Research Projects: KITTY

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Project Name KITTY - A New Interface for Keyboard Independent Touch Typing
Team Members Michelle Chen, Kunal Deep Singh, Falko Kuester and Carsten Mehring
Project Sponsor
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KITTY is a new hand- or finger-mounted data input device, designed for keyboard independent touch typing and supports traditional touch-typing skills as a method for alphanumeric data input. This glovetype device provides an ultra-portable solution for quiet data input into portable computer systems and full freedom of movement in mobile VR and AR environments. The KITTY design follows the concept of the column and row layout found on traditional keyboards, allowing users to draw from existing touch typing skills, easing the required training time.

With recent advances in portable computing and in particular the design of pocket PCs and eye-glass displays, the development of new augmented reality (AR) environments has been made possible. However, one of the current shortcomings in these AR systems is the lack of intuitive input devices that provide users with complete control over their workspace. In particular, in environments where voice input is undesirable or infeasible, touch-typing capabilities have to be available to allow for intuitive access to possibly complex data.

The size, layout and weight of traditional keyboards make them poor candidates for use in mobile AR applications. In particular, if integration with mobile computing devices, such as personal digital assistants (PDAs) or pocket personal computers (PocketPCs) is desired, a new generation of natural handheld input devices is required.

Today’s mobile computing devices frequently include a physical or digital miniature keyboard, that may be integrated with the device, worn on the user’s wrist or simply be part of the display area. Unfortunately, these keyboards generally require the use of both hands, one holding the device and the other for finger-based or stylus-based data input. The selection of individual keys on a hand held display-based keyboard, for example, is a rather ine�cient process and requires the user to look at the keyboard device. Handwriting recognition can increase input rates after extensive training but is still very limiting. This performance gap is problematic if the portable computing devices are to be operated at the level suitable for today’s computational platforms.

Other devices for data input into portable computing units, include chording devices, such as a hand-mounted keypads that require the user to press di�erent key combinations to generate the characters found on a standard keyboard. Further alternatives include microphones in combination with voice recognition software. The former input devices typically do not meet the data input rates desired for full-scale interaction and typically require the user to learn a chording/coding language particular to the specific device. On the other hand, privacy concerns or ambient noise frequently limit the use of voice recognition devices. Possible scenarios include input of confidential or sensitive data via voice recognition in conference settings, meetings, or crowded public places, such as airports.

The KITTY interface overcomes the limitations encountered with many handheld devices by providing intuitive access to common touch-typing skills. To accomplish this, the device provides multiple contacts on each finger that are only activated when the appropriate finger and thumb contacts are combined. The traditional QWERTY keyboard layout was chosen to allow anyone with previous touch-typing experience to make a smoother transition to a foreign input device. While mentally visualizing a QWERTY keyboard is difficult for most, it must be remembered that typing speed is not acquired from visualization but through muscle memory of the layout. Relying on this sensory-motor skill will allow the user to feel how their fingers should be placed for each key. Another significant advantage of this device is that arbitrary finger motion is allowed without data input, as long as finger contacts and thumb contacts on a single hand do not meet. In other words, KITTY allows the user complete freedom for hand movements while only generating input when finger- and thumb-contacts are combined.



  • Kuester, F., Chen, M., Phair, M. E., and Mehring, C. (2005). Towards Keyboard Independent Touch Typing in VR. In Proceedings of the ACM Symposium on Virtual Reality Software and Technology (VRST’05).
  • Chen, M., Singh, K. D., Kuester, F., and Mehring, C. (2004). Portable Input Devices for Human Computer Interaction. In Boronowsky, M., editor, First International Forum on Applied Wearable Computing (IFAWC’04), number TZI Bericht Nr.30.
  • Mehring, C., Kuester, F., Singh, K. D., and Chen, M. (2004). Kitty: Keyboard Independent Touch Typing in VR. In Proceedings of the IEEE Virtual Reality, pages 243–244.

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