Microsoft Research has been spewing out high profile prototypes — either in leaks or via official releases – in what’s likely in part an effort to grow the already substantial excitement surrounding Microsoft’s energized fall lineup which includes Windows 7. Last week details of a potential dual-screen tablet mini-PC emerged.
Now Microsoft has given the public a peak at its visions of the future of the computer mouse. Microsoft, as one of the leading makers of computer mice, both in optical and corded flavors, is one of the most influential players in the industry. Its rolled out some relatively exotic designs over the years, but those fall short of the new ones its cooking up.
One mouse of the five featured prototypes does have anything for your hand to hold onto at all. Dubbed the “Side Mouse”, the mouse consists of an arm rest which detects you moving your hand or tapping on the table. Another intriguing design is “Arty”, which has thumb and index finger button articulated arms. These arms serve both as buttons and as means of doing gesture-driven commands, such as pinching.
The other three mice — the FTIR, Orb, and CAP — each demonstrate different multitouch buttonless click-detection schemes. The FTIR uses frustrated total internal reflection and a camera to spot a user’s presses on a piece of acrylic. The approach features high accuracy of click events. The Orb mouse provides a design friendly to all fingers and employs an infrared multitouch detection scheme. Finally, the CAP mouse uses capacitance to detect click events, saving power and eliminating ambient light errors.
Each of the mice shows off some interesting technology, which could hold promise under certain scenarios. While Microsoft has made no claims to be trying to commercialize any of these designs, some of this technology could eventually see its way into commercial products.
The Microsoft engineers contributing to the project were Nicolas Villar, Shahram Izadi, John Helmes, Steve Hodges, Alex Butler, and Xiang Cao of Microsoft Research; Hrvoje Benko of Microsoft Research; Dan Rosenfeld, Jonathan Westhues, Eyal Ofek, and Billy Chen of Microsoft. They presented a video of their research at the User Interface Software and Technology conference in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada this week.