Poll: The future of pointing input methods

For a long time now, the mouse and touchpad have been the primary computer input devices for pointing and selection. True challengers have been few and far between, but a number of alternatives have the potential to make a big splash in the coming years. Even today, multitouch input is permeating touchscreen devices like smartphones and tablets. Consoles are doing interesting things with 3D cameras and motion controllers, and don’t forget fancy brainwave-based systems like OCZ’s Neural Impulse Actuator.

Will the mouse/touchpad remain the dominant PC pointing/selection scheme in 10 years time, or will something else take its place? Let us know what you think by voting in in the poll below or in the middle column on the front page.

Last week, we asked you where AMD’s upcoming Llano APU has the best shot against Sandy Bridge. Nearly a majority (48%) of those who voted suspect that AMD’s best chance is in notebooks. Only 10% think Llano will be more of a challenge to Sandy Bridge on the desktop. However, 19% predict that this second wave of Fusion APUs will give Intel a run for its money on both platforms. Among the rest, 12% think Llano has no shot against Sandy Bridge, while 10% would sooner put their money on cheese.

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    • eitje
    • 9 years ago

    I voted Other.

    Mice & Touchpads are a product of the rest of the interface we choose to use – 2D panels. If that changes in some as-yet-unpredicted way, then Mice & Touchpads could no longer be valuable input tools.

    • Silus
    • 9 years ago

    The mouse/touchpad will continue to be the method of choice. I don’t think 10 years is enough for anything to take on the mouse and touchpad as the preferred input method.

    • aces170
    • 9 years ago

    Obviously the going-on’s with the MS Kinect tech have been missed. MS has more or less opened up the Dev kit for Kinect, and there are multiple non-game applications being build around it. MS has also hinted at porting the tech to smartphones in the future.

    A touchscreen phone, where you dont have to touch the screen, that seems like future I would like.

      • stdRaichu
      • 9 years ago

      I don’t think anyone’s failing to ignore Kinect, I think you’re ignoring how horrible it is to use motion-sensitive controls for any length of time, or touchscreens on anything bigger than a tablet. As always Douglas said it best:

      [quote<]...Zaphod searched the sub-etha radio wavebands for news of himself. The machine was rather difficult to operate. For years radios had been operated by means of pressing buttons and turning dials; then as the technology became more sophisticated the controls were made touch-sensitive — you merely had to brush the panels with your fingers; now all you had to do was wave your hand in the general direction of the components and hope. It saved a lot of muscular expenditure of course, but meant that you had to sit infuriatingly still if you wanted to keep listening to the same programme.[/quote<]

    • blastdoor
    • 9 years ago

    The wording in this poll is very sloppy which makes it hard to give a good answer. I decided to interpret “computer” to mean “PC” rather than a more general definition that would include phones and other mobile computing devices. And even then, it’s not entirely clear what “PC” means, but I’m interpreting it to mean something with a big screen that is used in an office for work. Given that interpretation, I was really torn between mouse/touchpad and brain-computer interface. Multitouch doesn’t work well for a traditional upright monitor because of the ergonomics. Motion controller / 3d camera is a gimmick.

    The mouse/touchpad obviously works well so that’s a good option to pick. But eventually the brain-computer interface is clearly the superior solution. The only question is when that will happen. Five years? No. Twenty years? Yes. Ten years? That’s a tough one!

    I ultimately voted brain-computer based on the belief that this technology is closer than it might appear. Basically you need three things — an inexpensive sensor that can read brain waves, an understanding of how to interpret brainwaves that can be expressed as an algorithm, and a mobile CPU capable of running that algorithm. I’m guessing that the first and third conditions will be easily met. The second condition might be the challenge, but I’ll bet it can be done within a decade.

      • mesyn191
      • 9 years ago

      The cheap devices we have to read brainwaves are to simple for what you want. They can show a very very generalized view of brain activity or sensory info. (ie. eyes closed or open, alpha activity, and ummm I think that is about it).

      The quality of information they can give you is shit too. I’ve seen the EEG from some of them and its terrible. Part of this is the probes they use (usually conductor impregnated plastic instead of gold coated silver cups which is what you need for quality reading) and part of it is that you actually have to prep the probe site to get a good reading even if you have a good probe. You can have the best probe ever, but if the probe site has ANY dead skin, skin oil, or sweat the signal quality starts to get real bad real fast.

      Probe site prep requires cleaning the skin with alcohol and then scrubbing with a abrasive prep gel at a minimum. Then you have to have a good way to keep the probe stable and in position. If it starts to lift off the skin even a little bit the reading gets messy fast.

      People are not gonna put up with all that crap to play their video games or type up stuff.

        • yogibbear
        • 9 years ago

        Well then you just drill?

          • mesyn191
          • 9 years ago

          Implants? Forget it. Too expensive to a be a general pointing/control device due to fundamental medical costs which for legal reasons if no other will be high no matter what.

    • HisDivineOrder
    • 9 years ago

    Touchscreens will work for tablets, but by “computers” I assume you mean work computers and work computers need precision. One thing tablets are not is ultra precise. Mice and keyboards are. Webcams/voice command will always be secondary means of control until the computer itself knows what you want before you do and even then voice command and webcam based control will be even less precise than touchscreens.

    And mind control is probably 20 years out, if not longer.

      • mesyn191
      • 9 years ago

      Straight up mind control like what most people think its supposed to be will probably never happen. If for no other reason than that the brain imaging equipment will likely never get cheap or small enough to wear comfortably.

      What you might see is a better version of that one device OCZ had that used muscle tone changes around the eye or teeth gritting to control certain things.

      I’m holding out for better eye control pointing devices myself.

    • willyolio
    • 9 years ago

    Not counting small, portable devices, it’ll still be the mouse for a very good reason. you can control the whole screen with just small wrist and finger movements.

    touchscreens work for small screens that you can cover with just your fingers. any bigger than that and your arm’s going to get tired moving around and pointing at things all day. On the desktop, screens are averaging over 20″ in size and are probably only going to get bigger- possibly even become more integrated with television and home entertainment.

    motion control and 3D interaction is only an advantage with a 3D desktop environment. I don’t see that happening on a full OS- 2D desktops already look cluttered enough, keeping track of another dimension will just mean more clutter.

    Brain interfaces are still a ways away. Retinal tracking is probably the next best thing, but also far from being cheap, reliable, and priced at a consumer level.

    • Deanjo
    • 9 years ago

    I guess Jedi like me will still be the only ones to be able to use the Force.

    • thesmileman
    • 9 years ago

    I surprised their are less crude jokes about potential “input” devices.

      • Meadows
      • 9 years ago

      The topic doesn’t even lend itself to such humour. We’re talking about computer pointing devices.

    • Thanato
    • 9 years ago

    … some kind of device one wears … a ring, wrist band, glove… one controller works for many devices…cha-ching

      • dmjifn
      • 9 years ago

      Now you’re playing with Power!

    • Rakhmaninov3
    • 9 years ago

    On the other hand, after the War that erupts when the US government defaults we’ll probably be back to writing in the dirt with a stick.

      • 5150
      • 9 years ago

      Bring it on! Have you seen our defense spending?! We might be stupid cause we can’t pay for good teachers, but we’ll kick your ass back to the Stone Age.

        • WaltC
        • 9 years ago

        Yea, gosh…as if no other nation on earth had *ever* tried to kick us back into the stone age. Yep, the US is indeed the focus of evil in the modern world and the Quaddafis and bin Ladens are just loving hippies, floating on the wind in their VW vans writ large with “LOVE” and “PEACE” and “GOOD WILL TOWARD MEN,” and so on. How can we possibly defend defending ourselves against these harmless saints? I mean, it’s obvious that we’re responsible for paying and recruiting suicide bombers all over the world, isn’t it?

        As far as “paying for good teachers,” goes–I am unfamiliar with the “good teacher labor pool” which remains staffed with all of these “good teachers” that simply can’t find employment because no one is willing to pay them what they are worth. Would you be so kind as to tell me where it might be? (I might want to pick up a “good teacher” for my nephew.) Oh, wait…in the *private schools* you say? But wait, they are employed are they not? And which faction of government is it that resists tax vouchers so that parents can decide where they want to send their children to school–so that they are not forced to accept the crumminess/sluming the government wishes to force them into?

          • 5150
          • 9 years ago

          That’s awesome!

      • mcnabney
      • 9 years ago

      Dude, chill out. We can always monetize the debt and have a big lump of inflation.

    • Rakhmaninov3
    • 9 years ago

    I think touchpads and mice are elegant, simple, cheap (usually) solutions for a problem, broadly speaking, and so they will stick around. Other things often seem like solutions without problems, like touchscreens on desktop computers.

    Motion controllers don’t seem that utilitarian for everyday computer tasks, and even in 10 years I don’t think brain-computer interfaces will be widespread/cheap enough to be very mainstream (even though they’ll probably be awesome for those who can afford them).

    • End User
    • 9 years ago

    7 out of 9 computing devices I use are equipped for touch input. Only 2 use a mouse and that will go down to 1 when I add a Magic Trackpad to my Linux box. At that point the lone exception will be my gaming rig.

    • SomeOtherGeek
    • 9 years ago

    The mouse is magical. There is no getting rid of magic. Long live the mouse!

    • jjj
    • 9 years ago

    Since the dominant form factor for PC’s now are smartphones (in sales not install base) it’s more than likely that in 10 years the dominant form factor will be a pocketable device.Hopefully one with a holographic 3D display and then the obvious input method will be 3D camera/3D touch combined with motion controller and voice (and maybe some AI that learns from previous interactions).
    Granted 10y might be too soon since both the hardware and software would need to move in that direction and too often the industry evolves very slow because very few have the courage to try to innovate.

    • kamikaziechameleon
    • 9 years ago

    In terms of precision I doubt the mouse will be replaced by 2020 but I expect the mouse to phase out of mainstream use by them with touch input or motion or voice controls taking over eventually once they establish themselves in handheld devices the evolution of the desktop or whatever equivalent will follow.

    • Meadows
    • 9 years ago

    I’ll never let go of my mice, especially as I’m on the verge of ordering a [b<]Roccat Kone [+][/b<] to place besides my accurate-but-inadequate Logitech MX 518. The Logitech is my first gaming mouse ever, and I've studied the topic very extensively since getting it, and I've now discovered what I should get in its place. My second vote would be [u<]brain-computer interfaces[/u<]. It's crucially important that people will want efficiency to go *UP*, not down (read: motion controllers, multitouch displays) - you want to move and expend as little energy as possible while performing the same work routine, task, or activity. Mice do it best currently alongside our venerable friend, the keyboard, but brain-computer interfaces will be king once they mature. That won't be in 10 years, though.

    • zdw
    • 9 years ago

    If you define computer as a desktop/laptop, sure, it’ll be mouse and keyboard.

    If you define it as “anything sold to a consumer that can process data” including phones/tablets/etc., the sheer number of phones out there will probably make touch displays the dominant mode.

    • ericfulmer
    • 9 years ago

    I think the motion control concepts are going to displace mouse and keyboard for general pointing/selection. Games and real typing will rely on the old standard, but for general content-consumption activities, the combination of a well defined space projected in front of you (or on the inside of your glasses or contact lens) where you touch/grab/drag virtual points in space will be the evolution of the wii/move/kinect technology.

    • timon37
    • 9 years ago

    As a pointing device: gazetracking or eyetracking (however you wanna call it), assuming it reaches around 4px precision.
    For text input BCI.

      • puppetworx
      • 9 years ago

      I’ve wanted this ever since I saw a $250’000 fighter pilots helmet which allowed the user to select which target to lock on to simply by looking at it. Can’t wait ’til they make handguns like that.

    • ronch
    • 9 years ago

    We’re talking about desktop and laptop computers, right? Yes? Thus, I voted mouse/touchpad. I believe that, like netbooks, touchscreens are just a fad, or aren’t suited as the main input method for the majority of devices. Many things are simply easier to do with a mouse, and I can’t imagine dragging my finger across my screen to play games unless it’s a portable device and using a mouse is simply impossible or difficult (like when you’re riding the train). Touchscreens may present the more natural way of moving things around the screen but until the year 3000, no, the mouse is here to stay for a while. Nothing beats resting your arms on the table and just making little sweeps of your palm and clicking simple buttons.

    • OneArmedScissor
    • 9 years ago

    I voted other, because really, I just want to be able to yell, “Main screen turn on!” to my computer to boot it up.

      • blorbic5
      • 9 years ago

      I was going to agree with you but you said yell. Just think about getting to work and the old guy in the cube next to you who should have retired years ago is yelling “COMPUTER ON!! COMPUTER ON!!!” over and over. Or someone coming up behind you when your about to beat a really hard game and yell “TURN OFF”

      • ronch
      • 9 years ago

      I’d much rather just simply push a button.

        • OneArmedScissor
        • 9 years ago

        Someone set up us the ronch!

          • Palek
          • 9 years ago

          Well, you did set him up and he did fall for it… For great justice!

      • ImSpartacus
      • 9 years ago

      I agree. Nothing will beat a mouse in the near future, but voice controls will at least become useful in a few years.

      • indeego
      • 9 years ago

      The capability is there for thought to do this now, let alone yelling.

    • Firestarter
    • 9 years ago

    IMHO:

    20 years ago, the mouse was the most versatile and precise pointing peripheral.
    10 years ago, the mouse was the most versatile and precise pointing peripheral.
    Right now, the mouse is the most versatile and precise pointing peripheral.
    In 10 years time, the mouse will be the most versatile and precise pointing peripheral.

      • ronch
      • 9 years ago

      TOTALLY agree.

      • herothezero
      • 9 years ago

      Amen.

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