Type in the air with DexType for Leap Motion

You'll sacrifice speed and precision, but this virtual keyboard has predictive word selection and lets you surf the Web sans mouse.

Tim Hornyak
Crave freelancer Tim Hornyak is the author of "Loving the Machine: The Art and Science of Japanese Robots." He has been writing about Japanese culture and technology for a decade. E-mail Tim.
Tim Hornyak
2 min read
DexType virtual keyboard
To go keyless, all you need is a Leap Motion controller. DexType

The Leap Motion Controller, which lets you guide your computer by gesturing in the air, started shipping this week.

So who's ready to start typing e-mails in midair?

That's what Leap Motion app DexType lets you do. It works with the Leap Motion Controller, an $80 USB input device that tracks where your fingers are pointing.

The DexType displays a range of keys on your screen for selection and also lets you draw characters in the air.

DexType "changes the Leap from an entertaining gadget into a genuinely useful tool by providing an alternative to the most important peripheral device of all -- the keyboard," according to a release from its independent developer, Zack Dennis.

The keys are displayed in a line across the bottom of your screen, arranged in QWERTY order from top to bottom and left to right, though other setups are possible.

The app has a predictive function that interprets what you're trying to type when pointing out letters, and treats keystrokes as letter groups. It chooses the most likely word -- for instance with a gibberish input like "nxopl" it will produce "hello."

Pressing deeper into the air will make the system choose a given letter. Numbers and symbols can be chosen by "drawing" them in the air, while a hand swipe can erase letters or words. Check out the demo below.

It seems like there's a steep learning curve here, and Dennis said the fastest typing speed recorded with DexType so far is only 25 words per minute. So this may not be ideal for writing your novel.

DexType also lets you surf the Web without clicking a mouse, select pages, and scroll through text. That's especially useful if you're busy doing something and your hands are dirty.

The app is available for free until August 7 on the Chrome Web Store (it's unclear if it will list on the Leap Motion Airspace app store). Ad-supported and premium versions will follow.

Do you think traditional keyboards will be replaced by virtual ones like DexType? Is anyone looking forward to penning letters in the sky, as it were?