A typing interface for VR

Incase you are not aware, typing in VR is hard. For example, in the early days of Samsung GearVR, you had to look at the letters of the keypad which popped up in front of you in VR, and 'key press' by tapping the touchpad at the side of your head mounted device. And since there are no (very few?) popular eye tracking solutions commercially available for VR, it meant bobbing your head around, one character at a time, and tapping simultaneously to write a single sentence. For more intensive interactions, using game controllers was the norm. Realization soon hit that these interaction techniques were not enough. (I refer only to the hand gesture interactions, a whole lot of devices and techniques are possible to create other immersive experiences). Very soon, we witnessed the controllers from notable VR companies, amongst a whole bunch of others.

Other gestures aside, typing is needed in almost every other application. I have listed a few notable attempts (by no means exhaustive), which I came across to create typing and interaction in general, as easy and convenient as possible in VR.

People are used to typing on their cell phones. So what if this can be extended to a VR environment? The design which I am proposing is an addition on top of exisiting controllers available in VR ( Oculus or Vive). Here is a sketch I made to make some sense out of this. (Disclaimer: This attempt at drawing is by no means what an actual product should look like. It is more of an indicator of what I have in mind.)

So assuming we have something like an Oculus controller to start with, the basic idea is to have a squarish proximity sensing pad at the edge of each of the controllers. The controllers can be used as intended when they are apart. On bringing them together they align using magnets, looking more like a conventional game controller. A vibrational feedback might be added to tell the user that the proximity pad is now ready to be used. Also, this action should cause a keyboard to pop up inside the VR environment. This virtual keypad is mapped to the proximity pad on the controllers. An important point to remember is that the user can in no way see the controllers, since we do not want to compromise the immersion. Assuming locating the precise coordinates of a finger hovering on top of this pad is possible (is it?), these locations can be mapped on top of the keyboard in VR (as a 3D model of a thumb?). This enables the user to know where exactly his thumb is before he actually proceeds to press the key.

There is a significant amount of information lacking ( both in terms of technology as well as design ), but do let me know your thoughts on this.
Written on January 30, 2017