Judging by this patent, Microsoft is looking into ways to improve the “cumbersome” text inputs found on modern game devices, specifically Xbox One and Windows Mixed Reality.
The patent discusses the current nature of text inputs on Xbox One, noting that manually moving across a QWERTY-like interface with a joystick is a pain to perform.
Text entry via virtual/on-screen QWERTY keyboards is cumbersome on gaming consoles using game controllers and the emerging virtual reality (VR), augmented reailty (AR), and mixed reailty (MR) platforms. The QWERTY layout was designed and optimized for a two-handed, 10 finger input. However, it is inefficient and unnatural for the gaming, VR, AR, MR, and other input modalities (e.g., gamepad interaction, gaze, hand gestures, etc.) These modalities, by nature, are less efficient compared with simultaneous ten-fingers input.
Inefficient and unnatural indeed. Thankfully, it looks like Microsoft may have found a way to improve the situation, using a radial dial that looks vaguely similar to the interface that comes with the Surface Dial, albeit controlled by a joystick, presumeably either on an Xbox One controller or a Windows Mixed Reality controller.
Users will be able to navigate a radial dial, which according to the patent can also represent other shapes, such as a rectangle, selecting characters quickly using the joysticks. The dial will expand characters you’re most likely to select next using machine learning to determine which word you’re trying to write, allowing you to quickly auto-complete to your next word.
It’s awesome that Microsoft is exploring ways to improve typing on console, especially considering the potential social disadvantage some players will be at once keyboard and mouse support arrives in the near future. A new interface for typing via joystick might also improve accessibility for some users.
Microsoft managed to squeeze surprisingly capable typing on the tiny screen of the Microsoft Band in years past, so who knows? Patents don’t always lead to products, but this looks remarkably intuitive. Let’s hope it makes it out of the patents office and onto our consoles.