyboard.

          I as a consumer want to be able to replace my monitor with a headset, for that I need a keyboard and mouse. I want to play MMOs in VR. But I am not going to play one for hours on end where I actually have to stand, and fight with my body motion. That will be way too tiring.

  • David Herrington

    Why not just put the trackers in the keyboard…

  • Miqa

    I just use rubber keycaps for WASD. Unless you need to move the keyboard while within VR, that is a significantly easier and cheaper setup. It is universal too.

    • DoctorMemory

      Terrific life hack! I hadn’t even thought of this even though I can usually feel my way from WASD. Maybe ones on just A and J would be enough to orient a QWERTY keyboard for me.

  • Tomas Sandven

    This technology + lighter, higher resolution VR headsets is the future of productivity. Can’t wait!

  • Jerald Doerr

    One one word.. AWSOME! I want to know how it works. I thout the vive controlers cound only tranmit location of itself? Is it sending beems out like the Xbox camera or is it tge keyboard that detects where your fingers and hands are ?

  • marald

    great idea! This could open up a world of accessories to be used in virtual reality. (midi controllers, custom control boards, wacoms etc.

    • NooYawker

      Now that the concept is out I’m sure Valve will work on one.

  • Lucidfeuer

    About time, though seems like a crap implementation. Put simply, every headsets should OF COURSE be able to track and map anything that ressembles keyboard, mouse or controller, but it’s good to finally have an exemple of that.

  • nipple_pinchy

    Hyped. I loved how quickly VR is evolving so rapidly.

  • sythwyre

    I agree with others that I am glad to see someone trying to find a solution for incorporating the keyboard into the VR workflow. But I’m not understanding why they choose to implement it this way. I mean couldn’t they put capacitive sensors inside the keyboard to determine where the user is placing their fingers. I am aware that this could be more difficult then I’m considering so anyone with a little more technical know-how, please feel free to chime in or correct me here.

  • Kris Bunch

    This is cool! This has great potential. I am lucky I am a touch typist. I use BigScreen on my Oculus to play traditional PC games like Overwatch just fine with a keyboard and mouse. What we need is to get rid of controllers. Make haptic gloves. It is still going to be a pain in the arse to have to switch between a mouse / keyboard to your controller / remote to manipulate the VR environment. Just have to remember we are in the initial stage of VR. Like flip phone cell phones vs the new smart phones. We will get there!

  • Very simple but effective idea

  • Tyler Soward

    I will buy two of these the day they go on sale