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Microsoft Research Shows Off Multi-Touch Mouse Prototypes

ScuttleMonkey posted about 5 years ago | from the like-old-airplane-designs dept.

Input Devices 137

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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Leave it to Microsoft... (0, Flamebait)

cwiegmann24 (1476667) | about 5 years ago | (#29650143) try and reinvent the wheel.

Re:Leave it to Microsoft... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29650219)

...after Apple did it to poor reviews with the Apple Mighty Mouse.

Re:Leave it to Microsoft... (2, Insightful)

Kratisto (1080113) | about 5 years ago | (#29650785)

Not that these are any better, but the Mighty Mouse sucked. So many years being mocked for having one button, and then, spitefully, they eschew that one in favor of some wonky touch pad setup. Did it ever occur to these people that it's nice to have tactile response? Call me old fashioned, but when I click, I want to hear and feel a click, and when I press a key, I want it to move downward and make a little clack. Now get off my lawn!

Re:Leave it to Microsoft... (1)

harlows_monkeys (106428) | about 5 years ago | (#29650935)

Not that these are any better, but the Mighty Mouse sucked

I admire your extraordinary ability to tell how well a mouse will work without actually trying it.

So many years being mocked for having one button, and then, spitefully, they eschew that one in favor of some wonky touch pad setup. Did it ever occur to these people that it's nice to have tactile response? Call me old fashioned, but when I click, I want to hear and feel a click, and when I press a key, I want it to move downward and make a little clack

Have you ever actually used a Mighty Mouse? It does have tactile response. You hear and feel a click. It moves downward and makes a clack.

Re:Leave it to Microsoft... (1)

AvitarX (172628) | about 5 years ago | (#29651051)

Agreed, I don't really like the mighty mouse, but lack of click is not why.

I sometimes click the wrong side, rarely, but that is what I think they got best.

I find I accidentally squeeze mighty mouse more often than I would like (enough times a day that it frustrates me, but still probably less than twice an hour).

For me the scroll ball has had a fairly high failure rate too,

Re:Leave it to Microsoft... (2, Interesting)

DJRumpy (1345787) | about 5 years ago | (#29652743)

I have the same problem with the mighty mouse. It is too easy to click the 'wrong' side of the mouse, and it was just a little to vague for lack of a better term. The track ball was excellent, as was the precision, but I just couldn't use it.

I actually like the Mac touch pad. I would have never dreamed I would say such a thing as touch pads, in general, are right up there with root canal in my book. I actually found the Macbook Pro's multi-touch pad very sensitive, with perfect acceleration and excellent precision for tiny movements like renaming a file extension. Things like the three-finger functions are a little odd at first, but after about an hour I learned to love the thing. It's one of the few touch pads I could actually use rather than struggle with.

Re:Leave it to Microsoft... (1)

ZarathustraDK (1291688) | about 5 years ago | (#29650393)

What? They succesfully crosspollinated advertising with cut'n'paste, why not do the same with a mouse and...well...whatever acid-induced strike of less-than-genius their...well...acid-induced people can come up with...

Re:Leave it to Microsoft... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29650625)

I think it is cute they showed off their little technology preview thing. Maybe this will help them with their self esteem issues, and I'm glad to see the media playing nice by indulging their fantasies.

I mean, this is a technology that has been a part of off the shelf Apple laptops for more than a year, so it isn't like any normal person would see this as a big deal.

Re:Leave it to Microsoft... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29650681)

Jeebus, you'd think with all the people on here someone would've seen the pun by now. Mouse... wheel..?

Re:Leave it to Microsoft... (1)

geekprime (969454) | about 5 years ago | (#29652929)

Sure, why look for the next big thing when this one works so well!

It's about the research baby!

Open source game? (5, Interesting)

cpicon92 (1157705) | about 5 years ago | (#29650247)

The game they demo the second mouse with in the video appears to be cube [] . I suppose they used it because they had access to the source code and could modify it for multitouch interaction.

Re:Open source game? (1)

Cheapy (809643) | about 5 years ago | (#29653033)

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

Re:Open source game? (4, Funny)

mgblst (80109) | about 5 years ago | (#29653215)

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 (4, Insightful)

WiiVault (1039946) | about 5 years ago | (#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"

Little known fact about the Doug Engelbart mouse (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29650589)

The way your dad looked at it, this mouse was your birthright. He'd be damned if any of the slopes were gonna get their greasy yellow hands on his boy's birthright. So he hid it in the one place he knew he could hide something: his ass. Five long years, he wore this mouse, up his ass. Then when he died of dysentery, he gave me the mouse. I hid this uncomfortable piece of wood up my ass for two years. Then, after seven years, I was sent home to my family. And now, little man, I give the mouse to you.

I don't know ... (5, Insightful)

abbynormal brain (1637419) | about 5 years ago | (#29650591)

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

Re:I don't know ... (3, Insightful)

Tynin (634655) | about 5 years ago | (#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.

Re:I don't know ... (1)

Jbcarpen (883850) | about 5 years ago | (#29651561)

Ah, well, cyberhands are coming... someday.

Re:Finally (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29650639)

Yo dawg, I heard you like macs, so we put a multi-touch pad in your thong so you can touch it whilst you touch yourself.

Re:Finally (1)

nschubach (922175) | about 5 years ago | (#29650839)

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.

Re:Finally (1)

KahabutDieDrake (1515139) | about 5 years ago | (#29651099)

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.

Re:Finally (1)

WiiVault (1039946) | about 5 years ago | (#29651163)

Opera has had a similar feature as well and I agree it is quite handy, though good multitouch would be another leap ahead.

Re:Finally (1)

grcumb (781340) | about 5 years ago | (#29653003)

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 are all the rage, but some of us don't need 5 9's when it comes to our mice. Not all of my clicks are directed at streamlining efficiencies and improving the bottom line. I mean, I appreciate an agile, responsive mouse with good communications skills that knows how to deal with complex challenges in a team-oriented environment as much as the next guy. But most of the time I just want the fucking thing to go 'tick-tack' when I press the button.

Re:Finally (3, Interesting)

rantingkitten (938138) | about 5 years ago | (#29652427)

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.

Re:Finally (1)

rtb61 (674572) | about 5 years ago | (#29652835)

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 drop the scrolling wheel.

Making up? (2, Funny)

iamapizza (1312801) | about 5 years ago | (#29650259)

Is this to make up for those Microsoft SongSmith adverts?

Re:Making up? (1)

Capt.DrumkenBum (1173011) | about 5 years ago | (#29650335)

Is this to make up for those Microsoft SongSmith adverts?

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

Re:Making up? (1)

bertoelcon (1557907) | about 5 years ago | (#29651217)

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.

Re:Making up? (1)

Capt.DrumkenBum (1173011) | about 5 years ago | (#29651355)

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.

How do they think we hold a mouse? (4, Interesting)

eepok (545733) | about 5 years ago | (#29650343)

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. (

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.

You are just used to that (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29650425)

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 those in decades.

You overlook his analyses (3, Insightful)

SuperKendall (25149) | about 5 years ago | (#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.

Re:You overlook his analyses (1)

Gldm (600518) | about 5 years ago | (#29650871)

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 where people valued access to higher numbers of buttons over adjustable precision control, resulting in a different mouse holding posture that emphasises functionality at the exexpense of precision.

It's pretty easy to change mouse sensitivity to adjust for finer control, especially on modern mice. It's really hard to grow extra fingers to push more buttons. Therefore it's possible for one of these systems to compensate for its lack (by adding sensitivity controls on the mouse), but the reverse is not true. So I'm predicting you and the other guy will be in the minority on this since younger users tend to be more comfortable with extra buttons than us fossils who grew up with 2 and 3 button mice with cords and balls.

Re:How do they think we hold a mouse? (1)

EvanED (569694) | about 5 years ago | (#29650571)

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.

Finger vs palm mousers are an issue. (2, Informative)

Gldm (600518) | about 5 years ago | (#29650743)

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: []

Some people prefer to use the fingers for fine motor control, as you mention. Others prefer to just use a lower sensitivity and arm motion for positioning, freeing up finger control for more buttons. These inventions aren't aiming at a specific ergonomic target, they're adding functionality. If anything, a prevalence of multi-touch support in the future will dictate the common mouse holding posture, and I suspect you may be in for some grumbling about it for the forseeable future as it does not fit your natural tendency.

Your kids will wonder how the hell you can hold a mouse like that and still use it though.

Re:How do they think we hold a mouse? (1)

BikeHelmet (1437881) | about 5 years ago | (#29651061)

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:How do they think we hold a mouse? (2, Informative)

tonycheese (921278) | about 5 years ago | (#29651101)

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.

Re:How do they think we hold a mouse? (1)

AvitarX (172628) | about 5 years ago | (#29651127)

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.

Sup Dawg (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29650399)

Sup dawg, I herd you like human interface devices so I put a human interface device in your human interface device so you can interface with a device as a human while you are interfacing with a device as a human!

Re:Sup Dawg (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29653099)

Sup dawg, I herd you like wasting mod points, se we put a troll in your troll so you can mod while you mod.

Worthwhile uses (1)

Mouldy (1322581) | about 5 years ago | (#29650413)

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.

Re:Worthwhile uses (1)

gmuslera (3436) | about 5 years ago | (#29650539)

This ones [] 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.

Microsoft Trackball Explorer (TBE) (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29650451)

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.

Orb was the closest (3, Funny)

DaveSlash (1597297) | about 5 years ago | (#29650619)

I liked the Orb, because it was the closest to both the Trackball Explorer and a boob.

Re:Orb was the closest (2, Funny)

iron-kurton (891451) | about 5 years ago | (#29651809)

I think there's something to be said for arty, too. I will be using both of those devices at my Windows 7 launch party.

Less tactile (2, Insightful)

Bigbutt (65939) | about 5 years ago | (#29650461)

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 :)


Re:Less tactile (1)

agnosticnixie (1481609) | about 5 years ago | (#29652197)

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

Re:Less tactile (1)

Jesus_666 (702802) | about 5 years ago | (#29652873)

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.

Re:Less tactile (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | about 5 years ago | (#29652621)

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.

Holding your mouse (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29650567)

How I hold my mouse is kind of personal don't you think? ;)

Forget Arty, Bring Back Clippy!!! (1, Offtopic)

happy_place (632005) | about 5 years ago | (#29650601)

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!

Re:Forget Arty, Bring Back Clippy!!! (1)

Mouldy (1322581) | about 5 years ago | (#29650709)

If it were moldable, maybe you could throttle it.

Re:Forget Arty, Bring Back Clippy!!! (1)

Mishotaki (957104) | about 5 years ago | (#29651169)

it just kept popping up, suggesting things!

did it tell you to burn the house too?

External trackpad? (3, Interesting)

joh (27088) | about 5 years ago | (#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!

Re:External trackpad? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29650723)

The Wacom Bamboo Touch.

Works great with my mac mini. It does windows too. I'll never go back to a mouse.

Re:External trackpad? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29650859)

I have one of those, and I like it. But it's not a trackpad, it's a pen and tablet system. It works with the pen, not fingers. NewEgg did have some trackpads, but the reviews were mixed.

Re:External trackpad? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29650963)

Nevermind - I misread the product name.

Re:External trackpad? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29651759)

There was one, by fingerworks. You can still find them on ebay, but cheap they are not. It's because apple bought them and repurposed the technology for some kind of phone thing.

Re:External trackpad? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29652075)

You were looking for these? Multi-touch touchpads from Wacom, and cheap. []

Multiple interfaces, MULTIPLE METHODS! (4, Insightful)

wowbagger (69688) | about 5 years ago | (#29650629)

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:Multiple interfaces, MULTIPLE METHODS! (0, Troll)

peragrin (659227) | about 5 years ago | (#29650865)

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 a pain.

We need more axis's available Just because your mind is limited to a 2D world I much prefer more dimensions. preferable at least 3 and 4 D.

Re:Multiple interfaces, MULTIPLE METHODS! (1)

Gldm (600518) | about 5 years ago | (#29650921)

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 market though, it looks like someone took the old SpaceOrb controller and did it right.

Re:Multiple interfaces, MULTIPLE METHODS! (1)

pz (113803) | about 5 years ago | (#29652019)

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:Multiple interfaces, MULTIPLE METHODS! (2, Interesting)

Sir_Dill (218371) | about 5 years ago | (#29652273)

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 things like the multifunction kitchen computer, or information kiosk, kids computers, mobile devices, smart phones, tablets, etc.
Maybe even gaming but the bottom line is our fingers are big old meat sticks.
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.

there will always be a new way of interacting with computers but I think that until we get implants and can think our commands, the keyboard and mouse will stay the defacto standard way of interacting with our workstations.
Both because of the entrenched nature of the technology as well as physiological reasons.

Re:Multiple interfaces, MULTIPLE METHODS! (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | about 5 years ago | (#29652679)

"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 capability to recognize gestures.

Re:Multiple interfaces, MULTIPLE METHODS! (1)

spitzak (4019) | about 5 years ago | (#29652531)

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? (2, Insightful)

diemonkey (1348393) | about 5 years ago | (#29650631)

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?

Re:Ergonomics? (1)

rxan (1424721) | about 5 years ago | (#29651665)

These are prototypes. It looks like the ergonomics of these models could easily be fixed.

Re:Ergonomics? (1)

VanGarrett (1269030) | about 5 years ago | (#29651877)

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.

Re:Ergonomics? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29652293)

What about something that allows for the natural movement and precision of the hand and fingers to control the device? Personally, I didn't like the devices that much. But "natural"? what is natural? Computers and interfaces are not natural, neither "intuitive" because of the same reason.
Drawing with your fingers on the air (like minority report) is not natural, because people is just not used to draw things in the air, and many people and cultures use different gestures for different things.

So, as I said, I didn't like the devices, but people needs to get used to some stuff, because technology is not natural. I get somehow confused with people that say that "Apple" for example is more intuitive for doing things: It's a computer! There is no intuitive or natural way of doing things, perhaps just easier ways.

How will my butcher use these? (1)

tacarat (696339) | about 5 years ago | (#29650651)

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.

Re:How will my butcher use these? (1)

vlm (69642) | about 5 years ago | (#29650697)

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 off the edge" problem of a mouse.

Re:How will my butcher use these? (1)

black3d (1648913) | about 5 years ago | (#29651369)

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. I don't look at it. I don't think about it. Its just where it should be.

Also easier on my fingers, no weird ergonomic twisting like a mouse.

I don't know what you're doing to your mouse, however there is virtually no finger movement at all with NORMAL usage of a mouse. Movement is controlled almost entirely by the wrist. On the contrary, unless running at a very high resolution, fingers have to be repositioned around every five seconds to continue the "movement" of a trackball.

Also faster because I don't have to continually readjust from rolling the mouse off the pad.

See the previous point - you have to reposition fingers on a trackball constantly. However, I have not, since the late 90s, encountered any problems with a mouse running off a pad. Mouse resolution is considerably higher than it used to be. I can play 30 rounds of Counterstrike without once lifting the mouse off the pad for positioning. My 1920x1200 screen, with the mouse running at a medium res, translates to roughly 3.5" x 3" of pad surface.

Now - take a deep breath and realise, as I do, that preference in pointing devices comes down simply to personal opinion. Saying you prefer a trackball is fine. But you don't need to make up fanciful reasons why a mouse is inferior.

Re:How will my butcher use these? (1)

VanGarrett (1269030) | about 5 years ago | (#29651839)

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?

Re:How will my butcher use these? (1)

tacarat (696339) | about 5 years ago | (#29652477)

If that's the stance you're taking we'll never move to mind controlled computers :(

Re:How will my butcher use these? (1)

agnosticnixie (1481609) | about 5 years ago | (#29653111)

Accessibility means not forsaking, but having sufficiently redundant interfaces that not only asshole snowflakes like you can use them.

I think the cap mouse will probably win out. (4, Informative)

Gldm (600518) | about 5 years ago | (#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.

Mice the same, keyboards to change (4, Insightful)

SuperKendall (25149) | about 5 years ago | (#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.

Re:Mice the same, keyboards to change (1)

Gldm (600518) | about 5 years ago | (#29650995)

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? The ability to tap to emulate a left click. Because it's a royal pain to position with fingers and click with the thumb, it makes common operations like dragging difficult and imprecise. Then throw in scrollwheel functionality and ugh! The reason it flourishes in laptops is because it doesn't require any space to operate, and most people wouldn't use a laptop they couldn't use on a lap. The eraser nub mice lost out because their control precision was even worse than the touchpad.

If people aren't buying aftermarket touchpads for their desktops in significant numbers let alone more than mice, I don't see the evidence for an actual user preference of the touchpad over the mouse. The market's had more than long enough for that kind of bias to assert itself and it hasn't.

Re:I think the cap mouse will probably win out. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29650721)

Add this to the list:

Cap mouse: Probably going to win, because odds are good there's one coming out in less than a month from Apple. MS Labs FTL.

Re:I think the cap mouse will probably win out. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29651121)

Implementation details aside, the design of the FTIR mouse looks the best to me -- just a regular mouse design with a multi-touch interface instead of buttons. If they had some tactile feedback for the button presses, ala the Apple Mighty Mouse, mousing around will just feel natural (or you know, how we've been conditioned to use a mouse for the past decades). The multi-touch interface could then be used for scrolling, pinch-zooms, etc.

Even better would be to have 2 of these multi-touch devices; one for each hand! Then we can even use it to replace our keyboards! Wait, I think I just time-traveled back to the year 2002 when FingerWorks devices were available.

This looks VERY bad. (4, Interesting)

seeker_1us (1203072) | about 5 years ago | (#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.

Re:This looks VERY bad. (3, Insightful)

Gldm (600518) | about 5 years ago | (#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.

Re:This looks VERY bad. (1)

rxan (1424721) | about 5 years ago | (#29651725)

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.

Re:This looks VERY bad. (1)

seeker_1us (1203072) | about 5 years ago | (#29651895)

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).

Re:This looks VERY bad. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29651035)

I have no trouble resting my fingers on the trackpad of my Macbook Pro. It only reacts when I press it, not when I touch it. Not for clicking anyway.

Re:This looks VERY bad. (1)

value_added (719364) | about 5 years ago | (#29651063)


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.

Re:This looks VERY bad. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29651783)

There's such a thing as an ergonomist?

hmm (1)

Dyinobal (1427207) | about 5 years ago | (#29650725)

how about a mouse shaped like a pair of breasts. It would be a gate way into more interesting things!

Make your own in 5 minutes! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29650727)

Only works with windows 7 but pretty slick...

Waves hand, erases memory... (1)

Nefarious Wheel (628136) | about 5 years ago | (#29650875)

These were not the droids I was looking for.

Not Practicle (1)

Demonantis (1340557) | about 5 years ago | (#29650909)

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.

cap mouse for me (1)

pbjones (315127) | about 5 years ago | (#29651129)

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.

The boob mouse will need a nipple. (1)

Gldm (600518) | about 5 years ago | (#29651195)

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.

Webcam input method (1)

pecila (1647383) | about 5 years ago | (#29651483)

Speaking of using a webcam for HID (human interface device), Red(neck)mond company is late as usual.
Check out this open source game: []
Full source code provided.

Re:Webcam input method (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29651745)

Off topic, but game runs nice on my netbook.

The arty mouse (1)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | about 5 years ago | (#29651727)

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.

Solution looking for a problem (1)

SheeEttin (899897) | about 5 years ago | (#29651955)

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 Mickey Mouse). It provides multi-touch functionality while minimally changing the way you move your hand. Only thing I think it needs is somewhere to put the rest of your fingers. (The video shows the person's middle finger held awkwardly in the air.)

What I think would be optimal is basically a multi-touch touchpad. Take it off a laptop, enlarge it, and add multi-touch. That'd make a pretty good interface device.

That first one in the video (1)

Datamonstar (845886) | about 5 years ago | (#29652269)

...could also be used as a telediddonics device. There. I said it.

I want gel cubes (1)

Loomismeister (1589505) | about 5 years ago | (#29652647)

Until my entire body is immersed in comfortable gel pods like EVE's universe pilots, I'm sticking with my mouse/keyboard combo!
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