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Microsoft Research Shows Off Multi-Touch Mouse Prototypes 137

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the like-old-airplane-designs dept.
Engadget has snagged some of the details behind a bunch of multi-touch mouse prototypes from Microsoft Research. The prototypes range from the wacky to the extreme, but at least they are thinking outside the mouse trap. "Each one uses a different touch detection method, and at first glance all five seem to fly in the face of regular ergonomics. The craziest two are probably "Arty," which has two articulated arms to cradle your thumb and index finger, with each pad housing its own optical sensor for mission-critical pinching gestures, and "Side Mouse" which is button free and actually detects finger touches in the table immediately in front of the palm rest. Of course, there's plenty of crazy in the FTIR, Orb Mouse and Cap Mouse (pictured), which rely on an internal camera, orb-housed IR camera and capacitive detection, respectively. Of course, there's no word on when these might actually see the light of day"
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Microsoft Research Shows Off Multi-Touch Mouse Prototypes

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  • Open source game? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by cpicon92 (1157705) <kristianpicon@gmail.com> on Monday October 05, 2009 @05:21PM (#29650247)
    The game they demo the second mouse with in the video appears to be cube [cubeengine.com]. I suppose they used it because they had access to the source code and could modify it for multitouch interaction.
    • by Cheapy (809643)

      ..they could do the same thing with Halo for PC. I don't think that's necessarily the reason.

      • by mgblst (80109) on Monday October 05, 2009 @11:30PM (#29653215) Homepage

        Oh, I am sure that everybody at Microsoft has access to all the code they have ever produced, including every single game produced by completely different companies (at the time).

        They probably have an open share drive, with every piece of code ever made, from gorilla.bas to Windows 8.

        You know, because they are morons.

  • Finally (Score:5, Insightful)

    by WiiVault (1039946) on Monday October 05, 2009 @05:21PM (#29650249)
    Frankly multi-touch is really needed to help modernize the mouse. As somebody who uses a Macbook Pro at work I can honestly say it is the first trackpad I have ever used that doesn't make me not long for a mouse. In fact I would say with the exception of gaming I actually prefer the trackpad and its many gestures. The amount of things that can be done is both more intuitive and more elegant than simply strapping more buttons on a mouse. Now obviously multi-touch only works well if its implementation is great, so only time will tell. Thankfully it seems many companies are involved in this effort, so we don't have to only rely on MS "innovation"
    • I don't know ... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by abbynormal brain (1637419) on Monday October 05, 2009 @05:45PM (#29650591)

      Modernize the mouse maybe - but what about our hands? Every single one of those looked like a carpal tunnel nightmare.

      • by Tynin (634655) on Monday October 05, 2009 @07:18PM (#29651525)
        Agreed, my pointer finger and thumb hurt watching most of those demo's. If it doesn't have a tactile response, which none of them appeared to, no thanks. Just thinking about how much fun it is tapping the tip of your finger against the a hard unyielding surface for hours of the day... ugh. It seems to me that even the slight spring in the clicking of your mouse probably helps cushion your finger tap and help protect your joints by taking some of the energy out of the motion and not just sending it all back up your finger.
        • by Kelbear (870538)

          It looks like it'll be more painful from having to hold your fingers in the air all day to avoid clicking somewhere at random!

        • Agreed, my pointer finger and thumb hurt watching most of those demo's. If it doesn't have a tactile response, which none of them appeared to, no thanks. Just thinking about how much fun it is tapping the tip of your finger against the a hard unyielding surface for hours of the day... ugh. It seems to me that even the slight spring in the clicking of your mouse probably helps cushion your finger tap and help protect your joints by taking some of the energy out of the motion and not just sending it all back up your finger.

          First, pianists press on their fingertips more often and much harder than you do.
          Second, even if you disregard the above and still insist that no, unlike everyone else in the world, you press hard enough to cause serious damage to your fingertips, then the problem isn't the mouse... it's you.

          • >First, pianists press on their fingertips more often and much harder than you do.

            If you read closely, the OP did not say that pressing too hard is what hurts his fingers. He said it's not having something to actually press. Piano keys are buttons that go down. They are extremely heavy and the effort of playing piano develops nice musculature.

            What this video showed was people rapping their fingers against hard plastic. How fun.
      • by Jbcarpen (883850)
        Ah, well, cyberhands are coming... someday.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Rogerborg (306625)

        Funny you should mention that, since Microsoft already sold the ultimate pointing device: the Trackball Explorer [google.co.uk]. Now out of production, and edging towards $200 per unit on eBay.

        They killed that, they'll kill this too.

    • by nschubach (922175)

      I don't know about the idea of a multi-touch mouse though. I'd rather have a screen to interact with. A mouse design would denote having a cursor and resting your fingers somewhere that is not detected as a press. If there's nowhere to rest your fingers, you spend a large portion of your time using said mouse with your fingers in the air with no tactile response. It would also seem to me to be a "looser" grip on the mouse making it less "natural" as a pointing device.

    • Gestures aren't only for "multi-touch". I've been using windows software called "Stroke-it" for years. It allows for mouse gestures to be any kind of input you'd like. It's easy to program and even easier to use. Most of the stock gestures are intuitive, and you can record any gesture you can make with the mouse. While it lacks a certain amount of refinement that multi-touch (can) provide(s), it's still a vast improvement for the stand mouse UI.
      • by WiiVault (1039946)
        Opera has had a similar feature as well and I agree it is quite handy, though good multitouch would be another leap ahead.
      • by grcumb (781340)

        Gestures aren't only for "multi-touch". I've been using windows software called "Stroke-it" for years.

        I suspect that the majority of slashdotters have been using their computers to 'Stroke It' for years as well. 8^)

        And while I'm being silly, did nobody else find themselves saying 'WTF?!?' when reading TFS?:

        ... each pad housing its own optical sensor for mission-critical pinching gestures...

        'Mission Critical?' Dude, I know that Enterprise-ready pinching gestures that maximise the synergies between digits

    • Re:Finally (Score:4, Interesting)

      by rantingkitten (938138) <[kitten] [at] [mirrorshades.org]> on Monday October 05, 2009 @09:11PM (#29652427) Homepage
      On the other hand, I loathe multi-touch anything, and dislike memorising and making inane "gestures" on the surface, especially since they require me to twist and orient my hand into weird contortions, and it's highly unusuable in many positions I prefer to use a laptop. Like for exqample, having it on my lap with my feet propped on the desk.

      "More buttons" isn't necessarily the solution either. I've had mice with tons of buttons but never have I used more than left, right, and the scroll wheel. Having tried the others and gaining nothing from the experience I'm really forced to wonder why we feel the need to "innovate" or otherwise alter a perfectly usable paradigm -- the two-button, scroll-wheel mouse.

      Unless and until our style of interacting with computers changes in a very fundamental way, it seems to be just a complete waste of time, with a few people adopting the "new" methods, but most going back to the reliable, simple mouse -- because it works.
      • by rtb61 (674572)

        That is the catch with any pointing device attached to a computer it must be intuitive for the majority of people and it must be reasonably functional for the majority of programs. For web browsing the forward and back thumb button are really useful.

        About the only really useful configuration change for a mouse is to change the two main mouse button to low movement, high resistance joysticks for better scrolling actions and introduce a similar button/joystick for the thumb on the side of the mouse and dro

    • I love my MacBook Pro's trackpad as well but when it's on my desk I tend to use the mouse because it's slightly faster. A multi-touch trackpad may be the second best thing, and it's great for when I'm on the go, but it doesn't beat the mouse. The only time I use it when the mouse is hooked up is to scroll down pages because it does do that better than an analog wheel. To take a multi-touch trackpad and combine it with a mouse just seems like unnecessary complications. Sure, you they may be able to whip up s

    • we don't have to only rely on MS "innovation"

      This is MS research. Their crazy ivory tower. You know, the one that employs Simon Peyton-Jones of Haskell fame, and gave the world F#. No need to put innovation in scare quotes, they're doing it. Whether they will have the institutional courage to actually use it for something is another question.

  • Making up? (Score:3, Funny)

    by iamapizza (1312801) on Monday October 05, 2009 @05:21PM (#29650259)
    Is this to make up for those Microsoft SongSmith adverts?
    • Is this to make up for those Microsoft SongSmith adverts?

      They haven't finished making up for WinME yet. :)

      • I thought they were still making up for windows 1,2, microsoft bob and the rest of the atrocities Microsoft has inflicted on the world.
        • I was being charitable. Not really all that many people were tortured by Win 1 & 2. As for MS-BOB, well it has provided so much entertainment over the years that I think it must have paid for it's sins by now.
          Don't get me wrong, BOB was a terrible idea, badly implemented, but it did set a new high water mark for BAD software, and will continue to be the butt of jokes long after you and are long gone.
  • by eepok (545733) on Monday October 05, 2009 @05:26PM (#29650343) Homepage
    Personally, I hold the mouse with my thumb and ring-finger on the sides with my index and middle fingers resting on the buttons. When I'm at home using my Microsoft Intellimouse Optical (not explorer), I use the same grip except that I use the top joint of my thumb to hold the mouse so I twitch the tip of my thumb to hit button 4. (http://www.actionforblindpeople.org.uk/data/images/width590/hand-on-mouse-514.jpg)

    I move the mouse with a combination of movements including the use of my ring-finger (holding onto the mouse), my thumb (holding onto the mouse), and, to a lesser extent, my wrist which rests on a gel pad.

    Why? Because my fingers are much more dexterous than my wrist and thus it's better for moving around multiple links, playing an FPS, or doing any kind of visual editing.

    And yet... they seem to think I want a touchpad on a bump.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Well, I guess that a big part of why you hold the mouse as you do is that you are used to that because mice have worked in such a way for a good while. It might be that some other system than that has a bit of a learning curve for us who have used to the current system but - after the curve - is more efficient.

      That said... I think those presented systems are now patented very throughly. Aside from Microsoft (which has sold pretty decent mice before, I got to admit) there will not be companies using any of t

      • by SuperKendall (25149) on Monday October 05, 2009 @05:54PM (#29650685)

        Well, I guess that a big part of why you hold the mouse as you do is that you are used to that because mice have worked in such a way for a good while.

        No. He said he holds it like this for a very good reason - because when manipulating a mouse using the fingers gives you much finer control than simply using the palm of your hand.

        That's why any "improvement" that moves the fingers off the mouse is an inherently worse design. It's not "what he is used to", it's how our bodies are actually built. Within those parameters sure, you can come up with different shapes that seem worse at first but are actually better - as long as the fingers are responsible for controlling mouse movement.

        • by Gldm (600518)

          Yes but it's easy to compensate for the motor control by reducing mouse sensitivity. In general I find people who opt for the finger controlled mouse posture are used to needing to vary sensitivity to perform precise tasks (like CAD or sniping in games). Before the advent of mice with adjustable resolution controls, the only really practical way to change sensitivity was the analog one - to use arm movements for the big changes and fingers for the fine tuning. The opposing pressure to this was in the cases

    • by EvanED (569694)

      And yet... they seem to think I want a touchpad on a bump.

      To be fair, they seem to think that some people want a touchpad on a bump.

    • There are two general classes of mouse posture: finger-based and palm-based. There's also the "claw" one, which people contend the standard finger based posture is a subset of just less optimal for clicking response time. There's a heated contention between them among gamers who take things like this too seriously. Razer designs mice to fit the various styles, which they describe in their ergonomics guide: http://www2.razerzone.com/MouseGuide/html/palmgrip.php [razerzone.com]

      Some people prefer to use the fingers for fine m

    • I have a modified claw stance for my mouse and hand. My wrist doesn't bend much - my hand simply rests slightly diagonally on a forward facing mouse.

      Works best with Razer mice - huge buttons about 60% the size of the mouse, so you can put your fingers just about anywhere.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by tonycheese (921278)
      That's very interesting and all, but I think a good majority of people hold the mouse the conventional way - clicking with the first two fingers. Like someone else above me said, the world doesn't really revolve around you. It's not that they think YOU want "a touchpad on a bump", it's that they feel a lot of people could comfortably and easily transition to these new mice.
    • by AvitarX (172628)

      Perhaps with one of these mice you can do fine movements without even moving the mouse, using only your fingers.

      Not sure, but I don't see why it wouldn't be possible.

      I think the one that appealed to be most was the Arty, but I would want a third button for my middle finger to right click with.

      and I am not convinced that pinch zoom is any better than ctrl+mouse wheel, but I only have limited experience with multi-touch on an Apple touchpad.

    • Grip Improvement (Score:3, Interesting)

      by mdmkolbe (944892)

      I didn't invent this mouse grip technique, but it really helps. The fingers gripping the sides of the mouse(*) should also be in full contact with the mouse pad. That way you can get fine mouse movements just by rolling your gripping fingers left and right. Your gripping fingers are thus anchored by the mousepad and can exert very fine amounts of push on the mouse.

      (*) For me these are thumb and pinky, but I suppose you could use thumb and ring finger.

  • Other than moving your fingers closer together or further apart to zoom in or out of various 2D and 3D images - what use is a multi touch mouse? Personally, I don't understand the point.

    Microsoft's table technology looks more intriguing to me because unlike a mouse, you can have more than 1 person using it at once.
    • by gmuslera (3436)
      This ones [ted.com] are just the start. And you give some time to Microsoft creativity and they will do the multitouch equivalent of pressing start to end the session.
    • >what use is a multi touch mouse?

      I sort of agree - once you start gesturing, what the fuck is the mouse for? You can gesture anywhere - it doesn't need to be on top of a movable ball of plastic. If this research is camera based, put the goddamn camera in the keyboard so I can leave my hands where they are.

      They had gesturing systems in the 1950's, it was called the Theremin [wikipedia.org]. You don't touch anything.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    They had such a good idea with the Trackball Explorer - I just cannot understand why they won't produce more. There's a large, passionate community surrounding the TBE, with fan websites, forums and continuing write-in petitions (pleas) to MS.

    Market demand usually speaks for itself:

    A new-in-box TBE goes for $500+ on ebay - 10x its original retail price; a good refurbished one will go in the $250 range.

    I personally have 2, and I will honestly cry when they go out.

  • Less tactile (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Bigbutt (65939) on Monday October 05, 2009 @05:34PM (#29650461) Homepage Journal

    I really prefer to feel a response from the mouse (well trackball) and keyboard. I'm sure people'd get used to whatever mouse was available so selection is good.

    I do like the ability on the iPhone where I can expand or contract a web browser window with two fingers. I tried it on my Mac's touchpad and it didn't work (maybe I need to enable it). I don't like the lack of response, or at times too light a touch of the keyboard aspect of the iPhone. It's so light that I'll double enter letters and it's hard to tell if I have the right character unless I'm looking right at the text. Since there's no tactile feel, I can't touch type which means I have to look at the keyboard to make sure I'm in the right place and look at the input field to make sure I'm typing in what I want to type.

    Interesting ideas though. The pinch one might be cool for porn :)

    [John]

    • You have to enable a few of the gestures on Mac in System preferences, and yes it's pretty damn lovely - I basically just use a mouse for my linux box, and more and more I just remote on it so I can keep using my mbp's touchpad/work on a comfy couch :p

      • by Jesus_666 (702802)
        Unless you use OpenOffice. In OOo finger zooming means "move your finger one millimeter to zoom from 20% to 400%". It's the one program that makes me wish I could disable finger zooming on a per-application level.
    • by ceoyoyo (59147)

      You can't expand a browser window quite the same way, but the pinch gesture will zoom it.

      I'm getting pretty good at touch typing on the iPhone. It's a matter of learning the position relative to how you're holding the phone, rather than the feel of the keys under your fingers. It's actually not that different... I certainly don't feel out the keys on a keyboard before I hit them, so only the little nubs on the home row actually give positional information.

  • They should bring back a moldable CLIPPY!!! The helpful paperclip animation, but this time you could hold it and play with it, like you would a moldable action figure. It would be so useful, just like the other Clippy was! It would suggest things for me that I didn't even KNOW I wanted to do, and when I told it to go away, it just kept popping up, suggesting things!
    • by Mouldy (1322581)
      If it were moldable, maybe you could throttle it.
    • by Mishotaki (957104)

      it just kept popping up, suggesting things!

      did it tell you to burn the house too?

    • by notaprguy (906128) *
      This is modded funny? Really? This is just another of the un-original and un-interesting thoughts shared on /. Have you ever actually had an original thought? How about I lower the bar - originality is hard. Have you actually had a thought that had not already been expressed less than 10,000 times on /. in the last year? In this case...no.
  • External trackpad? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by joh (27088) on Monday October 05, 2009 @05:46PM (#29650607)

    What about a simple, largish, multitouch trackpad instead of a mouse? Ever since I switched to a MacBook I've been wondering about that. I tried a mouse on my MacBook (the unibody thing) a few times but I hardly ever used it at all. The MacBook trackpad ist just too good. Then I've tried to buy an large external trackpad to use with an external keyboard (it makes no sense to wear out a notebook keyboard when you're sitting at your desk) but to no avail.

    So, why there isn't a large, USB-connected trackpad to use with a keyboard? These things should be simple and cheap, but try to buy one!

  • by wowbagger (69688) on Monday October 05, 2009 @05:47PM (#29650629) Homepage Journal

    I'm not sure a mouse needs to be "multi-touch", in the same way that I don't think a mouse should respond to voice commands (sorry, Cmdr. Scott....).

    Multi-touch makes sense for touch screens or track pads, as it changes them from a "cave-man" interface where the only real choices you have is "grunt" (tap), "grunt-grunt" (double-tap), and "uuuuuuugh!" (drag), into an interface where you have a few more choices (multi-finger drag, pinch, etc.).

    The mouse already underwent such a change, when multiple buttons were added. I don't know if trying to map things you do on a flat panel onto things you do to a mouse makes any more sense than trying to make a joystick "multi-touch".

    What is wrong with different interfaces having different semantics? I don't expect to drive my car with a touchpad, use a mouse to control my stove, or do word-processing with a steering wheel.

    • Re: (Score:1, Troll)

      by peragrin (659227)

      because the mouse while decent can be made better. easier to use, and with more functions. personally artie with a scroll wheel would be great for standard desktop applications that require multiple zoom and scroll like modern mapping software. Google earth can use some 4 axis's for input. yet a mouse is limited to three at best. x,y and z with a wheel. Gestures help fill in some of the gaps, but inputting gestures on a vertical surface is a pain. using a mouse outside of it's normal 2 axis limit is

    • by Gldm (600518)

      The natural extension of multi-button mania is infinite buttons, i.e. a continuous surface. So is it a surprise that it's come to this?

      I agree that the flat panel to mouse mapping may be akward since the mouse isn't flat. It's the main reason I favor the orb-shape on they showed, since it's got its own potential for a lot of interesting things, and has enough area that you could fit a lot of control functionality on it. But I think it will lose out on appeal and cost. I'd love it if at least one gets to mar

    • by pz (113803)

      The mouse already underwent such a change, when multiple buttons were added.

      Hate to break it to you, but what we might consider the first modern mouse (attached to the Xerox Alto computers) had three buttons. Long time ago. Looooooong time ago. (Yes, the very first prototype mouse built by Engelbart had one button; it's not what I would consider the first modern mouse.)

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Sir_Dill (218371)
      I think the poster is really onto something here.

      Multi-touch is fantastic for a handheld mobile computing device, smart phone, etc.

      I don't think touch screens, multitouch interfaces, or anything else will supplant the keyboard and mouse on a workstation.

      Touchtyping accurately and quickly is extremely difficult on a virtual keyboard with no tactile feedback.

      Not saying it can't be done, just saying I don't know anyone that would want to do that all day at work.

      that said, multitouch is the killer app for

      • by ceoyoyo (59147)

        "Try editing a photo with a touchscreen.
        There's a reason we have things like pencils, pens and paintbrushes, the resolution of a finger is very low."

        You can use styluses on touch screens too. Graphic artists very often use Wacom tablets. The rich ones use Wacom tablets built on top of LCD displays.

        I agree with you, the keyboard isn't going anywhere, and probably not the mouse either. But a mouse with a touch sensitive surface could be interesting. Configurable buttons (including number and position) and

        • The keyboard isn't going anywhere, but the mouse should. It's a drop-dead simple pointing device that happens to be accurate enough for action games. It's also bizarre behavior to constantly switch from two-handed computer operation to one-handed mode in order to move the cursor.

          The pointer should have been integrated with the keyboard long ago.

          In fact, probably the only reason the mouse exists is because it was invented after the keyboard. My first PC didn't have one. It didn't have a graphical O
          • by ceoyoyo (59147)

            Slashdot isn't exactly the most representative group of computer users. You might prefer a keyboard, and anyone doing high productivity work prefers a keyboard, but mice are much more suited to ease of use and casual interaction.

            Personally, I like the multitouch trackpad on my notebook far better than any mouse I've ever used, but actual mice are still handy for some things. If the two could be combined well, it might just have a winner.

    • by spitzak (4019)

      The first mice had three buttons (such as on the Alto and the Lisp machine and even earlier devices). I don't think I ever saw an example with less than 3 buttons (there were plenty that had more) until the initial Microsoft mouse came out with 2, and then the Macintosh and Lisa with one.

      So multiple buttons are hardly a new idea.

  • Ergonomics? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by diemonkey (1348393)
    You would think ergonomics might be a consideration when designing some of the new input devices. It looks like the user would need to put their hands, wrist, and fingers in awkward positions to perform specific tasks. What about something that allows for the natural movement and precision of the hand and fingers to control the device?
    • by rxan (1424721)
      These are prototypes. It looks like the ergonomics of these models could easily be fixed.
    • You've gotta bear in mind that these are prototypes, and not finished products. At this stage, they're worried primarily about the mechanics. Ergonomics and aesthetics can come at a later stage of development, when these proof-of-concept models have done their job.

  • Or anybody with missing digits? A basic mouse can pretty much be used with one finger (not counting the thumb for grip). People with severed digits or even just a cast on may find newer applications a bit too hard to use if they require these interfaces.

    My only other compliant is that they seem to be ambidextrous. I demand a mouse that discriminates against left handed users so my brother won't steal it.
    • by vlm (69642)

      Or anybody with missing digits? A basic mouse can pretty much be used with one finger (not counting the thumb for grip)

      In that situation, trackballs work even better.

      Trackballs are faster than mice because of muscle memory... I have to switch from keyboard to pointing device about a thousand times a day, and the trackball is always in the same place. Also easier on my fingers, no weird ergonomic twisting like a mouse. Also faster because I don't have to continually readjust from rolling the mouse off the pad.

      Pad devices are almost as good, except they are very low resolution compared to a trackball and still have the "run

      • by black3d (1648913)
        The first line of your post regarding the advantage for digit-lacking users was fine and you should have stuck to that rather than descending into generalised mouse-bashing. I call shennanigans on most of what you've said. "Muscle memory" helping you "locate" the trackball? I realise you're talking about subtle nuances in positioning, but I don't believe any mouse user has ever had difficulty finding the mouse subconciously without even thinking about it. When I want to use the mouse, I move my hand to it.
    • Should we forsake visible interfaces in favor of audible interfaces, for the sake of the blind, who cannot see a monitor? How about forsaking audible interfaces for the sake of the deaf, who cannot hear the speakers? Perhaps it might be best, if interfaces were simply designed for those who can use them?

      • by tacarat (696339)
        If that's the stance you're taking we'll never move to mind controlled computers :(
      • Accessibility means not forsaking, but having sufficiently redundant interfaces that not only asshole snowflakes like you can use them.

        • The real point, is that if a significant portion of the population will find a feature useful, then it is as well to include that feature. Not including such a feature does not help the people who cannot use it, it only removes the option from people who would otherwise find it useful.

    • by mgblst (80109)

      I know, becuase if it doesn't work for every single person in the world, they should just give up.

      Listen, they aren't going to outlaw all other mice. They are just experiments.

      Damn you people are stupid. I am embarrassed that we use the same website.

      • by tacarat (696339)
        Thanks! Nothing like taking a potential discussion starter on what might make for a better mouse and turning it into an anti-PC rant to show how smart you are. I'm so glad I know my place now.
  • by Gldm (600518) on Monday October 05, 2009 @05:49PM (#29650653)

    Well change seems inevitable because developers want the same multi-touch apps for all the new phones to work on desktops without redoing the interface. So the PC is going to need multitouch. So either the screen goes multitouch (which it has in some cases), or the input devices do. Since touchscreens have issues with things like smearing and comfort distance, that leaves the interface devices. Multitouch pads have been done, but most people still prefer mice. They're more precise due to the size of the working area, and easier for certain tasks like dragging because of the extra degrees of freedom on the arm/elbow which frees up the fingers for clicking instead of overloading them for both position and input.

    Of these candidates, the cap mouse is most likely to win out, followed by the orb mouse, which may see a competing run in the high end. Why? Let's see:

    FTIR mouse: This is basically an internal reflecting material like a lightpipe or fiberoptic cable. The problem is it limits the mouse because it requires this kind of material (think the demo uses acrylic), and design such that the camera can always see it. The shape has poor balance, CG, and drag properties, and will probably result in breaking or issues sliding for many people. The restrictions to mouse design will annoy existing manufacturers, unlike say optical sensors, which were just drop in replacements for mouse balls.

    Articulated mouse (Arty): Not happening, for a simple reason - people won't want to readjust to left/right click being thumb/forefinger instead of index/middle. It sounds stupid, but believe me it will be a showstopper. Plus the design is a bit fragile, and I'm not sure on the ergonomics of having to extend the finger and thumb like that, seems like an RSI issue waiting to happen.

    Side mouse: This has some potential, but it will be plagued by unintentional inputs. Any time you drum your fingers impatiently, drop a pen on the desk, move the camera too close to something sitting on the desk, it will go nuts. It might be useful in cases where you can't build a touchpad into a device, but in most of those cases the device is so small you want to hold it not rest it on a desk anyway, so there'd be no surface for the side mouse to track on.

    Now for the showdown between the two serious contenders.

    Orb mouse: Really nice input image. Can easily do a variety of applications with it, since there's so much area. Datacenters sometimes use illuminated vein pattern recognition for biometrics, which can be efficiently integrated with this, and it's a better solution than those stupid touchpad fingerprint readers. But for more conventional apps it's got the most area, the best shape to exploit the use of all fingers, and in deference to the mention of clock-based positioning on the Gizmodo article about it, will probably be the easiest for people to extend thinking to. The main showstoppers are cost (not sure) and bulk/shape issues. People may not find the bulgy shape appealing though I suspect it will test well with male audiences.

    Cap mouse: Probably going to win, despite the low resolution sensor image. Why? That "$1 gesture recognition" on the video says it all. Not the gesture support part, the $1 part. Cost wise it's probably cheapest, and it seemed to work sufficient for the apps in the demo. It's also just a bolt-on to existing mouse designs. No need to modify the existing shape or ergonomics to accommodate it, which means it's the path of least resistance. If it's also the path of least cost, which given most of the rest need a camera-quality sensor it most likely is, then the winner seems pretty obvious.

    • by SuperKendall (25149) on Monday October 05, 2009 @05:58PM (#29650717)

      I think for Desktops the design that will win out is keyboards with trackpads, like a laptop keyboard separated from a laptop. Most people would simply use those alone, gamers or people with more need for fine control would attach a traditional mouse for specific uses.

      But fewer and fewer people will be using them, since laptop use is dramatically increasing.

      Perhaps mice will even go away altogether, replaced by more task specific controls, like game controllers and Wacom tablets for artists.

      • by Gldm (600518)

        Nope, there have been keyboards with trackpads for quite a long time now. Also, how are sales of USB trackpads for desktops? I remember buying a 9 pin serial port based one back when they just came out and were the hot new things. But I found it wasn't all that great.

        The main reason I don't see touchpads taking over desktops is a simple one. A touchpad requires you to use fingers for both positioning AND clicking. It's an overloaded operation. What was one of the earliest improvements to touchpad design? Th

        • Nope, there have been keyboards with trackpads for quite a long time now. Also, how are sales of USB trackpads for desktops?

          But the point is as more people get used to using them on laptops, they will find them "good enough" for desktops and less annoying to manage than normal mice. Plus with the rise (finally) of gesture based interfaces, trackpads become more usable than mice for more common operations.

          A touchpad requires you to use fingers for both positioning AND clicking.

          So does a mouse, just a diffe

    • by eples (239989)

      Not the gesture support part, the $1 part. Cost wise it's probably cheapest, and it seemed to work sufficient for the apps in the demo.

      Please tell me you don't think it actually COSTS $1.00 ?

      It's a name for a type of gesture - like on Palm devices, lots of $1 implementations listed here [washington.edu].

  • by seeker_1us (1203072) on Monday October 05, 2009 @05:51PM (#29650669)
    An ergonomist taught me that one thing you do not want to do is continually hold your button clicking fingers away from the buttons. That kind of static loading on the extensor muscles is really bad. While using a mouse and are not actively clicking, you want the fingers to rest on the buttons without extensor or flexor muscles being used (preferably with an armrest supporting your entire forearm). With these touch sensitive devices you HAVE to use the extensor muscles to keep the fingers away from the device.
    • by Gldm (600518) on Monday October 05, 2009 @06:31PM (#29651029)

      Not true. Put your finger on a touchpad and hold it there. Does the mouse move continuously? Does it continually click from the double-tap function?

      No, because it works on a differential. So resting your fingers on the mouse as normal is fine. There may be a bit of an issue about registering clicks, which will take either pressure sensitivity at a basic (binary) level, or a change in user habits to lift the mouse and put it down again as the click action instead of the reverse.

      But I think most likely some smart manufacturer will just put the capacitive surface over existing mouse buttons, which are wired to their normal function. People will still want the tactile click feedback, and this does not impair the functionality of the capacitive surface.

      If there's no reason the choice must be exclusive, then the choice will be both.

      • by rxan (1424721)

        Not true. Put your finger on a touchpad and hold it there. Does the mouse move continuously? Does it continually click from the double-tap function?

        No, because it works on a differential. So resting your fingers on the mouse as normal is fine.

        But then you're left with a new problem. Now when you need to select/click, you have to lift your finger up first and then tap back down. This is a problem with non-clicking trackpads, which are on most laptops. And trust me, it's really annoying.

      • Please go back and actually watch the video. They operate the mouses exactly like I am saying (with fingers continually lifted off so the sensors won't detect them).
        • by Gldm (600518)

          Ok, I did. The FTIR seems to have this issue, so does the side mouse. The orb clearly DOES NOT, as you can see from the sensor image that his fingers are on it most of the time. The cap mouse is tricky to tell due to the video length and quality but if you look at 2:24 it seems like his fingers are on it while moving the pointer to the window before clicking to drag, just like a regular mouse. Arty also does not have this issue.

          Now, please go and actually use a touchpad. They work like I've described. The h

    • Interesting.

      If I'm understanding this correctly, your fingers should be hovering slightly above or lightly resting on the buttons, right? If that's the case (and you add in the implicit pre-requisites that your wrists are straight, hands and fingers are relaxed, etc.), then what you're describing is proper keyboard technique.

      The only way I see that as being possible for a mouse is if the mouse is two-dimensional, and sits on the surface of your desk.

  • by Dyinobal (1427207)
    how about a mouse shaped like a pair of breasts. It would be a gate way into more interesting things!
  • These were not the droids I was looking for.
  • Tactile response is sometimes a god send. I would hate having to look at my mouse to figure out where my hand was. A touch pad makes sense because you aren't moving it so everything stays relatively put. The mouse on the other hand would at least need something to orientate yourself to where things are, but that would kind of destroy the whole point in my mind of using a multi-touch surface.
  • I'd say that cap mouse was most likely to see commercial production, but I think i'd be happier with a big touch pad addition to a quality keyboard.

  • I just realized something. If the "orb" mouse becomes common, it's going to need a tactile indicator for hand alignment. Like the little raised bumps keyboards usually have on the home keys so you can find the default position by feel.

    If it doesn't get named the boob mouse after that, I'll eat one.

  • Looking at the "Arty" mouse, I'm pretty confident in saying that at least one of their designers enjoys playing Pikmin - its cross-section looks a lot like a Bulborb.

  • While these are all interesting concepts, they all look like solutions looking for a problem. All of the multi-touch gestures shown (like scaling a window or image) can be accomplished easily with the scroll wheel. Add in the modifier keys and you've got several more actions on one motion.
    I use Blender from time to time, and its policy of one hand on the keyboard and one hand on the mouse works damn well.

    The only device I found actually interesting was the last one, the "Arty" mouse (the one shaped like
  • ...could also be used as a telediddonics device. There. I said it.
  • Until my entire body is immersed in comfortable gel pods like EVE's universe pilots, I'm sticking with my mouse/keyboard combo!
  • The FTIR mouse looks relatively easy to implement from a hardware perspective - tiny cameras being very cheap and low power. It also looks as though it could be easy to give it a "legacy" mode.

    I also assume that it wouldn't be necessary to keep your fingers off all the time. A mouse press would simply be an increase in the area in contact with one finger.

    As it looks as if this design would be relatively easy to make splashproof and washable, I can see it having an immediate application in hospitals, labs et

    • by Gldm (600518)

      The problem is the material dictates much of the design. For FTIR to function, the curvature of the clear material must be such that the angle of refraction causes the light inside it to bounce back from the surface internally instead of escaping, like a superball in a narrow hallway. This means you need both a material with a high refractive index (i.e. Poly Methyl MethAcrylate aka Lucite/Plexiglas) and a shape that propigates the light beam. This then will dicate the overall design of the mouse.

      Which mean

  • I wrote a blog entry [joshland.org] about the concept of multi-touch mice vs. multi-touch trackpads.

    "I can envision an ecosystem where multi-touch mice being accepted as a low-cost enabling technology that introduces people to Natural User Interfaces without a large investment. Those would be used in addition to or to complement multi-touch displays and larger Surface devices. It would benefit NUI adoption by allowing existing computers to use NUI software. While it would add to the complexity of planning interfaces acros

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