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Input Devices Hardware Hacking Toys Hardware

A DIY Mid-Air Pointing Device 75

Werner Heuser writes with an article in Linuxdevices on building your own handheld pointing device that works in mid-air. There is a YouTube video showing the Soap in action and detailed instructions to make your own Soap. From the article: "'Soap,' which resembles a bar of soap, is based on hardware found in a common wireless optical mouse, and is relatively easy to make, according to its inventors. Imagine numerous situations in which one might wish to control an appliance while standing or walking, for example, when giving a slide presentation or interacting with a wall-sized display."
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A DIY Mid-Air Pointing Device

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  • Ugh.. (Score:5, Funny)

    by Rob T Firefly ( 844560 ) on Thursday December 14, 2006 @01:26PM (#17239488) Homepage Journal
    and detailed instructions to make your own Soap.
    I've already seen "Fight Club," thanks.
  • by Total_Wimp ( 564548 ) on Thursday December 14, 2006 @01:30PM (#17239546) can try an Air Mouse [] from Gryration []. I know we're all really excited about the Wii and all, but, honestly, it wasn't the first, and isn't the only, device that does motion sensing.

    I know it's not home made, but it does the job pretty well.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Tmack ( 593755 )
      rtfa... this isnt a motion-sensing device. This is a Do It Yourself (hence the DIY tag) project to basically make a wireless mouse operable in mid air by changing its enclosure and sticking it in a sock.


      • Read the article. In air device may not technically be motion sensing, but the effect is the same. Read the second and third paragraphs of TFA and you will see that they're intended use is equivalent.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by isnoop ( 239143 )
          Similar, but only in the manner that they can be used without a surface to press against.
          Tilt sensing is fundamentally different than this or a flying trackball. For one thing, if you set this down, your control point won't go careening to one side or another. Tilt sensitive devices are inherently joysticks. A mouse is a mouse. The Wiimote may bridge that gap, but only if you have an IR sensor beam to provide a position reference.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      If you own a Wii (and a computer with Blue Tooth) you can check out and use your Wiimote on your PC ...

      On top of that, I think most people know the Wiimote isn't the first motion sensing device (or free hand moust); it is just one of the most complete devices and the only one being pushed by a major coporation. If it wasn't for Nintendo ensuring hundreds of games were being produced for the Wii, it would mostly just end up being a novelty and a piece of triva 10 years from now.
    • by darrenf ( 746898 )
      Of course if you want something that just screams "I am the ubergeek" you could hack a wiimote to control your mouse like these guys [].
    • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Can't speak for current models, but I had one of their earlier wireless keyboard/"air mouse" combos. Both devices ate through batteries like mad and both died completely within six months or so. Cool products and fun to use, but not worth the $$ IMO.
    • by KDR_11k ( 778916 )
      Of course Nintendo wasn't the first, they licensed the technology from Gyration (though I occassionally hear claims that they outright bought Gyration), after all.
    • I've got an Air Mouse, and this thing (soap) looks to me to be easier to use. I found the Air Mouse has a distinct tendency to either oversteer or understeer, depending on various circumstances.

      Because it is directly connected to the shift in the outer "hull" relative to the inner "soap bar," rather than simply the motion of waving your hand around in the air-- allowing you to wave your hand around independent of the control motions of the device, it appears to me to be quite a bit more effective than th
  • So... (Score:5, Funny)

    by syphax ( 189065 ) on Thursday December 14, 2006 @01:34PM (#17239632) Journal
    ... you put a sock around a stubby thing and kinda rub it with your hand, and it makes you happy.

    Except that the stubby thing is attached to a computer.

    I believe that ./ers are uniquely qualified to operate this device.
  • This pretty much looks like the optical equivalent of picking up a ball mouse and rolling the ball.

    It doesn't have any sort of motion-sensing features, nor any pointing features (that is, it's not like a laser pointer with feedback).

    All in all: slow news day.

    - RG>
    • by Locutus ( 9039 )
      But hey, this came from some million dollar salaried Microsoft "Researcher", ooooowwwww.

      I've got a better idea, stick a wireless mouse under a remote control car and drive your way around your FPS game.

      I can't believe this got posted on /., it's a mouse in a sock and that's about it.

      • I can't believe this got posted on /.

        Yeh, but it mentiones YouTube and Digg has had its daily quota of YouTube postings soaked up by all the viral crap, so it's JUST GOTTA be posted somewhere else.

        Cool^H^H^H^HKewl A+++ will buy again.
        In Soviet Russia the HA HA Guy does nothing without goggles etc.

      • "But hey, this came from some million dollar salaried Microsoft "Researcher", ooooowwwww."

        That explains why they take a few moments to mention how well it works with Windows Media Center. No doubt the game they are playing is Halo and the wireless mouse is made by...Microsoft?

        No doubt this is a last minute rush job to preempt the new iSoap that Steve Jobs was going to unveil at Macworld.
        • by jac89 ( 979421 )
          Well, actually the game is UT2004 (maybe 2003), and the wireless mouse is made by CompUSA. Nice try though, how about you RTFA next time.
      • I think the big news is that, contrary to popular /. thought, MS does innovate ; )
        • by Locutus ( 9039 )
          This reminds me of MS ClearType. You know, that technology Steve Wozniak invented for the CGA monitor and Microsoft Research rebranded as theirs after the patent expired.

          As I've said elsewhere, with a $6 billion annual budget, if THIS is the 'innovation' they're getting then they should ask for their money back. IMO a wireless handheld trackball would do a better job.

          I do know that Microsoft has been spending PR $$$ trying to make the world think they are 'innovators'. There was a recent article about how t
      • by chuck ( 477 )
        You didn't think of it. The fact that it's a mouse in a sock is WHY it's so f'n clever. Geez, take your meds.
        • by Locutus ( 9039 )
          Nope, didn't think of it and wasn't paid to think of it. But I have used a wireless optical mouse on my leg, shirt sleeve, hand and a few other things when I wanted a mouse without a flat surface. And if for some reason I wanted to use a 'mouse' while holding my hand out in front of me, I'd be looking for a wireless handheld trackball setup.

          I could see this posted on Make by some garage hacker but from Microsofts R&D department? Sorry, it'll take a bit more to impress me when they've got over $6 billion
  • I like the joystick functionality, but I find it hard to believe the "belt" actions are as versitile as my mouse on a desktop. I think a better design might use a flattened oval-shaped device (no 90 degree corners), as it would allow free-er transition between directions. Is this design strictly limited to one type of click, it seems so to me...
  • Yep... (Score:5, Funny)

    by justinbach ( 1002761 ) on Thursday December 14, 2006 @01:35PM (#17239652) Homepage
    Three researchers at Microsoft Research have created an innovative handheld pointing device that works in mid-air. "Soap" -- which resembles a bar of soap -- is based on hardware found in a common wireless optical mouse...

    Yeah, most of FPS gamers I know could use some soap...
  • I have a similar mouse from years ago actually that is a gyroscopic wireless mouse. Problem is even with tweaking the sensitivity its still hard to use which is why it has a button on there you have to hold when you want to use it so that the cursor doesn't just fly all over the place all the time.

    It is extremely useful for my current setup though where I have my 40" hidef LCD hooked up via DVI->HDMI to my computer. Once I get a wireless keyboard I'll be able to play WoW from my couch!

    The other cool th

    • by Dog-Cow ( 21281 )
      "The other cool thing is that you can have multiple mice plugged in at the same time, and both will work. They just both control the same cursor."

      Any PC using USB mice will operate this way. It works with a PS/2 mouse + USB as well. It also works for multiple keyboards.
      • by ScottyH ( 791307 )
        Hey Dog-Cow,

        Just wanted to let you know that I love your name. In fact, I've used it myself on occasion. I consider you a kindred spirit, and you have been added to my friends list.
  • And then you have to completely rebuild the thing when you need to replace the batteries. No thanks.
    • T: A handheld homemade pointing device. I'll call it the finger.
      G: Does it fing?

      -1 obvious
    • by AP2k ( 991160 )
      If you have enough intellect to build the thing, you should know how to add in a power jack and replace the batteries with rechargeable ones.
    • Or, maybe, just un-velcro the covering, pull the two halves of the shell apart, and then replace the batteries.
  • It would be nice to build a squashed sphere version of this device with two mouse buttons and a scroll wheel. If the scroll wheel was moved just a bit deeper into the shell, you could perform belt actions without accidentally triggering the wheel, and the location of the wheel would provide a nice tactile reference to mouse orientation.
  • It's an interesting new method of cursor control, but I doubt it's all that accurate or useful for playing games(or anything else requiring much for clicking on specific targets). Since you're spinning the inards of the device around, and the button/s with it, that could make quickly clicking to fire your gun a problem. You'll need to 1: know if your on the top or bottom of the mouse to know which side the button is on(though this could be resolved by some sort of bumps on the inards to signify which side i
    • You are spinning the sock around, not the innards. In this case, the button will always be on the top.
      • Its the other way around. The innards spin around inside the sock like a bar of soap spins around in your hand. It would be damn near impossible to do it the other way around.
        • actually it is both. the "joystick" function was done moving just the cloth. The "rolling" stuff which let you move over large onscreen distances quickly was done moving the innards.

          The joystick use is the one you would use in a FPS and I think, once you got used to the idea of moving your thumb around (and then releasing briefly) that it would probably be a pretty good interface.
          • Lol... Been so long since I saw the video I forgot that you could do that. But you couldn't really use it like a joystick, as at the point where you couldn't stretch the fabric any more the motion would stop.
  • turning my mouse over and rolling the ball with my thumb. I'm doing it right now with my laser mouse. They call this an invention?'s on the same level as Mentos in Diet Coke as near as I tell.
    • Too bad actually flipping over a ball mouse and trying to roll the wheel doesn't work, since the scroll contacts require gravity to hold the mouse against them and the ball doesn't float smoothly when resting on the inside of the mouse well. Nice attempt at a smartass comment, but you FAIL.
      • Actually my mouses (mice?) worked well (mechanically) upside down - the reason it's a smart-ass comment is because the vertical axis were reversed.
  • The "experts" decided that OK on the right, while not natural for left-to-right readers, was optimal for a mouse.

    With other pointer devices (touch screen, touch pad, wiii-controller, bar-of-soap), such an optimization is not helpful.

    So can we now put the OK CANCEL back to left-to-right ordering?
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I'm sure there are some uses where being able to point "in mid air" is a great feature.

    But unless we get to the point where people write code, check e-mail, etc, at something other than a desk sitting at a screen, the $20 mouse on my desktop works fine.

    Also, I question the utility of this for most purposes. One of the reasons why current mice work on a table top is because THAT'S WHERE YOUR HAND IS. I spend a lot of time with a mouse in my hand, and if I was holding an object "floating in space," my arm w
  • why are those guys still pointing the damn thing at the monitor, as if it needed line of sight to work? Doesn't that just annoy you? I mean, the whole benefit of this thing is I could move the cursor around while my hand is stuffed down my pants...
  • good jokes all.. /clap clap
    Nonsense aside, where is my power glove for PC? I should be able to navigate 3d environments by moving both my hands, one for motion the other for grabbing/moving data/files. Go download Tactile3d and play with it for a minute to better understand the concept. then imagine a device similar to the Wii's for navigation. It would make such systems faster to navigate & therefore useful!
    I think it's absurd that a console should have something my PC does not.
    Glad to
  • ...can I write a driver for Soap using SOAP?

    Chris Mattern
  • Here's the link []. The guy who conceived it works at Microsoft Research. See his resume [] (WARNING! PDF!)
    I think he even did it as part of his job, but for some reason I can't find where I've seen it...
  • one points over there. one points up. both mean something else when viewed by others.

  • ...which sells in europe for abt. 40 EURs. The wii remote uses ordinary bluetooth, drivers exist for ALL common OSes (win, osx, linux, see [] and [] for further infos) and you got:
    - a precise mouse-like pointing device (you've got to build yourself a simple "sensor bar" which consists only of a couple of IR LEDs as wii (hoho) all know)
    - 3 dimensional acceleration/motion sensors
    - couple of buttons
    ...and you're done!
  • Still like my trackball better and it doesn't require a desk either. It looked like there were precision issues.
  • What happens if you are playing an FPS and you drop it? Or, worse yet, Fido gets ahold of it and, if he, like my dog, doesn't chew his 'food' before swallowing it, eats the damn thing?

    Pretty interesting device, though. However, I still think a mouse with an inertia-driven sensing device, as is already currently available, would be a better choice, since you could provide more features on the device, rather than a singe button. I would still prefer my now ancient wireless multibutton mouse, especially for ga
  • How do they levitate it? Does it stop working if I hold it in my hand, preventing it from being in mid-air?
  • fondling a Fraggle.
  • 'handheld pointing device that works in mid-air.'

    I use a stick for that. Can wave it about all over the mid air space. Also helps wake people up when you bash it against a desk or white board. :-)

Machines that have broken down will work perfectly when the repairman arrives.