updated 01:30 pm EDT, Mon October 5, 2009
Devices simulate buttons, gestures
Microsoft is exploring the concept of multi-touch mice, a new research paper reveals. The paper is being presented today as part of the User Interface Software and Technology conference, and identifies five different prototypes, each based on different sensor technologies. The devices also rely on different ergonomics, and in some cases enable different functions.
Seen in a demonstration video, the FTIR (Frustrated Total Internal Reflection) mouse uses a camera to detect one or more fingers placed on a translucent surface. Users can tap one or more fingers to click, or else perform various swiping gestures, such as pinching or rotating to manipulate on-screen objects. The Orb Mouse is similar, but uses an internal camera aimed at a rounded sphere. Different sections of the sphere can be assigned to different functions, for instance jumping in a first-person shooter.
The Cap Mouse uses a set of capacitive electrodes on the surface of a more conventionally-styled device. Apple is believed to be using similar technology for a new Mighty Mouse, which could ship before the end of 2009.
The Side Mouse is based on proximity sensors, and records gestures occurring in front, rather than ones made through direct physical contact. This allows users to perform gestures with two hands, and/or without picking up a mouse at all. Microsoft's last concept, the Arty Mouse, employs three optical sensors, two of which are mounted on extendable arms.
It is not known when or if any of the prototypes will be transformed into production models.