Microsoft is showing off five concepts for added mouse functionality. All of them seek to replace traditional move-and-click with touch sensitivity through either capacitive sensing, video recognition, sensor articulation, or laser scanning. We’re excited about the prospects of some of these features but at the same time wonder what this does to the price of this much-abused peripheral. After the break we’ll touch on each of the devices, along with time references for the video embedded above.
Capacitive Mouse (0:00)
The first offering is the closest to what we have now. It is a standard mouse that has a capacitive pad covering the body. This pad detects and reports any touches, demonstrated by on-screen blotches where the hand makes contact. We see this as a laptop touch-pad wrapped around a desktop mouse. Wrap it up and ship it out, we want one!
Video Multi-touch Mouse (1:52)
The next concept uses a curved piece of acrylic as the part of the body where you’d usually find the buttons. The secret to the sensing is a built in camera that passes image data to the computer. The touch sensitivity is provided by analyzing the image data. We’re a bit skeptical that this processing can be done inside of the mouse but we guess that’s for the R&D guys to work out. Also, how clean does the acrylic need to be to get a good image for processing?
Articulated Mouse (3:28)
Definitely the weirdest of the bunch. This is three mice in one, with a traditional mouse senor under an articulated pad for your thumb, and another for your pointer finger. The third sensor is in the mouse body itself where the palm of your hand rests. Tactile buttons can be added to the two satellite pads. We’re sure someone has a great use for this, but it would probably be no more popular than trackballs were.
Orb Mouse (4:56)
The orb is another camera-based design. Instead of a curved sheet of acrylic it utilizes a dome-shaped piece. The same concerns about video analysis exist but make sure you watch the demonstration of this used as a one-handed FPS controller.
Side Mouse (6:34)
This mouse makes your desk into the multi-touch area. It uses infrared laser scanning to pick up finger presses and motions in the general area around the mouse body. This reminds us of the laser qwerty keyboard and may be just as cool, who knows? We would anticipate some degree of a learning curve in using this device.
We’d love to see new and improved input devices readily available at a bargain price. Are those goals attainable? This really is inventing a better mouse(trap).