Smart Keyboard That Knows Who's Typing Could Make Passwords Stronger

By Sarah Zhang on at

If you've ever worked in an office with someone who types like a jackhammer, it's obvious we all type a little differently. Now scientists have created a prototype of a keyboard that can identify users by their unique typing patterns. It could point to a next generation of passwords that don't just take into account what you're typing, but how.

The keyboard, described this week in the journal ACS Nano, comes with a whole host of smart features: a hydrophobic coating that repels dirt and grime, the ability to generate electricity from the tapping of keys. Most of intriguing of all, though, is the keyboard can identify what the scientists call "personalised keystroke dynamics."

The keyboard is made of thin films of material that interact to close a circuit when a finger approaches a key. Scientists then measured the voltage and current output when keys are tapped, which is unique to individuals depending on "manner and rhythm of the keystroke, typing habit, finger size, individual bioelectricity, and applied typing force."

For now, this is pretty preliminary research, used to distinguish between three individuals typing a single word. But it points to an intriguing possibility. Passwords suck. We're trying to find something better. Rather than dispense with the password entirely, perhaps we can use ingenuity to make them a little harder to crack. It's not so hard to steal a password; it's a lot harder to perfectly mimic how someone types it. [ACS Nano]