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Displays Input Devices Patents Hardware Apple

Apple Files Patent For Display Mouse 156

Posted by timothy
from the mickey-caught-flashing dept.
astrodoom writes "AppleInsider has posted a story detailing a new patent application by Apple that hints at the possibility of adding a touchscreen to the company's magic mouse. At a basic level this could mean things like customizable colors or artwork displayed on the user's mouse, but the possibilities extend much further to fully customizable mouse layouts and program controls. Apple Insider comments on the possibilities: 'The display on the mouse would change according to what the user may be doing on their Mac. As an example, the application describes displaying a number of icons for quickly selectable options when a user is running Apple's Pages word processing application. Switching over to the spreadsheet software, Numbers would reconfigure the buttons on the screen to allow for commands in that respective application.'"
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Apple Files Patent For Display Mouse

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  • It seems like somebody would have done this before, even if kind of crudely. I know there are keyboards that have LCD's...

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Amorymeltzer (1213818)

      Maybe, but I haven't heard of one. Keyboards, yes, peripherals, yes, but mouse? I think the generally held wisdom is that your would fingers get in the way.

      • that, and i totally mouse by feel. Unless they have some way of changing the tactile feedback of the lines between the buttons, this is useless. I don't want to have to *look* at my mouse constantly to find all the weird touch screen function buttons.
      • by jpyeck (1368075)
        Who wants to look away from their monitor to figure out which icon they are clicking? There are plenty of multi-button, context-aware mice out there already. This seems wasteful and distracting.
      • by chord.wav (599850)

        While I agree with you, I can't deny that a big and flashing "Press here" on the mouse would help me a lot when doing support over the phone.

      • by Phoghat (1288088)
        Bah, in my day we had mice with just one button, and we liked it! Get off my lawn!
    • I don't know of any implementation of a a mouse + touchscreen specifically; but keyboards with LCDs for dynamic reconfiguration are shipping products, wacom digitizer tablet screens are shipping products, mice with dynamic settings(sensitivity, scroll speed, etc.) indicated by LEDs on the mouse are shipping products, and the general notion that a touchscreen can present a reconfigurable set of buttons is basically the foundation of the contemporary smartphone industry.

      Novel product? As best I can tell.
    • by Kenja (541830)
      No ones done this yet because it will be VERY expensive and wear out just as fast as any other mouse.
      • by walshy007 (906710)

        and wear out just as fast as any other mouse.

        I'm still using my logitech mouse I bought over five years ago, a properly built mouse lasts for more than long enough.

      • by jcr (53032)

        I don't see why it would have to be very expensive. The display you'd put in a mouse wouldn't have to be anything like the kind of display you put on an iPhone. Unit cost could easily be under $10 in the kind of quantities that Apple buys. As for wearing out, I have yet to have any Apple mouse die on me, and the oldest one I've got is an ADB mouse from 1996 or so.

        -jcr

      • My many year old Logitech works just fine, in fact I don't know of a single optical mouse dying amongst all my friends that use them.

        • by Patch86 (1465427)

          A few of the cheap £5-from-PC-World optical mice I've had over the years have broken, developing skips or twitches after a couple of years of use.

          I've never had a decent quality one break on me though. My Logitech MX 518 has put in 4 years or so solid service and shows no sign of letting up yet.

        • by Zancarius (414244)

          My many year old Logitech works just fine, in fact I don't know of a single optical mouse dying amongst all my friends that use them.

          All of my old optical mice (10+ years) still work just fine to this day, so I can certainly agree with this statement. The only thing that seems to have "broken" are the microswitches for the buttons. They still half-work, but they don't always register clicks. The scrollwheels still work, however.

      • by Wovel (964431)

        Good optical/laser mice do not wear out.. Not within 5 years anyway. You still playing with rubber balls?

    • by Kitkoan (1719118)
      It really reminds me of a Asus Eee Keyboard. [gadgetreview.com] It is a whole computer built into a keyboard with a 5 inch touch screen that can change what is displayed or be used as a mouse.
    • by jo_ham (604554)

      I remember back in the early 90s there was a big panel that hooked up to a computer (an Archimedes perhaps?) that was basically a big touch sensor split into a grid, with each square perhaps 15mm on a side. You could then set zones on this layout to be specific buttons, and you'd put an overlay on top.

      At the time, my mum was using it as part of her teacher training - I remember her cutting out characters from children's TV shows and putting them into position on this big board (which was the size of a large

    • Yeah, Apple already makes it -- it's called the iPod Touch. It's got the touchscreen, camera, and LED. And strangely, another camera pointed at the ceiling. But it's got everything needed to act like a mouse.

    • by lxs (131946)

      I can't wait for Apple to finish the job and include an mp3 and video player in the mouse. And maybe perhaps a phone...

  • Ick (Score:5, Insightful)

    by catbutt (469582) on Friday January 21, 2011 @11:58PM (#34962574)
    Terrible ergonomics. Your hand will block the view when using the mouse as it's meant to be used, and so see it you have to take your eyes off the screen. Seems like a bad idea to me.
    • Terrible ergonomics. Your hand will block the view when using the mouse as it's meant to be used, and so see it you have to take your eyes off the screen. Seems like a bad idea to me.

      Me too. Context-sensitivity can be carried to an extreme. This sounds more like yet another Apple fashion statement than anything particularly practical.

      • I don't ever look at my mouse, unless it's hung up on something or otherwise not working. I'm not even sure how I'd break 20 years of training on that front, much let alone why I would want to.

        Apple has made some nice mice - this just seems ridiculous.
        • by Sarten-X (1102295)

          My grandmother looks at her mouse all the time, because she still hasn't quite figured out where everything is.

          That's how I see this: Sure, it'll take a bit of time to adjust to, but just like learning keyboard hotkeys, each application's function can be picked up fairly quickly. After that, you can return to ignoring your mouse.

          • My grandmother looks at her mouse all the time

            And that's a good point ... I think you just described a good portion of Apple's target demographic.

            Those of us who just want to make the mouse pointer go where we want it will keep using regular mice.

            • Those of us who just want to make the mouse pointer go where we want it will keep using regular mice.

              Real men use a CLI to tell the mouse pointer where to go.

        • I don't ever look at my mouse, unless it's hung up on something or otherwise not working.

          I do look at my mouse fairly frequently because of an obscure interaction between my KVM and my multi-input monitor. Without going into details, the quickest way to see if switching inputs actually happened with this KVM is to look down at my Microsoft optical mouse and see if its otherwise useless bling LED blinks when it gets a reset from the KVM.

          From experience, I've found that having to look way down at my hand is *highly* annoying and unnatural, even if it only happens a couple of times per day. It's s

          • by Plunky (929104)

            Maybe a touchpad on top of the mouse could be useful (like a wheel button on steroids)

            It is pretty nice, see the Magic Mouse [wikipedia.org] from, you guessed it, Apple.

      • Re:Ick (Score:5, Insightful)

        by CheerfulMacFanboy (1900788) on Saturday January 22, 2011 @12:23AM (#34962692) Journal

        Terrible ergonomics. Your hand will block the view when using the mouse as it's meant to be used, and so see it you have to take your eyes off the screen. Seems like a bad idea to me.

        Me too. Context-sensitivity can be carried to an extreme. This sounds more like yet another Apple fashion statement than anything particularly practical.

        Actually, it sounds like just about all Apple patent stories on Slashdot: something that riles up the haters and isn't ever used in a product from Apple.

      • This sounds more like yet another Apple fashion statement than anything particularly practical.

        This struck me the same as Apple announcing the display having a CCD/WebCam replacing some pixels in the center of the screen some years back....announced and then abandoned(?).
        Whatever came of that tech, I wonder?
        I'm seeing this as another thing thrown against the wall to see what sticks.
        I guess we can wait and see...

    • Re:Ick (Score:5, Funny)

      by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Saturday January 22, 2011 @12:12AM (#34962628) Journal
      You are holding it wrong.

      -S. Jobs
    • Terrible ergonomics. Your hand will block the view when using the mouse as it's meant to be used, and so see it you have to take your eyes off the screen. Seems like a bad idea to me.

      The example in the patent application is a number pad, I can see it being useful in that sort of context, if I was using mathematica, or balancing my budget. Of course I always use a laptop and occasionally a trackball, so I still won't use this, but I could see people with desktops finding it useful.

      • I already have a number pad that is a mouse [ortek.com].

        I don't know about you, but when I'm using a mouse my fingers are resting on the buttons constantly. Asside from the fact that I don't (yet) have transparent fingers, adding a touch screen to the mouse buttons would just make "clicking" strange... Perhaps if the touch screens were just buttons with screens on top it would make sense... I have a keyboard like that... [artlebedev.com] (I use Dvorak and got tired of swapping key-caps.)

        I might be able to use the soft buttons when I'

    • by LinkX39 (1100879)
      I'd be more worried about the comfort than being able to see the "screen." If your mouse would initiate a command when touched, what if you want to use the mouse WITHOUT initiating the command? How would you move it? Dunno how other people use their mouse, but my hand generally rests on the mouse when I use it, meaning I would constantly be touching the screen. Would I be expected to hold the mouse in some awkward position by which my fingers are not touching it......? Just because touch sensitivity works o
      • by Sarten-X (1102295)
        I expect it'd work just like the Magic Mouse does already. If you're doing something recognized as a gesture, and not touching anywhere else, then it's assumed to be a gesture. Otherwise, if you're touching places that don't make sense, it's assumed that you're just holding the mouse.
    • Yeah, with Apple's terrible track record at UI this will probably bea complete disaster....

    • by jaminJay (1198469)
      Forget ergonomics! Your second point was my first thought: the only time I see my mouse is when I first sit down. Someone will come up with something useful for it, but there's no longer any money in it...
  • I love Apple's OS, I love their computers' style, but they have not produced a decent input device since they introduced the iMac. If I got an iMac right now, I'd put the keyboard and mouse aside, and get some quality stuff by companies like Unicomp, Cherry, Steelseries, Razer, or Logitech.

    • Are you kidding? I love the Magic Mouse. Perhaps you haven't tried it.

      • by Darinbob (1142669)
        It break easily. That mouse ball collects dirt faster than any other mouse I've used. It's not just me either, quite a few people at work have the same problem. A quality product should last more than half a year. Even worse, being an Apple product you can't fix it. They've glued it together, not just put a label over screws, so no easy way to clean it (yes, I've tried, following all the online hints I found). It looks nice, but it's badly designed, like many of the newer Apple products.
        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by jo_ham (604554)

          The Magic Mouse does not have a ball - the top surface is entirely a touch sensor. You're thinking of the Mighty Mouse, which did have a problem with the ball - it was too small and it gunked up too quickly and was hard to clean. The Magic Mouse is excellent though, and is what the Mighty Mouse should have been. The only time it falls down is as a gaming input device, but I have a regular Microsoft two button mouse with scrollwheel for that.

          • I like the magic mouse, but the feet are terrible. They're noisy and have high friction.

            If they'd fix the feet before going on ridiculous adventures with displays (I never look at the mouse when using it anyway, does anyone do this?), it'd be almost perfect.

    • Apple input devices are very VERY hit or miss. The pro mouse? Awesome. Mighty Mouse? Sucky after the ball gets gunked up for the thousandth time and won't roll right(Generally above average before that happens though).

      I'd rather have though, a stock Apple keyboard than a stock Lenovo, Dell, HP, etc. keyboard. Those BLOW. Even G1 iMac keyboards were well ahead of the curve and as far as I'm concerned, no one's trying to catch up.

  • This interests me greatly. Think of how many games have a "left to select, right do do whatever seems more or less appropriate at the time" dynamic, and consider what they'd be able to do if your mouse could reconfigure itself on the fly. Some other ideas off the top of my head:

    • Games: Pick up an item, and gain new abilities that weren't even alluded to before. Old abilities are still equally accessible with the same gestures.
    • Emulators: Emulate a handheld controller.
    • Word processing: Convert almost the whole
    • by mangu (126918)

      consider what they'd be able to do if your mouse could reconfigure itself on the fly.

      Like what? Grow new buttons? [google.com]

      Every GUI since the multi-button mouse was invented has functions to reassign dynamically the function of each button. Apple's problem is that they are still groping with the concept that a mouse can have more than one button.

      • by Sarten-X (1102295)

        Not only grow them, but get rid of 'em, too. The ludicrous 18-button mouse is always an 18-button mouse, whether it makes sense for the current application or not.

        Apple's input devices have had "two buttons" for a long time. Click with one finger, and it's button 1 (left, usually). Use two fingers, and it's button 2 (right, usually). The Magic Mouse adds multi-touch gestures, but as I've never used it I don't know exactly what they are.

        Apple's goal has (almost) always been to use the latest technology to ha

  • .. or are they just going to forget about the laser in the future and just use the accelerometer for that purpose? Sorry, but to me that doesn't seem quite patent worthy "a device with a motion sensor and a touch screen"? come on! I believe there are even already apps for that (using your touch-screen phone as a mouse).
  • by PatPending (953482) on Saturday January 22, 2011 @12:32AM (#34962734)
    The link in TFS is to the "full text" provided by the USPTO--"full text" does not include any figures (images)--to see the figures via the USPTO, a suitable browser plug-in for viewing TIFF is required. If that's not for you, this link (PDF) includes the figures [freepatentsonline.com].
  • Personally, I dislike the design of the Apple mice. No right click is annoying, but tolerable- but I keep hitting the side button, which is quite annoying.

    Still, I'd love to see something like this become mainstream. Maybe then the prices for customizable keyboards will come down.

    • by jo_ham (604554)

      I think what makes you think "no right click" is that if your index finger still rests on the left hand surface and you right click it sometimes interprets this as a left click. You have to train yourself to lift your index finger up (not ideal) or shift it slightly right when you go for right click. You could also remap the right click to a different gesture if you wanted, or a different location. I know a friend who has swapped over the right click to the left side of the trackpad on her MacBook Pro since

    • My Apple mouse supports right, left and center clicks, works fine.

  • So they've gone from one-button-is-the-best-interface to something rediculous.

    The mouse is already context sensitive -- welcome to the concept of soft-buttons.

    The only reason to re-arrange the mouse buttons is for those times when I re-arrange the growth of my fingers.

    As for the display itself, I'm sitting in front of three 30" monitors. You expect me to look at my mouse?

    • by Graff (532189)

      So they've gone from one-button-is-the-best-interface to something rediculous.

      Erm, Apple is already way past one-button mice. Take a look at the Magic Mouse [apple.com].

      This patent is the next step up from that.

      • Erm, learn the definition of the work "from".

        • heh, "word".

        • by Graff (532189)

          They have, essentially, a very large number of buttons on the Magic Mouse because the entire surface is multitouch. It can take gestures and provide many virtual buttons. This new patent adds a display so that the surface can reflect state and button images, adding to how the multitouch works.

          Certainly a mouse with physical buttons does provide some advantages over one with virtual buttons, such as better tactile feedback, but it's also not as flexible. There's tradeoffs in everything.

          • No, it's your hand that's not as flexible, and your eyes that aren't as flexible.

            A mouse, when properly used, is near-completely covered by your hand, with each finger poised over a button (occasionally over two), you absolutely never look at the mouse nor at your hand, and you operate the mouse cursor not the mouse and not your hand.

            That's the cognitive shift that needs to occur to make any pointing device the extension of one's mind & body.

            What they've done is to bring ye ol' hunt-and-peck to the mous

      • by gatzke (2977)

        What is the deal with Steve? Why does he hate buttons so?

        If I have a button, I have tactile and even audible feedback when I push the damn thing. It helps me use the interface to know that the thing probably is getting some sort of input from me.

        I have a Moto Droid. The "buttons" on the home screen are soft buttons. I hate it. I would much have my old Treo/Palm Pilot hardware buttons so that I know I am pushing something and it probably is the right one.

        Of course you can go overboard. My wife has a mo

  • and call it a day. An iPad that could be touch used combined with a pressure sensitive pen would be pure awesomeness.

  • by Kaz Kylheku (1484) on Saturday January 22, 2011 @12:58AM (#34962856) Homepage

    They should put a little USB port on this display mouse, where you can plug in another mouse, to control a little pointer on host mouse's display, as an alternative to using it as a touch screen.

    • Head A Splodes.
      When I need a mouse and GUI, I'll stick with my trackball; but most of the time I use my keyboard and a CLI.

      Now a reliable, efficient, and SECURE neural interface would be welcome for me though.(my typing skills suck donkey balls since I've had a stroke 1.5 years ago!)

    • by chord.wav (599850)

      Bluetooth

    • They should put a little USB port on this display mouse, where you can plug in another mouse, to control a little pointer on host mouse's display, as an alternative to using it as a touch screen.

      Yo dawg, I heard yo' liked scrollin' so I got yo' mouse a mouse so now yo' can scroll, while yo' scroll.

  • This is like hunt and peck for your mouse. Memory and touch is the rule with typing and you still have those home row locator bits on the top of the keys to let you know where you are. I don't see any locators on a shiny Apple mouse. "It would ruin the look."

    • there is no middle click, so you don't need locators: the edges of the device are the locators.

  • the second mouse button.

    I kid, I kid!
  • So can I jailbroke it and make a phonecall from my mouse, using FaceTime?..
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Jailbroke? Is that the past tense for Jailbreak?

      • by rts008 (812749)

        Well, he/she has just gone broke from too many times getting the 'go past GO, directly to jail and not getting $200' card.
        Luck of the draw and all that in the game, you know.

        Or the poster is only semi-literate, as is common in the 'digital age'.

        Obligatory: 'Get off my lawn, punks!' is needed here.
        Loose/lose, its>it's>their/there/there's, etc...

  • Not a big fan of Apple hardware, but I'm glad to see they are finally addressing the lack of a num pad (other than suggesting I go out and buy an extra keyboard). Even your average liberal arts major has to do their taxes.

  • There's plenty of prior art, but just to throw some gasoline on the fire, my Microsoft Sidewinder mouse has 11 buttons, customizable weighting, a scroll wheel, macros and an LCD display.


    Once upon a time I had an Apple with a 1 button mouse and it was the best thing ever, but that was a Mac 512e (with 2 floppy drives!) and it was the year 1988. Times have changed.
  • I know I don't. Oh no, I just did... But usually you look at the screen, if you can't type you might be even looking at the keyboard from time to time. But you never look at your mouse unless there's something wrong with it or it starts to feel sticky. Or if someone someone might tell you to look at it.
  • This sounds like a great idea. I'm off to patent my "touch display chair seat" invention. It just requires you to get out of the chair and turn around to see the display and interact with it. Imagine the possibilities. One could even use it to display data, instead of the monitor.
  • Good news.

    I was told by my patent agent today that my pointing keyboard patent was approved.

    U.S. Patent Application No. 11/254,452 COMPUTER KEYBOARD WITH POINTER CONTROL

    My keyboard allows the user to have all fingers on the home row for typing and with the fingers on the home row one can also point, click, type, scroll, backspace, delete, and esc.

    The click buttons and scroll wheel are below the space bar and operated with one's thumbs.

    My keyboard gives the user total control of the computer screen.

    No m

  • Personally, I would love to see Apple collaborate with Art Lebenev to bring an up-to-date Optimus Maximus [artlebedev.com] keyboard at €200-300. First see if optical feedback technology sells at the right price and only then try it with flat surfaces and tactile feedback as well.

    Right now, it's too much of a jump. Anyway, it's just a patent. I doubt we're gonna see anything before 2013-14.

  • P0rn on the mouse!

  • Back in '06 (prior to the '09 filing date), this guy modded a mouse with a nokia lcd screen. I wonder how many of apple's patent claims are invalidated by this?

    http://metku.net/index.html?path=mods/loginoki/index_eng [metku.net]

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