Monday, June 11, 2007

Magic Mouse - 3D Mouse

Wave your hand in the air use and your finger to tap the share ware -- because that's how ya gonna do it in the future with a gadget like Magic Mouse. A 3D mouse worn as a ring and allows the user to do some of the same operations as a traditional mouse.

Designed by a team of five tech students, they recently invented what they are calling Magic Mouse. A tiny device worn as a ring that lets a PC user move objects on a monitor simply by waving a finger like a magic wand. The magic Mouse is one of 10 inventions honored with the inaugural PopSci Invention Awards and is the cover story in the June 2007 issue of Popular Science.

The computer mouse was invented more than 40 years ago but the design and functionality has never changed dramatically since that time. The basic mouse operates in two dimensions — a user can move the cursor about the screen, click right and left for specific options. Recent developments in 3D software have tested the limits of the basic design adding anther scroll wheel to make zooming possible in certain applications. However, the user cannot move the cursor and zoom in / out at the same time like the Magic Mouse.

Users can move the cursor about the screen simply by pointing and moving their index finger. Move your hand closer to the screen and you zoom in, or move your hand back and the cursor zooms out. Since both clicking and zooming can be done simultaneously, the mouse makes it possible to work easily in three-dimensional applications such as 3D maps or manipulating objects in computer-aided design (CAD) drawing packages.

How it works

It works with five carefully positioned ultrasonic microphones, picking up signals from the ring and judging its position in 3D space. The basic principle behind the MagicMouse is called time difference of arrival (TDOA), the same principle that enables the GPS system to determine your position on Earth. Making the transmitter small enough to be worn as a ring proved to be one of the student's major challenges. The final prototype is one inch square and weighs less than 10 grams; a flexible, rechargeable lithium-polymer battery forms the band of the ring, and can power the transmitter for more than two weeks of continuous use.

The inventors also suggest that the 3D capabilities of the Magic-Mouse might inspire new types of computer applications. In their report, they say, “With a new interface like this, third party developers could design new applications that would take advantage of the intuitive connection between user input and motion on the screen. This device could pave the way for a new revolution in computer input technology.”

The MagicMouse team has not yet sought to commercialize the device, and instead is focusing on adding gesture recognition and extending the capabilities. For example, the working prototype doesn’t incorporate the functions of the traditional mouse buttons, but they are working on changing that.

Although it can appear awkward to point your hand at your monitor, this is a nod to the future. Fingers and wrists can often ache for those who work with multiple monitors, use their mouse continually throughout an eight plus hour workday or for those unable to operate a traditional pointing device.

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