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Comment Re:FTIR looks most practical (Score 1) 137

The problem is the material dictates much of the design. For FTIR to function, the curvature of the clear material must be such that the angle of refraction causes the light inside it to bounce back from the surface internally instead of escaping, like a superball in a narrow hallway. This means you need both a material with a high refractive index (i.e. Poly Methyl MethAcrylate aka Lucite/Plexiglas) and a shape that propigates the light beam. This then will dicate the overall design of the mouse.

Which means features such as handedness ergonomics will be difficult to do with this design. All the existing designs on the market would need to be modified to accomodate it. The process and materials involved in attaching the lightpipe to the base may not be easy or cheap. The shape they use at least in this demo will have issues with the front wanting to drag from the low area of contact with the desk relative to the pressure. And since it's a brittle material, I'm betting that thin arch with nothing supporting it will crack from stress as it ages, rendering the mouse useless in a much shorter time than users fine satisfactory.

Buy an acrylic cup from the supermarket and use it. See how long it takes it to develop the first cracks. Now assume any crack over 1mm will cause a diffraction of the light beam rendering the whole thing useless. I'm betting an optimistic 6 month product life is not ideal for a mouse.

Oh and the fad for "green" everything will hate it, since PMMA takes twice its weight in petroleum to produce.

Comment Re:This looks VERY bad. (Score 1) 137

Ok, I did. The FTIR seems to have this issue, so does the side mouse. The orb clearly DOES NOT, as you can see from the sensor image that his fingers are on it most of the time. The cap mouse is tricky to tell due to the video length and quality but if you look at 2:24 it seems like his fingers are on it while moving the pointer to the window before clicking to drag, just like a regular mouse. Arty also does not have this issue.

Now, please go and actually use a touchpad. They work like I've described. The hovering finger problem can be solved in drivers by coding for differential activation. Which behavior do you think will be in a final product, the one that's in a lab prototype that causes discomfort, or the one that's been an established industry standard for a decade?

Comment The boob mouse will need a nipple. (Score 1) 137

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.

Comment Re:This looks VERY bad. (Score 3, Insightful) 137

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.

Comment Re:Mice the same, keyboards to change (Score 1) 137

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.

Comment Re:Multiple interfaces, MULTIPLE METHODS! (Score 1) 137

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.

Comment Re:You overlook his analyses (Score 1) 137

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.

Comment Finger vs palm mousers are an issue. (Score 2, Informative) 137

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: http://www2.razerzone.com/MouseGuide/html/palmgrip.php

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.

Comment I think the cap mouse will probably win out. (Score 4, Informative) 137

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.


Submission + - The Future of Mice (gizmodo.com)

Gldm writes: Gizmodo has a story about prototype mouse designs seen while touring Microsoft's hardware division. All of them seem focused on adding multitouch functionality or a way to emulate it so that applications designed for multitouch devices can be used with a mouse on a desktop. Designs include a capacitive surface, a semitransparent hemisphere lit by IR internally, articulated arms, a side-mounted camera tracking fingers, and even a frustrated total internal reflection lightpipe. The Orb seems the most useful in terms of functional extension, but my money's on the Cap design to win due to low cost and the ease of which it can be bolted on to existing designs and ergonomics.

Comment Re:MIT Gaydar should be Facebook app (Score 1) 508

No, they dislike it, but much less than the average human male heterosexual.

No, we like it as much as the average human male heterosexual, which is to say more than the average female heterosexual due to anatomical differences (see prostate). The primary difference is we've accepted or adapted to the implied dominance association males struggle to divorce from sexual acts (much like how women attach love to sexual acts), so we're not afraid that having someone do something that feels so nice somehow makes us inferior. Secure heterosexual males generally enjoy the same kind of stimulation from their partners but few seem to ever get over their hangups, despite the high percentage that "experiment" early on. Many wind up seeking it out secretly on the side, usually on craigslist.

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