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Microsoft unveils the multi-touch mouse

Multi-touch mouse

By Barry Collins

Posted on 6 Oct 2009 at 08:44

A Microsoft Research project is bringing multi-touch technology to the mouse.

The company's Applied Sciences Group has produced a series of prototype devices that deliver multi-touch controls, without having to invest in a touchscreen PC.

The five different mice use a variety of technologies to detect finger movement, including infrared cameras, a capacitive sensing grid and optical sensors.

The Arty Mouse, for example, places an optical sensor underneath the thumb and the forefinger, allowing the PC to detect pinching movements for zooming in on photos.

The Side Mouse, on the other hand (pun absolutely intended), is a small device that rests entirely beneath the palm, allowing the fingers to tap on the desk. IR cameras and a laser detect the movement of the fingers, creating "a multi-touch area that is not restricted to the physical surface of the device."

The team claim the devices could help multi-touch make the breathrough into everyday desktop computing. "With the emergence of multi-touch, we now have the opportunity to manipulate digital content with increased dexterity," the team writes in a paper.

"But whilst multi-touch has been incorporated into many different form-factors – from tabletop to mobile phone – it has yet to find a place on our desktops. This may seem surprising, particularly given that for many computing tasks the desktop setting still dominates."

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User comments

That's actually quite clever. When it first mentioned ir cameras I thought "what a waste". But, thinking about what they have done and taking it maybe a step further, there is no reason why you couldn't have a peripheral like, say, the motion sensor bar on the Wii, that turn the surface of your desk (or a part of it) into a multi-touch control - in much the same way as netbooks use the trackpad.

The trouble with tablets has always been that, whilst touch (and multi-touch) is great for SOME tasks, it's not the solution for ALL tasks. By keeping the PC as it is, you get the advantages of a system that has worked well for decades whilst adding the benefits of multi-touch.

By Bassey1976 on 6 Oct 2009

"have a peripheral like, say, the motion sensor bar on the Wii"

Natal you mean?

By iwilson on 6 Oct 2009

Haven't Apple always assumed that Apple users lack the physical dexterity to use more than one button on a mouse?

By Lacrobat on 6 Oct 2009


Sounds like a winning idea! If MS gets this right, Logitech will lose the title of the most advance mouse in the world. Of course, that will come after we see the price and test the usability (MS has a lot of problem with a lot of products on this area). BTW, does this mouse look like a fish to anyone? :D

By zeevro on 6 Oct 2009

Yuch! Before falling over in wonder at these Microsoft offerings maybe we should wait a few weeks and see what Apple will be offering. Its bound to be more attractive than this brick in the photo.

By NoExpert on 8 Oct 2009

To Lacrobat
Are we not headed to where there are NO buttons on a mouse or even no mouse at all?

By NoExpert on 8 Oct 2009

Why are they working on a mouse? They should make the mousemat touch sensitive. You could easily use on screen keyboards for security.

By heks42 on 8 Oct 2009

Trackball is better for me.

I have favoured trackballs over mice for some time. Logitech produced the ones I liked best until I found the Microsoft version. It has four buttons and a wheel. The wheel does scrolling and in some programs zooming so I get all the advantages multi touch would give me. It is comfortable and reliable so Microsoft discontinued it.

By misceng on 8 Oct 2009

A Mouse by any other name

The Mouse: a toy for the mentally inept with a keyboard!

By BillBerit on 8 Oct 2009

Are we to prefer Idiot Mice over a new Intelligent Keyboard

So much research into the ergonomics of Idiot Mice and nothing done to improve the asymmetric layout of the keyboard. WHY ? Perhaps their inventors have no real fundamental understanding of ergonomics at all; not enough even to see what a dramatic improvement would be achieved by throwing out the old "mechanical" arrangement for a symmetrical one - like the number pad. Old stupid traditions die hard !

By RogerHamilton on 8 Oct 2009

A keyboard is only ever going to be used for inputting charcaters. For normal people in the 21st century using their pc's for design or gaming watching and creating multimedia (not writing code or shell commands) it's blatantly obvious some sort of movement controller is needed. With that in mind why not have something similar to the roland dbeam light controller that appeared on their synths a few years ago?

By dodge1963 on 9 Oct 2009

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