Interface concept involves invisible mouse

Now that multi-touch mice are out, what’s the next step in mouse evolution? Pranav Mistry of the MIT Media Lab’s Fluid Interfaces Group reckons we may next do away with the mouse altogether—and no, he’s not talking about voice or thought control.

Rather, using about $20 worth of components (and some code to tie it all together), Mistry has put together an infrared laser and camera system that translates finger movements into cursor movements and clicks on screen. Essentially, all the user has to do is pretend he’s holding an invisible mouse and move his hand and fingers accordingly. Check out this video demonstration:

More details can be perused on the project page. Going by the video, the scheme works and successfully interprets both left and right clicks, although motion tracking seems to be a little laggy. This is, of course, still very much a prototype. Mistry says refinements to the "computer vision algorithms" could open the door to multi-touch gestures.

By the way, this isn’t Mistry’s first neat human interface concept. The research assistant is also behind SixthSense technology, a mouseless interface that’s portable and contextually projects content onto real-world objects. Pretty fascinating stuff.

Comments closed
    • Chrispy_
    • 10 years ago

    The skin on your palm and fingertips is soft and sticky for extra friction. Evolution has selected it that way so that we can grip things.

    We use mouse mats and teflon feet to eliminate friction because friction between your mouse and the mousing surface is crap.

    Is it just me or has this guy missed the fundamentals of what a mouse is for? You can refine the concept as much as you want, but if you have to carry around a glove to help your hand slide across a table, you might as well carry around a wireless mouse.

      • BobbinThreadbare
      • 10 years ago

      This could eliminate the need for a battery in your mouse. Still probably more trouble than it’s woth.

    • UberGerbil
    • 10 years ago

    Microsoft introduced this two years ago as “SideSight” — they were pitching it for cell phones, but at the time I suggested they should build it into the sides of their Microsoft keyboards as a mouse alternative. I also realized then that it might have a better use as a touchpad alternative in ultra-compact laptops, but that would require licensing by MS and some daring on the part of the ODMs.

    In any event, I don’t know if this is where any of us want to go, but here’s a case where Microsoft actually got there first.

    • PinkCow
    • 10 years ago

    Scroll wheel? Side buttons? Thought so. But maybe useful for Mac users, who are confused by such things.

    • no51
    • 10 years ago

    No middle click, no dice.

    • ludi
    • 10 years ago

    Wouldn’t even work for me, I would have to at least have a mouse shell to be moving around. As I see it, this has the same problems as the projected-light keyboard someone was playing with a couple years ago: No tactile feedback to synchronize the user movements back to what is happening on the screen.

    That isn’t how humans interact with their environment, and while it makes for an interesting tech demo, IMO as a potential commercial product it’s a dead end answer to a question nobody asked.

      • ironoutsider
      • 10 years ago

      I agree, I think the ergonomics of a device like this can definitely be an issue. Humans are made for hunting food and carrying babies. It’s bad enough we have sit around all day and strike our fingers on plastic. I’m not entirely sure how just having your hand move around making gestures all day would be better for you. Still, seems like a great technology and I love seeing all the human interface devices that exist out there. Plus, it would be cool to have a small netbook/tablet device that doesn’t need a mouse. I think from wow factor alone the sheeple out there would go for something like this ESPECIALLY if it debuted on an apple product. Heck, it fits perfectly with their vendetta against buttons. “Luk MAh! I cliky wif no buttins on mah makingtoosh!”

      Anyway, that’s my two cents on this whole thingy.

        • sweatshopking
        • 10 years ago

        “”Luk MAh! I cliky wif no buttins on mah makingtoosh!””

        I approve of this statement. If we can all talk like this on this site going forward, I think it would be a win for everyone.

        Mah wifey is da deeval!

          • ludi
          • 10 years ago

          Dude, get help.

            • ironoutsider
            • 10 years ago

            I just got help and they told me that the post was completley relevant to the tech article. However, they wanted to know why I was looking for help and I told em that Ludi posted on TR that “dude get help”. They said they would like to talk to you Ludi since they didn’t understand the relevence in your post to the article and said that likely you need help. §[<http://www.mentalhelp.net/poc/center_index.php?id=55<]§ This link should help you out.

            • sweatshopking
            • 10 years ago

            Gweat job iwon! he’s was asking for dat! He’s wuving boys!

    • OneArmedScissor
    • 10 years ago

    This is a hell of a lot better than touch screens. I still have to wonder if it’s better for your hands than a decent mouse, though. The safest way to use it would likely be to cup your hand, as if you’re holding a mouse, but then you are pretty much just doing the same thing with nothing to rest your hand on. I could see that driving people to use their fingers awkwardly and screw their joints up.

      • sweatshopking
      • 10 years ago

      THIS will have the same crappy problems as project natal. omg i’m going to pick up my pen, now, my pointer is gone. this is a horrible idea. how is that better? just make the mouse shrinkable, and we’re good. or make it pop out of the side of the laptop. seriously, all this hardware made to be without hardware is dumb to me. yes i understand that when my kids are using these things, and like WTF people used to hold stuff, i’ll be the old fart, but right now, it seems crazy

        • OneArmedScissor
        • 10 years ago

        I hope and pray the day never comes that we’re expected to wildly wave our arms around at computers like crazed monkeys that sniffed too much glue. There are much more logical alternatives that already exist…but there are also horribly low contrast, washed out, mirror-glossed screens on seemingly ever laptop made now, so I’m not going to rule out the possibility of PCs in general taking a turn for the worse because of public perception of a ridiculous gimmick.

        It’s more likely that we’ll have some sort of practical thought/vision/muscle impulse control first. The only thing I could really see working “better” than a mouse and keyboard would be not moving your fingers.

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