Microsoft has released a prototype app that allows users of Android Wear smartwatches to draw letters onto the watch face, bypassing the need to type on tiny digital keys.
Dubbed Analog Keyboard, Microsoft's Android app is suitable only for square-screened smartwatches with a resolution of 320x320, with the exception of Motorola's circular Moto 360.
Though in the prototype phase, Analog Keyboard can recognise finger-drawn special characters and numbers, as well as standard letters.
Google does not offer a native keyboard, digital or otherwise, for Android Wear. Instead, it relies on smartwatch wearers to use voice commands to navigate and search within the smartwatch custom operating system.
Technology companies producing smartwatches have yet to overcome the problem of text entry.
Voice interaction appears to be the principal way for people to interact with their smartwatches, but it is hampered by noisy environments and the expectation that most people will not want to be seen talking into a watch in public.
Software keyboards are also limited given the need to cram keys on to such small screens.
However, Microsoft, which is not directly involved in smartwatch hardware or operating systems, may have cracked the problem with the Analog Keyboard.
Microsoft is not the only technology company experimenting with finger-drawing and gesture recognition software for smartwatches. The Apple Watch is expected to use 'Real Touch' messaging, which allows a wearer to send drawings sketched on the watch face to other Apple Watch owners.
The jury is still out on whether smartwatches offer a tangible use case beyond fitness monitoring, which is already well provided for by the likes of Fitbit and Nike. But the new format gives developers and technology brands the scope to experiment with new apps and software.
The video below shows the Analog Keyboard in action.
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