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Input Devices Hardware

The Mouse Vanishes 292

Posted by kdawson
from the yesterday-upon-the-stair dept.
countertrolling sends in a clip from Wired that begins "...researchers at MIT have found a method to let users click and scroll exactly the same way they would with a computer mouse, without the device actually being there. Cup your palm, move it around on a table and a cursor on the screen hovers. Tap on the table like you would click a real mouse, and the computer responds. It's one step beyond cordless. It's an invisible mouse. The project, called 'Mouseless,' uses an infrared laser beam and camera to track the movements of the palm and fingers and translate them into computer commands... A working prototype of the Mouseless system costs approximately $20 to build, says Pranav Mistry, who is leading the project."
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The Mouse Vanishes

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  • by easterberry (1826250) on Tuesday July 13, 2010 @01:15PM (#32889706)
    When can I get an invisible monitor? That's where the 1337 hackers are at!
  • So how many fellow slashdotters tap their fingers on their mouse or table without clicking while using their computers? I'm not sure I can see this being viable for a desktop pc. Maybe for netbooks though.
    • And what happens when I scratch my nose?
    • by KingArthur10 (679328) <.arthur.bogard. .at. .gmail.com.> on Tuesday July 13, 2010 @01:30PM (#32889988)
      This is exactly why I hate tapping on track pads. I keep my fingers on the mouse, on the trackpad, and my keys, depending on what I'm doing. It slows your response time to have to keep your finger hovering above the clickable surface. Virtual keyboards will never work for speed typists. They MAY work for situations on the fly where your only alternative is using the touch-screen on a tablet, but in most situations, a tactile keyboard and mouse provide greater efficiency.
      • by BitZtream (692029)

        Thats why you don't hover, you raise and lower your finger when you need to tap/click, the rest of the time it rests on the surface.

        Have you not used a track pad for more than 20 minutes or maybe its just Apple's track pad handling that seems to work for me, I know I hate the way a PC 'feels' now. Stupid side scroll strips, no multi-touch for right tap or scrolling with 2 fingers.

        I think maybe you've just been using really shitty PC track pads, my fingers don't ever hover.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by mcgrew (92797) *

        That's one of the things I hate about real mice; or rather, how software is written. If I'm in a word processor or text editor or (sometimes) spreadsheet, I don't want to use the damned mouse at all! I wind up with "mouse elbow". Mice good for selecting a single item out of many, and a few other uses, but if I have a keyboard equivalent I avoid the mouse.

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by Zalbik (308903)

          That's one of the things I hate about real mice; or rather, how software is written. If I'm in a word processor or text editor or (sometimes) spreadsheet, I don't want to use the damned mouse at all! I wind up with "mouse elbow". Mice good for selecting a single item out of many, and a few other uses, but if I have a keyboard equivalent I avoid the mouse.

          I also put my real mouse away when I'm using a text editor...otherwise he craps all over the keyboard.

          You must have a smarter mouse though, mine is really

    • by sznupi (719324)

      I'm not even sure if very optimal for netbooks - they are supposed to be, well, ultraportable. Suddenly you better find decently large, flat and solid surface, one that would have enough space for "mousing area"?

      If only more of them had a clit...

  • I like holding the mouse over fake holding one!

    • by betterunixthanunix (980855) on Tuesday July 13, 2010 @01:26PM (#32889918)
      Here here! Tactile feedback is actually important when it comes to being effective with your input device. The best use I can see for this technology is an interface in which the direction in which the mouse moves is the only thing that matters -- anything else will just be too confusing to our brains, and efficiency will be lost. I could be wrong, but that is what I make of all this.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by thePig (964303)

      This will be a boon for laptops though. I felt that trackpad is not as useful as mouse - this can alleviate that issue

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by quickgold192 (1014925)

      Me too, but not because it "feels better." I don't move my whole hand when I move my mouse - I usually use my fingers to move my mouse around quickly (thus moving large distances on my screen) while keeping my palm stationary, minimizing hand movement.

  • by dreamchaser (49529) on Tuesday July 13, 2010 @01:16PM (#32889730) Homepage Journal

    Once you have technology like this up and running why limit it to the X-Y axis? Being able to manipulate the interface with various gestures in three dimensions has long been a dream of science fiction. This kind of thing just brings it closer to reality.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I'd prefer not to be a conductor for 8+ hours a day.

    • by Seth Kriticos (1227934) on Tuesday July 13, 2010 @02:08PM (#32890624)

      You mean like the Minority Report interface. Well, guess what, Spielbergs science advisor for the movie, John Underkoffler of MIT's Media Lab actually further developed the idea.

      The current state of technology is best seen in his practical presentation [youtube.com].

      There is also an article about it [singularityhub.com].

      The interesting thing is (besides the tech being real), that they also extended the concept of a network, so all the displays are connected by real space. But checkout the links yourself.

      • by jollyreaper (513215) on Tuesday July 13, 2010 @03:21PM (#32891782)

        You mean like the Minority Report interface. Well, guess what, Spielbergs science advisor for the movie, John Underkoffler of MIT's Media Lab actually further developed the idea.

        I've seen those presentations. While incredibly cool to watch, I'm still puzzling over the practicality of it. While everyone assumes that we can improve upon the mouse and keyboard, we still haven't done it yet. I won't be so rash as to say that they cannot be improved on, just that we're going to have to work awfully hard at it. I'd make a comparison to the bicycle. It's one of the most perfect transportation machines ever devised by man. People-powered, easy to operate and maintain. The Segway was pitched as being a bicycle replacement and while being incredibly cool, it most certainly could not be that. Expensive, requires power, would be on the sidewalk with people instead of a bike lane in the road, a perfect case-study in overengineering.

        A minority report interface makes you wave your hands around like a conductor in an orchestra. That would have to get old very quickly.

        Of the future interfaces, I think they still need a lot of baking.

        1. Voice control. Getting better but still balkier than doing it yourself. My cell phone still can't even do hands-free dialing properly. We might finally see this implemented properly with GPS navigators, exactly the kind of tool you want to use without taking your hands off the more important task. And while the latest version of Dragon is amazing, it still can't take the place of

        2. Touch screen. I still won't be convinced until they get rid of the grease factor. Would also prefer some tactile feedback. They're supposed to be doing stuff with making the screens buckle or vibrate in response to touch.

        3. Pupil trackers. Still far off but has the potential of replacing the mouse if they can ever get it working right. Might still wind up as something useful only in specific cases -- you use a pupil tracker on your handheld but a standard mouse on your desktop.

        Those are the only practical improvements I know of on the horizon. Gesture interfaces like for video games, that looks like it may be fun for entertainment but I don't know if it will ultimately be of practical value.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by yanyan (302849)

        G-Speak is also amazing. http://oblong.com/ [oblong.com]

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by cjkyroua (1756870)
      This is the same guy that demoed Sixth Sense at the TED conference awhile back...http://www.pranavmistry.com/ This project seems like a good idea to ease the public into hardware free interaction with computers. I'm eagerly anticipating Pranav to release his Sixth Sense code and let us start playing with it. That project takes this idea into three dimensions.
  • You know, a lot of people like the movie Avatar. I think my favourite part was when the researcher with the curly hair and glasses had the interface in front of him - and he wanted to talk away and take it with him, he held up his hand to it, clenched, moved his hand to his mobile device, and sprawled it - and it came right up on the device.

    We are getting so close to that cool Minority Report kind of interaction.

    • Re:One day... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by betterunixthanunix (980855) on Tuesday July 13, 2010 @01:23PM (#32889878)
      "Cool" but not necessarily "useful." Case in point: the mouse in its present form gives tacticle feedback, which lasers do not. Likewise with keyboards: the physical feeling of pressing keys matters a lot.

      Despite what they might have told you, humans do not have servomotors in their hands. We are pretty bad when it comes to making precise motions without any tactile feedback. This is why, for example, radial menus are so much better than linear menus -- you do not require highly precise motion, just a general direction.
      • In terms of a keyboard, yes, I could see where you come from, tactile feedback would be necessary.

        A mouse on the other hand, does not require much tactile feedback, because there isn't any when you slide it around the desk anyways, not unless you've got a roller ball (which most people hate nowadays), and a mouse click is one of those general motions, moving your index finger a bit.

        I think the only thing you might miss going from a physical mouse to an implied mouse is the scroll wheel.

        • "In terms of a keyboard, yes, I could see where you come from, tactile feedback would be necessary."

          Are you guys serious?

          Where have you been??

          We've had touchpad keyboards on our phones for ages now... It's most definitely *not* necessary. Preferred maybe by some, but necessary? Not so much...

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Lithdren (605362)
        Oh, im pretty sure lasers can give tacticle feedback.

        The question is if you'd really want that kind of feedback or not.
    • by TheLink (130905)
      You might see stuff like this instead:

      "Please wait, checking permissions and calculating number of objects to be copied..." (slight pause after this)
      Copy progress bar appears on mobile device (with cancel option).
      Time passes...
      Done...
    • by sznupi (719324)

      Such movies are awfully unbalanced. On one hand - insane material science or energy densities, not to mention generally new physics required for interstellar travel in such style. OTOH your favorite moment was part of underlying IT, UI, etc. landscape which wasn't all that different... Yeah, "cool" - but remember, this stuff is meant to look good on a movie screen (preferably while being not too mysterious, usually?)

      But where was, say, really augmented reality? (personal displays and UIs everywhere visible

    • by rickb928 (945187)

      Um, did you want the Avatar experience, or the Minority Report experience? You switched movies on me there...

    • by besalope (1186101)

      You know, a lot of people like the movie Avatar. I think my favourite part was when the researcher with the curly hair and glasses had the interface in front of him - and he wanted to talk away and take it with him, he held up his hand to it, clenched, moved his hand to his mobile device, and sprawled it - and it came right up on the device.

      We are getting so close to that cool Minority Report kind of interaction.

      We've had very similar technology like that for a couple years now. Vista supported Windows SideShow [microsoft.com] which is essentially what that researcher used in the movie. The only thing we didn't have yet was control of it via gesture, though with touchscreens it could be done.

  • dpi (Score:4, Funny)

    by iamhassi (659463) on Tuesday July 13, 2010 @01:17PM (#32889750) Journal
    So what's the DPI on my cupped palm?
  • by courteaudotbiz (1191083) on Tuesday July 13, 2010 @01:19PM (#32889786) Homepage
    Keep It Simple Stupid... I love my mouse, I love my trackball. It's simple, it can easily be replaced, requires almost no processing power and can be knocked on the table when it does not work, just for anger relief.

    This kind of device, I guess, would require a lot more computing power to use, would eventually be integrated, and at 20 bucks for the thing, would break in the blink of an eye. Also, what about lag? I hate this 2ms - 5ms lag in the iPhone...

    Please, I want to keep my hardware, plastic optical mouse.
  • I should be able to move the pointer by pointing my finger with have to move from the keyboard.
    Just need a pointer and some way to "click"

    • by gbjbaanb (229885)

      why stop there, eyeball-tracking should be all you need for mouse movement. wink to click using either eye (close both eyes at the same time is ignored).

      Not sure about the scroll wheel though.

  • There's already an invisible keyboard, and we all know how well that's selling and how it's replaced all our regular keyboards. Oh wait, it didn't? Dang.

  • Linux Drivers? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anon-Admin (443764) on Tuesday July 13, 2010 @01:20PM (#32889830) Homepage Journal

    Ok, so it costs 20$ to make. I have the 20$ I just need the instructions and the Linux Drivers. Come on MIT we are waiting! ;)

    • by unix1 (1667411)

      Judging by the video, it looked like it was implemented in software. The $20 would account for a cheap camera and a cheap laser. Software simply relayed the movement in the camera image. There was also a noticeable (even a split second could be annoying) lag between input movement and result.

      If this was to be offered as a commercial product, it would need to be packaged or integrated with the laptops and other devices, and have some hardware/firmware doing the dirty work. Then you'll see the hardware cost r

      • by jdgeorge (18767)

        Judging by the video, it looked like it was implemented in software.

        And Linux device drivers are, mmm... not software?

        I understand, you're saying that the implementation was done as a user space application, not using a specialized hardware device that required a new device driver. Your answer really is that the device drivers may already be installed on your Linux system, but you would need the application they wrote in order to use the new input method.

        • by unix1 (1667411)

          And Linux device drivers are, mmm... not software?

          Eh? And kernel is, mmm... not software? I didn't say driver was not software. But glad you cleared it up for yourself at the end.

  • With a standard mouse, I can shift my arm and move my hand freely without disturbing the mouse if I choose not to move it. With this system, the slightest twitch might be misinterpreted as a mouse command.
  • $20 worth of parts...

    $15 to ship from china...

    $10 to distribute...

    "$5" markup by retailer...


    Understanding/agreeing why you have to pay $75 for a $100 MSRP $20 mouse: priceless
  • First... (Score:5, Funny)

    by MrEricSir (398214) on Tuesday July 13, 2010 @01:22PM (#32889846) Homepage

    ...they came for my mouse's balls, and I said nothing.

    Then they came for my mouse, and there was no one left to squeak up.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      ..they came for my mouse's tail, and I said nothing

      then

      ...they came for my mouse's balls, and I said nothing.

      Then they came for my mouse, and there was no one left to squeak up.

  • by iamhassi (659463)
    After watching the video [youtube.com] I'm going to have to put this in the Do Not Want category.

    First, no scrolling.

    Second, I still can't get my M$ wireless mice working perfectly, I can only imagine the problems I'd have with this.

    I'll stick to my corded MX518 for a few more years, thanks [newegg.com]
    • by cynyr (703126)
      didn't look like it had 3 buttons either. I need left middle right and scroll minimum.
  • Ergonomics hell. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 13, 2010 @01:24PM (#32889896)

    This is a terrible idea. The shape of the mouse provides support to your hand and allows it to fully rest most of the time. Cupping your hand over an imaginary mouse is fine for maybe an hour at a time, but is going to cause all sorts of strain for those who use a mouse for 6+ hours a day.

    • I can't wait to see the ads for this. "Now you can have all the repetitive stress injury of using a regular mouse, without all of that annoying tangible feedback!"

    • by ElectricTurtle (1171201) on Tuesday July 13, 2010 @01:49PM (#32890270)
      Ugh. Do you have any perception of the world around you? Lift your hand and hold it limp. Is it flat? If yes, see a doctor immediately, you are fucked up. If you place your hand on a flat surface in front of you with no special effort to alter its natural resting form, it 'cups' naturally, in that the center of the palm and the base of the middle digits is raised. (And I raise my middle digit to you.) So tell me, do you need 'support' in the center of your hands when you type? The positioning is not that much different.
      • by iroll (717924)

        Thank you, I was going to say the same thing.

    • screen. I don't mind virtual devices for clumsy activities, see the Natal type interface. However where I need exacting movement I doubt the "non mouse" be that accurate

    • Just use a block of wood, a dead optical mouse, or a mechanical mouse with the cord snipped as a palm rest.

      • I like this idea...the cordless mouse...no batteries included. They could probably make the mouse a passive RFID chip and just use proximity sensors or something.

        Aside from worrying about my kids running off with it...'batteries' is the main reason I'm not impressed with 'wireless desktops'.

        (And a note to the GP. I never rest my hand on my mouse ever. My palm never touches to mouse...even when I'm at rest, only my fingertips touch the plastic.)

    • by Imagix (695350)
      Not necessarily true. I'm using an Apple Magic Mouse and my hand certainly doesn't rest on the mouse. only my fingertips touch the mouse. (thumb on one side, index and middle fingers where the left and right mouse buttons normally reside, the remaining two fingers on the other side.) Nothing supporting or touching the palm of my hand.
    • The shape of the mouse provides support to your hand and allows it to fully rest most of the time.

      While I'm not interested in having a virtual mouse, I will note that I don't rest my hand on my mouse. Only my fingertips touch the mouse, and my wrist rests on the surface of my desk. I have no idea how normal that is -- I would assume that there's probably wide variation in mouse grips from person to person.

  • Sounds neat, and may not be all that uncomfortable (try moving thin air as if you were moving a mouse. you can still relax your hand).

    However, I wish the interface itself was better. The times I'd die for a purely continuous analogue middle wheel, instead of the 'step-by-step' wheel that's forced upon us. Two wheels (one of each type) would be far better... (I suppose step-by-step does have a use for say, selecting dropdown menu items etc.).

    • by sammyF70 (1154563)
      You should check Logitech mices implementing the Fly-Wheel. I have a MX Revolution at home and once you're used a middle wheel which can scroll for up to 7 secs after a single impulse (wonderful when you're working with thousands of line long files) and can be switched from digital clickclickclick mode to an analoguous zeeeeeeeeeeeeep mode it's really hard not to wish every mouse would work like that. Case in point : I just clicked the wheel of the saitek mouse I'm using on my netbook to switch it to flywhe
    • by sznupi (719324)

      Why haven't you yet removed the spring that actually forces 'step-by-step'? (with some provisions, paper duct tape for example, to give the wheel some slight resistance)

      Sure, UIs are a separate issue...even smooth scrolling is just a visual gimmick, taking normal step input.

      • by Twinbee (767046)

        Indeed, I want the UI to be able to receive analogue-ish input, as well as the traditional clicky input.

    • by Twinbee (767046)

      That flywheel sounds great. Here's a look at the special wheel:

      http://www.extremetech.com/article2/0,2845,2007815,00.asp [extremetech.com]

      Wish the mouse was less heavy, bulky, and had more than a week's battery life (my wireless lasts a year or so on one battery).

  • What's the point of this? If I have to move my hand in a similar way then I'd prefer to have the physical mouse there as a reference. I would think this would cause more strain than having an actual mouse, but maybe that's because I've been using a trackball for over a decade. Plus I fucking hate mimes and refuse to be forced to act, even remotely, like one.

  • If you're going to use some visual recognition software to determine location, why not just scan the face and track eyeball or mouth movement or in-air gestures?

    This just seems a bit legacy.

  • I really do not see this as a big leap apart from the fact there is no physical mouse. In fact it would be more complicated to execute specific motions to get something done. I still move my hand away from the keyboard and then wave my hands in the air to get something done.

  • The patent holders of the Air Guitar are going to sue.
  • With a normal mouse, I can keep my hand and arm in a resting state. When clicking a button I only need to push downwards once, and the spring-loaded button pushes my finger back up when I relax it. When I keep my hand on the mouse, I can push it around in a relatively frictionless manner without having to lift my hand. None of the solutions I have seen beats this.
    I guess you could attach sensors to the facial muscles or something.
  • A mouse without the mouse? Why not build an oversized laptop touch pad about 5" x 4"? Or a trackball with a thumb scroll wheel?
    • by Shados (741919)

      Wacom already make multi-touch "tablet" meant to be used with your hands. Basically an over sized lap-top touch pad. They're pretty cool.

  • Dragging (Score:2, Interesting)

    It looks like your fingers have to normally stay in contact with the table. So how does dragging work and how do you keep from dragging the mouse all the time?

  • A keyboard is something I feel requires tactile feedback, a mouse is not. Tactile feedback with a keyboard provides an intuitive reference for where your fingers are placed. You don't need to look down at your keyboard to be sure your fingers are properly aligned before you start typing. Typing on a touchscreen requires constant visual checks and a ton of practice on that particular screen and layout before muscle memory can kick it. Also important is the feedback of a key being depressed. The amount of eff

  • I'm guessing this is just a rehash of the stuff demoed here...

    http://www.ted.com/talks/pattie_maes_demos_the_sixth_sense.html [ted.com]

  • "...this attempts to see how we can use new technology to control old technology,” says Daniel Wigdor, a user experience architect for Microsoft who hasn’t worked directly on the project.

    So they asked someone from Microsoft for their input even though they had no direct impact on the project? Why? And they tag it with Microsoft? Is Microsoft trying to claim rights to MIT research?

  • Gee, you keep the crappy part of the mouse interface (your hand leaves the keyboard) and abandon the one mitigating advantage: tactile feedback.

    Pfui....from the subject I had hoped this article was reducing dependency on the mouse in the interface.

  • Wouldn't a touch sensitive surface be sufficient? Just make a mousepad touch sensitive and then put you hand on it so all five fingers touch the surface. Moving you hand is like a mouse movement and if one of the fingers if lifted and put back down the user clicked. swipe the finger downward and you used the scroll wheel. Basically we already use all this for the ipad/iphone so what are the camera and infrared beam needed for?

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