Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg recently took to Instagram to preview a potential virtual keyboard feature for Quest headsets.
Posted on his official account, the short clip shows Zuckerberg and Meta CTO Andrew Bosworth typing away on a VR keyboard while wearing a Quest 2 headset. The device was able to accurately track their finger movements and display what they were writing on screen without requiring any extra peripherals. According to Zuckerberg, he was able to achieve 100 wpm (words per minute) while Bosworth hit 120 wpm. To put that into perspective, the average typing speed of an adult is 40 wpm so it does perform well.
If development bears fruit, it could solve a longstanding problem with virtual reality.
Typing in VR is a slow process. You’re forced to enter inputs one at a time since floating VR keyboards can't match the speed of a physical device. Sure, you can purchase one of the best physical keyboards out there to get the speed that you want. But then you’re forcing yourself to carry around an extra peripheral alongside the VR headset just to get the user experience you want. Things can get cumbersome.
A work in progress
There is still work to be done over at Meta’s Reality Labs research unit where this tech was developed.
News site UploadVR points out in their report the headset requires “fiducial markers” to work properly. Fiducial markers are those black and white squares you see in the Instagram video. They assist the hardware in calibrating itself so it knows where to place the virtual keyboard. The end goal here would be to one day not need those squares for help so the VR helmet can project the keeb on any flat-enough surface.
Personally, we worry about typing feel. This technology already exists with laser keyboards that can project the keys onto a flat surface. The problem with these projections is typing feels terrible because you’re just mashing your fingers into a table, and we fear Meta’s feature will essentially be the same thing. This may be fine for the occasional email, but we can’t imagine using a VR keyboard for an entire day’s work.
It's important to mention Meta is holding a two-day Connect virtual event from September 27 to 28. It's been confirmed the Quest 3 headset will make its debut at Connect, and perhaps a beta test for the VR keyboard will be announced then. An official launch date seems unlikely. As stated earlier, there's still work to be done.
We’re also curious to know if the company will finally show off its wristband device at the event.
If you’re not aware, Meta has been working on a wristband gadget that can read the electrical signals in a person’s arm to register inputs. The latest trailer for this gadget shows it can be used for simple gestures like twitching your finger to control a video game avatar. However, back in 2021, an earlier prototype displayed the ability to function as a virtual keyboard by using the same electrical signals. It’s unknown at this time if Meta scrapped the wristband feature in favor of the headset keyboard or if it’s still in the works.
Be sure to check out TechRadar’s list of the best wireless keyboards if you’re looking for a keeb to pair up with your Quest headset.