Five Concept Mice Add Multi-touch Control


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).

[via Mashable]

[Thanks Alex]

34 thoughts on “Five Concept Mice Add Multi-touch Control

  1. These are neat, but I think only the first two have any chance at being successful at market… Over the past 30 years people have been ‘trained’ as to how a mouse works, and if you change it too much people will just reject it & that’ll be the end of that.

  2. Building on what JayNix said, except in the actual part on the mouse, I don’t like the fact that they are eliminating the wheel part of the mice. I don’t like scrolling with anything that toggles or that requires the sliding of the finger over a surface. At least for me, I like the feeling of manipulating a physical object, such as a wheel, in a mouse’s case.

    For instance, I think this is one reason why blackberries have become so well known – for that little track ball in the center. It would be nice to have more things built like this, such as on the side of an mp3 player. You would use the wheel for scrolling through the lists of songs on the device. Not necessarily like a touch screen or a scroll wheel ipods have become infamous for.

  3. I have did hands on for many of these a year or so ago. I liked the concepts, though definitely was not intuitive and a little frustrating after playing with it for a few minutes.

    I am sure some people had some initial responses to using a mouse, but unless it happened to be filled with lint I don’t personally recall any initial difficulties with a classic mouse.

  4. I have did hands on for many of these a year or so ago. I liked the concepts, though definitely was not intuitive and a little frustrating after playing with it for a few minutes. I am sure some people had some initial responses to using a mouse, but unless it happened to be filled with lint I don’t personally recall any initial difficulties with a classic mouse.

  5. I would guess the acrylic mouse works by Frustrated Total Internal Reflection. This is the same way fingerprint scanners work, and it works well with oily surfaces, so they don’t have to be totally clean.
    I have to agree on the first one, though- wrap it up and ship it out, I want one!

  6. They all look like ergonomic nightmares except for maybe (MAYBE) the Articulated mouse, depending on the angle of use. My wrist hurts just looking at the others.

    I would like to note that with current mice, most of the work is done by the wrist and forearm, not by the fingers (Besides clicking and scrolling). With multitouch, people are going to have to be even more aware of how long they are doing these actions, and take breaks accordingly.

  7. I don’t see why every hardware developer seems intent on destroying the notion of tactile feedback. Capacitive sensors have applications where mechanical switches would encounter unmanagable wear or other unusual cases, but for everyday use they will never be on par with the simple mechanical alternative in terms of responsiveness, reliability, or user friendliness. They just introduce needless complexity.

    Although extra analog inputs on a mouse would be nice in certain situations, mapping the entire surface of the mouse seems a bit excessive.

    Many of these prototypes have a huge flaw — you cannot easily pick up and reposition the mouse on the mousing surface. Unless you have an infinitely large work area and ridiculously long arms, this makes the mouse essentially worthless. I’m sure they’re aware of this, though, since the mice were probably designed to show off a concept and not for everyday use.

  8. I really don’t understand this fascination with multi-touch. On a portable device with a smaller screen like an iPhone it makes sense. On something like a desktop it’s simply a useless feature to charge more for. If you are really having trouble reading text on the internet, which is what most machines are used for these day’s. a simple ctrl+ combo zooms in…

  9. David, it may come as a suprise to you, but some people use their computers to do things other than browsing the internet. I can think of many applications that would benefit from multi-touch control. Anywhere were real time control over multiple parameters is required, multi touch is a boon. For example, music recording software usually features an on-screen mixer. With a mouse, only one faders is accessible at any one time; multi-touch offers complete control.

    It really needs tighter OS integration to be successful. I see this as a paradigm shift of the same magnitude as the move from text based to graphical based UI. Many of the xerox parc concepts of GUI need to be re-evaluated if multi-touch’s advantages are going to be fully realised. Simply bolting the technology onto existing GUI Windowing systems will not deliver the full experience.

  10. @1:06 mouse wheels not having momentum…. havn’t they seen logitechs offerings? basically on certain models of logitech mice there’s a catch that you can disengage and the wheel is free scrolling letting you flick it all by using a normal scroll wheel

  11. These all seem like rather bad ideas with the exception of the third one, the articulated mouse. It seems like it would do well in a lot of the standard multitouch functions easily and well enough but they are trying too hard to cram more complex systems into the same old objects.
    Then again I still don’t see anything wrong with using a pair of regular mice to do whatever you need. I haven’t come across any kind of multitouch application thhat would require more than that.

  12. I find mice incredibly annoying, they make my wrist and fingers ache and are inherently a bad method of input requiring too much motion and contorted joint angles. Trackballs are a bit better but not a lot. I’d personally do away with mice in favour of something completely non-contact, but I fear that’s a way off. Tactile feedback is not a big issue for me, providing the surface acts as I expect. Nothing worse than having to scroll stupid little wheels or faff with fiddly little balls (just to explain that not everyone likes tactile input).

  13. Capacitive Mouse

    Touchstream already tried this and went bankrupt. People need weighted motion feedback, otherwise they have no confirmation that they did something. I thought my totally flat Touchstream input device was fun to play with but it was useless as a mouse and keying surface.

    Orb Mouse

    Input devices that require people to hold up their hands always fail because people are too lazy to hold their hands up. The reason existing mice work is because you can lay your hand over it and get porn just by wiggling your wrist.

  14. Technically I’m already using a capacitance mouse. Apple’s Mighty Mouse works this way, and though I’m sad to say it, it sucks. There’s no way to detect pressure applied if your finger is already resting on the mouse. So, say you want to right click, you can’t just push down because if your finger was already resting on the surface, added pressure doesn’t change the capacitance. So, you have to lift your right click finger, then set it down again. It’s like reverse clicking. Apple circumvented this by making the whole mouse a button, so pressure activates a mechanical switch and capacitance determines if your right click finger is on the right area of the mouse, but what if your left click finger is also resting on the left side. So, now you have to lift your left click finger, then click with your right, and finally rest your left again. It’s annoying.

  15. In my opinion the future is in multitouch screens and not in strange periferials like this. People wants to touch what are they working on, not interact with it using antother mouse. PS mouse has more than 20 years!!!

  16. Filippo: People do not always want to touch what they’re working on; your fingers get in the way and/or the screen gets smudged. Plus, what Maj said — that’s all well and good if it’s a tiny phone, and you fingers can reach any part of the screen while your wrist doesn’t move, but that does *not* translate to a 17-30 inch display, where you’d be waving your arm all over the place, tiring yourself out just reading web sites or playing a game.

    I think most of these mice have *some* potential, but agree that tactile feedback is vital as well. I think a pressure-sensitive combination of resistive and capacitive touch is going to wind up winning, personally.

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