Fun fact: Microsoft was working on "smart watches" a solid decade before the current craze. Microsoft partnered with Fossil and a few other watch makers to release SPOT Watches, which received information updates via FM radio broadcasts. I don't want to say that SPOT watches were terrible, and I don't have to, because this Cnet review does it for me. Maybe Microsoft is trying to capture the not-so-glorious days of early 2000s smartwatches, because the company's research division has just posted an experimental keyboard for Android Wear.

Actually, the Analog Keyboard Project seems like a pretty good idea. Instead of trying to replicate a full smartphone-style virtual keyboard on a tiny watch screen, or adapting an alternative input for the smaller form factor, Microsoft is indeed going back to an earlier design standard. The app, currently offered "for research purposes," uses gesture input to allow the user to "write" directly on the screen one letter at a time. Old Palm Pilot owners will recognize this as being very similar to, if not inspired by, Palm's Graffiti writing system. (Incidentally, Palm is the other company that tried smartwatches around the same time. It didn't work any better for them.)


Right now the Analog Keyboard Project is at a truly experimental stage: it's only available as a downloaded APK that has to be installed manually on an Android Wear watch via ADB. It's also unsupported on watches with a resolution of 280x280, which means the LG G Watch alone is incompatible (at least for the moment). And, not to put too fine a point on it, there aren't many applications that actually benefit from direct text input on Wear. Still, if you'd like to give it a spin, you can check out the download link below. Though Microsoft makes an impressive amount of Android apps, usually in support of its various web-enabled programs, this one isn't available on the Play Store.

Source: Microsoft Research, Analog Keyboard for Android Wear download