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The Internet

See the Web, Touch the Web? 53

Stephen Williams writes "Have a look at this BBC story. A mouse with tactile feedback (basically a built-in rumble pack) has been designed, apparently to enable Web users to "touch" what they see on the Web. I won't contemplate the uses that "adult" sites could put this to." The company is Immersion-the article's cheesy, but the thought's interesting.
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See the Web, Touch the Web?

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  • Could one build a form of "Braille" into pages using such a device? BHTML could allow bind users to use a tactile feedback device to read pages.

    Of course, the majority of pages would never catch up with such technology - even today, the careful use of ALT tags can make a page more readable for speaking browsers, but almost never actually do so!

  • No linux support mentioned - perhaps a little "encouragement" from SlashDot readers could change that?
  • I recall something on tv about this (might have been on the BBC :-) ) They showed a full GUI where you would feel more resistance if you dragged something on the screen. Someone who was interviewed even mentioned increasing resistance if something you were dragging was "heavy" for instance a folder containing a lot of data. Unfortunately I don't remember who was working on this. Anyone hear/see/read something on this ?

    Message on our company Intranet:
    "You have a sticker in your private area"
  • by spav ( 36318 )
    Is this from the same company that will bring us the "track-me-down-when-I'm-having-sex" bra?
  • ...is doing a similar design. I saw it somewhere on their web page, which is at http://www.logitech.com
  • even today, the careful use of ALT tags can make a page more readable for speaking browsers, but almost never actually do so!

    Sad but true. With the exception of ads and banners, in which case --remarkably-- the ladies and gentlemen webdesigners don't "forget" to enter ALT tags...

  • I'm sorry, this is a really DUMB article. Right right, I will be able to "feel" the tautness of the strings of the tennis racquet I am buying. Sure, whatever you say. What a GREAT benefit for e-commerce it will be. I'm sorry. Until they can link the web directly to my nervous system, and also fool my eyes into making me THINK I am looking at the tennis racquet, while feeling it, this kind of technology isn't going to help ANYONE "try" a product before they buy it. It might be great for interfaces (slight feedback as you move over buttons) and 3D simulations, and of course, games (first person shooters anyone?). The BBC needs to get some people who actually use computers to research these articles, sheesh.

    Spyky
  • One word.
    ewww!
    Christopher A. Bohn
  • Time for a conspiracy story!



    So this bra transmits signals eh? Say somebody fitted sensors throughout it, recording intimately a womans breasts? This info was this then processed into BrHTML (Breast Markup Language) - to be used by people with "touchy-feely" peripherals - purely for medical research, obviously.

    Hmm, gives a new meaning to "hands on".

    Mong.


    * Paul Madley ...Student, Artist, Techie - Geek *

  • Time for a conspiracy story!

    So this bra transmits signals eh? Say somebody fitted sensors throughout it, recording intimately a womans breasts? This info was this then processed into BrHTML (Breast Markup Language) - to be used by people with "touchy-feely" peripherals - purely for medical research, obviously.

    Hmm, gives a new meaning to "hands on".

    Mong.


    * Paul Madley ...Student, Artist, Techie - Geek *
  • It all sounds like a nice idea, but I think in practice it won't be worth much. Won't do much good for RSI either. and ofcourse it will be used first by one of the many XXX sites, maybe even in combination with webcams *shudder*.
  • Deaf people normally don't have much problems using a computer or accessing the Internet. Blind people mostly use speech synthesizers, but what about deaf-blind people? Tactile information such as from braille devices is required.

    This mouse would be great for navigating the modern GUI operating systems! And at $99 it isn't too expensive.

    I actually do know someone who is deaf-blind. I have contemplated recommending Linux to him because of a couple of reasons. For one, it is free (as in beer). Yes, this is important since normally there is a small market for this kind of hardware and software. In most cases deaf-blind people can only afford this with a government donation, which mostly means that they have to prove it is needed for a job. Another plus of Linux is remote administration. In case of problems, I or somebody else could login to his machine and help him sort out a problem. Unix-like operating systems are actually quite usable, you can do everything from the command line and there are several braille devices supported under Linux.

    The downside of Linux in this matter is two-fold: my deaf-blind acquaintance is interested in "mainstream" software, such as a encyclopedia of flowers on CD-ROM (wouldn't you?). So far, Linux is lagging Windows on this kind of software. It's the applications that matter. The other problem is that being deaf-blind, learning a foreign language is extremely difficult. My acquaintance does not understand English well. And Unix is very much oriented towards the English language...

  • yes! i cannot remember where i saw it. i think it was one of those super late night tech shows. i distinctly remember them showing television camera equivalents to screenshots.

    anyway, just to assure you that you aren't having hallucinations.
  • Perhaps the trend of immersion web surfing will move over to smell-a-vision too. How does someone actually write web code for this product?
    . I hope Team Mozilla will implement the new "tags" for the new browser, perhaps this is already implmentated in IE 5.0?
  • "what kind of mouse pad are you using, sugar?"

    yuck.
  • Perhaps the trend of immersion web surfing will move over to smell-a-vision too. How does someone actually write web code for this product? mouse=smooth? I hope Team Mozilla will implement the new "tags" for the new browser, perhaps this is already part of IE 5.0 code "enhancements"?
  • Immersion was first showing this tactile mouse off at SIGGRAPH almost three years ago. Logitech is just the first OEM to actually try to make a viable product with it.

  • This should have been another from the "Geeks-should-never-be-naked" department. Live bimbos waiting for you to touch them online! Oh, a little more the the left...right there...your joystick is so huge....your hard drive turns me on!

    Let's stick to more practical technology, shall we?
  • One tends to wonder exactly what a /. feels like. Personaly, I just want mouse with better traction on the mouse ball.
  • I also doubt that such a technique will really help anyone to try something before buying it.

    Even if that mouse was providing very good and accurate feedback (just like having the object in your hands), what would prevent the vendor from cheating? It is exactly the same problem as when you buy an object that looks very nice on the web, but is actually not as good as you saw on the advertisements.

    Virtual feelings (with this feedback mouse) can be fooled as easily as virtual sight. As long as someone can get between you and the object, and modify the feedback that you get, they can fool you easily and make you buy something that is not as you "saw" or "felt" it.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    A mouse with a rumble pack, right...
    Carpal tunnel has never been so attainable :)
  • A couple of my quake-loving friends are already
    drolling over the posibilities of having a mouse
    with a rumble pack the play quake with....


    ..Fessor
  • OK just as a background check I've worked on some haptic stuff. Haptic being a magic word that means force feedback for lack of a better definition. I worked specifically on two projects, which had much better hardware than this thing. With those it was possible, to feel things but not perfectly. Generally (although this was 1-2 years ago) minute details were lost. Things like textures were difficult to feel. Best example I can relate was you hand running quickly over a keyboard type texture. Friction and drag were possible but not very accurate or reliable. That stuff was all done on the PHANTOM [sensable.com]. Stuff for this device has gotten better but still if you want realistic feeling you need a lot of computer power behind it. Typically it can be used for medical imaging with SGIs. The other device I worked with was based on magnetics. Its here. [cmu.edu] It had better precision in the feelings, but less of a range (err at least the prototype did its been about 1-2years since I was there). Basically you could feel things very precisely but only over about 1". The PHANTOM allowed you to feel things kinda sloppily over a much larger range (walls were a little spongy).

    The point of all that blathering - I doubt that could get an acurate feeling in these mouse type devices. The input an computation you would need is pretty large. More likely it is what was stated in the article here - a rumble pack in a mouse. So I doubt you could tell the difference between a tennis raquet, a can of soda, or an adult site.

    As for any benefits to the blind, I believe there are beter products that do braille type output to a wrist rest type thing that sits below your keyboard. This probably can't do braille due to lack of exactness.
    -cpd
  • The Canadian National Institute for the Blind had a "technology demonstration" a few weeks ago. There was a vendor showing off something similar. The mouse gave tactical feedback as it passed from one menu item to the other. It also moved on its own to a dialog box when one popped up.

    I had a hard time getting used to a "live" mouse - it's a little disconcerting - but I can see how it might be useful.

    The real innovation I saw there, however, was a simple office suite designed specifically for the blind or visually impaired. I think Open Source could really be valuable here since the market isn't large enough to support big commercial investment. You take an Open Source word-processor and rewrite the user interface. It works much better than all the magnifying devices that blow up a windows application so you can only see a square inch at a time.

  • The biggest problem facing non-graphical clients on the web is not the presence of images and multimedia (which have ways of specifying alternate concent), but the (ab)use of TABLEs-for-layout, which usually break any meaningful flow of a document for clients that must deal with the page in a 1-dimensional, rather than a 2-dimensional fashion.

  • ``even today, the careful use of ALT tags can make a page more readable for speaking browsers, but almost never actually do so!

    Sad but true.''

    Sad but true even, I've noticed, on Slashdot. As an aside, I thought that ALT was an argument/option to the IMG tag. OK... Just me being picky before I've had my morning coffee.

    I'm sure that a lot of the reason is HTML editors especially the GUI variety. Pointing and clicking to create Web pages doesn't (easily) allow for entering customized text for a ALT option. And I doubt that people using a GUI Web page designer are going to fire up a text editor to add the ALT descriptions afterwards.

    I want to see the impact that the U.S. Govt's standards for Web pages is going to have on a lot of sites. For example, tables are not to be used for layout control, pages shouldn't override fonts, etc. It'd put to rest one of the major complaints that a lot of people have about the quality of a lot of Web design. (Now before someone gets all upset about the Feds trying to throw their weight around try to remember that they pushing these standards to help the deaf and blind gain access to the Web and the standards are supposed to apply only to those companies that are doing business directly with the govt. If they start trying to set standards for content that's another matter. If I run across the link again that describes the proposed standards I'll put it up here.)

    Another point: Do the people that come up with these hare-brained devices ever stop to consider the network bandwidth requirement for something like this to work effectively, if at all? And the impact it has on people who are just trying to load a page of text? This tactile mouse idea may work great in the lab but I suspect it's going to flop, big time, in the real world.

  • Greatly appreciated :-)

    Message on our company Intranet:
    "You have a sticker in your private area"
  • Your theory intrigues me. I would like to buy one of these peripherals, and possibly subscribe to your newsletter.

    "First this insignificant village of no tactical value that I have so far been unable to take because of a raucous band of children, and then THE WORLD!!" -Evil Genius

  • The PHANTOM, as mentioned above, is really cool, it allows real tactile interaction.

    I work at a company in Sweden, ReachIn Technologies [reachin.se] that produces hardware and an API that combines graphics and haptics in the one spot, which is really impressive.

    There are lots of benefits of having a proper haptics system, it allows the incredible control that we have of our fingers ( we can sense bumps in a smooth surface of 1 micrometre ! ) to be used. There are heaps of potential markets as well, the one catch is that these systems are fairly expensive at the moment, oh, actually, there is one other, we don't support Linux....
  • This is the Immersion FEELit mouse, which was first mentioned in the press in late '97. (Do a search on your favorite webcrawler.) It looks like they've finally gotten the deal down with Logitech to actually get them into production.

    I think it could be a useful part of the GUI; perhaps I'm just clumsy, but I miss the button I meant to hit, or drag the folder I just meant to open, or do other similar mistakes often enough for it to be annoying. Perhaps this would help.
  • I saw this thing at Comdex '97. This was after already thinking that the guys at Immersion were total crackheads. Although that's because I always thought, and still do, that force feedback is one of the dumbest uses of technology there has ever been. (Of course that didn't prevent me from incorporating force feedback into my project. It's another one of those buzzword features that game buyers like.)

    Needless to say, I thought force feedback joysticks were the dumbest thing in the world... until I saw this! Yet you should have seen the line at the Immersion booth of people waiting to get their hands on this thing. They were showing a demo of how much more ``efficient'' you can be when your mouse can snap to buttons and feel around the edges of windows. I thought to myself, ``What a load of hooey.''

    They had a demo there, where you had to click on a bunch of randomly positioned buttons in numerical order. You could try it with the force off, and the force on. I'm sure it was rigged to ``suck'' the mouse into the correct button, but either way the demo proved that people were faster with the force, and the people were impressed. Here I am showing off games on one side of the floor, and only the force feedback mouse elicits the response, ``Wow. That's amazing!''

    Not that I'm bitter... ;) Two years later I've heard nothing of Immersion or the force feedback mouse until this. Now, instead of making me more efficient, it will allow me to feel things on the web. Now let me tell you, there are a lot of things (especially banner ads) on the web that I just don't want to feel. But I suppose, if the device went nowhere since I saw it, if they somehow attach the word ``web'' to it, sales will skyrocket.

    I still don't think it can do corduroy.

  • ...like the latest ``inventions'' that employ some aspect of the Internet/WWW are a lot like the ridiculous junk that was being produced after electricity became widely available?

    Back then someone would come up with something bizaare like electric pens, electric forks, electric-everything. It was a fad. If it used electricity it was deemed modern and, for some reason, an important invention.

    Look at some of the crap that's being trotted out lately. Look at some of the stupid stuff that's getting patented lately. Oooh! It's new! It's hip! It uses the Web!

  • Sad but true even, I've noticed, on Slashdot. As an aside, I thought that ALT was an argument/option to the IMG tag. OK... Just me being picky before I've had my morning coffee.

    The correct term for that thing labelled as ALT is that it is an attribute of IMG.

  • Perhaps the trend of immersion web surfing will move over to smell-a-vision too. How does someone actually write web code for this product?

    . I hope Team Mozilla will implement the new "tags" for the new browser, perhaps this is already implmentated in IE 5.0?

    Smell plug-in support is already implemented in IE 5.0.

    IE 5.0 stinks.

    :)

    "There is no surer way to ruin a good discussion than to contaminate it with the facts."

  • IBM Research [ibm.com] has developed feedback for it's Tactile TouchPoint called touch point [ibm.com]. This is mostly usefull so you can feel a button as you mouse over it.
  • this product was on display at web99... and indeed as some have mentioned, was not really that impressive and would seem to lead to carpal tunnel very quickly. as for games, i think it'd work best on a joy stick. i prefer a smooth mouse for q2ing.
  • On MSN as April Fools joke, they had you try Smell-o-vision. You were supposed to smell stuff through your speakers. Me being a little kid, of course fell for it. I'm just lucky no one saw me ; )
  • The trouble with ALT is that in common usage it's not used for text with the intention of being shown instead of the image, but for tooltip-like mouse-overs for breathless ad copy like "Click here for the greatest e-deals on books and music!!!"

    The LinuxWorld banner at the top of this SlashDot page has an ALT of "Join the Wave!" Good luck figuring out what the "wave" is if you're not loading images.

  • | The trouble with ALT is that in common usage
    | it's not used for text with the intention of
    | being shown instead of the image, but for
    | tooltip-like mouse-overs for breathless ad copy
    | like "Click here for the greatest e-deals on
    | books and music!!!"

    That bit I won't fault them (much) for, since all tha ad is usually trying to say is "Click here for the greatest deals on books and music". It's perhaps better than the alt tag doesn't try to describe every annoying frame of the GIF animation.

    My criterion for judging web pages is usually "If the page makes no sense at all in Lynx, it's probably crap." Sites like an image gallery might be immune to this, but in general if it's information you seek, the usuful stuff can be seen by Lynx.
  • Some 10 years ago, some engineers from Eindhoven demo-ed a trackball with force-feedback here in Delft.

    The roller-detector wheels are normally very light. These guys had a whole motor attached to that. This means that the ball would move unacceptably heavy. So once you have that motor attached, you can use feedback to make it move with any resistance you care to simulate. Even negative resistance: nudge the ball, and it starts spinning faster and faster... ;-)

    Anyway, they simulated that you had to push the ball up a small hill when you passed a window-border or moved from one menu-entry to another. It didn't feel as something I've always wanted.

    Roger.
  • Heres a real audio webcast [rbn.com] about the Logitech Wingman Force. @ about 11 minutes 45 seconds into the web cast
  • This always gets to me. People talk about the "webbiness" of some new thing that comes along, completely ignoring its other uses, even if the web connection is really only a side note.

    Is this thing in any way even remotely specific to web stuff, or is it a general-purpose tactile-feedback interface? I didn't see anything that would make it web-specific, even though that's all they talk about. In fact, I can't even imagine how it possibly could be. It would almost have to have a driver API that any application could write to, including a web browser specially modified to take cues from the web content (requiring special tags?) and trigger the device accordingly.

    This could be pretty cool as an augmentation to an entire GUI, as well as games, 3D modelling and graphic design apps, etc. I would suspect that, due to bandwidth limitations if nothing else, the web part would actually be among the least impressive applications for this thing.

    But then, for anything to be exciting these days, it has to say "web", right?

    David Gould
  • From my understanding of the device, I don't think it would be very usefull as far as braille goes. i myself am a blind web surfer, and I use speech to surf the web. I think that is mostly the prefered method among the blind comunity. Plus, braille is very small, and very exact. I doubt this mouse could represent the braille good enough. However that is not to say I don't think this mouse could have some positive effects on the blind comunity. It could be used to give access to web pages and applications that aren't all that keyboard friendly, and allow the blind user to get some tactil feedback to images on web pages, allowing the blind user access to an arena that he has never had before. One thing's for sure, I wanna play with this gadget!
  • For better traction, find a purely optical mouse/trackball. I've used one of the logitech trackballs that has a big red ball, and it's purely optical, no moving parts other than the ball itself.

  • Oh new vibrating mouse!!!
    NEW NEW NEW!!!!!

    So why does my 1990 circa Logitech Cyberman Mouse have the same feature???

    I am so impressed at how old technology and ideas are touted as NEW!!!! NEW!!!! NEW!!!!
    I hope logitech sues the hell outta those idiots.
  • Well, this thing is made by Logitech. That's why it's called *Logitech* WingMan Force Feedback Mouse. See http://www.feeltheweb.com [feeltheweb.com] for more hypes.
  • Yeah, I use one at home, @ work it's a different story.

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