Skip to Content
Uncategorized

A New Type of PC Mouse

Researchers are working on new ways to interface with computers and other e-devices, including this “floating” mouse.
July 25, 2006

A project spearheaded by prolific Microsoft researcher Patrick Baudisch has produced a wireless mouse for PCs that doesn’t have to just sit on a desk. Called Soap, the device is a modified optical mouse. Judging by this video, it’s good for playing PC video games, clicking through presentations, and, Baudisch hopes, operating MP3 players and other personal electronic devices.

Airborne PC controllers aren’t new; they’ve had various incarnations. But so far consumers have been cool to the idea. That attitude seems to be changing, though, as Nintendo turns heads with its new video game system, Wii, in which players use a motion-sensitive remote controller to fly planes, hit baseballs, and shoot bad guys. In addition, last year, gadget maker Gyration began offering a mid-air mouse for PCs with one gigabit of storage, called Gyrotransport.

Soap differs from both in its simplicity. Instead of adding a gyroscope, as with Gyrotransport, or designing a new type of remote controller, as Wii does, Baudisch and his team took advantage of a standard mouse’s built-in optical tracking system.

They placed a “hull” of stretchy fabric around the insides of a mouse, after removing the plastic case, so that it covers the optical sensor. To move the cursor with precision, one gently tugs at the fabric over the sensor. To send a cursor traveling across the screen, one rolls the mouse within the fabric shell.

In the video, Baudisch demonstrates it with game-playing accuracy – and also reveals details about how to make your own. (Note: the instructions are about two-thirds of the way through the clip. I didn’t try making one, so I’m not sure how thorough they are.)

It’s a far cry from the first computer mouse, which debuted in 1964, when Douglas Engelbart, a researcher at Stanford Research Institute in Menlo Park, CA, gave a presentation to an audience of 1,000 curious engineers. At that time, the device was a box-like contraption, yet it still impressed the crowd by moving a cursor across a computer screen. Here are some videos of that demonstration.

Even though computers have changed dramatically in 40 years – shrinking to the size of mobile phones, and able to respond at the tap of a finger – the mouse has remained entrenched in its original design and function, with minor modifications. It’s unlikely that Soap will replace the traditional mouse – it’s much more suited for gaming and presentations uses.

But it may also have a place in portable computing. As devices shrink, current interfacing methods, such as the tiny keyboard and PDA stylus, are becoming increasingly awkward and frustrating. Could Soap make mobile computing easier? Check it out. And let us know what you think.  – By Kate Greene

Deep Dive

Uncategorized

Five poems about the mind

DREAM VENDING MACHINE I feed it coins and watch the spring coil back,the clunk of a vacuum-packed, foil-wrappeddream dropping into the tray. It dispenses all kinds of dreams—bad dreams, good dreams,short nightmares to stave off worse ones, recurring dreams with a teacake marshmallow center.Hardboiled caramel dreams to tuck in your cheek,a bag of orange dreams…

Work reinvented: Tech will drive the office evolution

As organizations navigate a new world of hybrid work, tech innovation will be crucial for employee connection and collaboration.

The way forward: Merging IT and operations

Digital transformation in any industry begins with bridging the gap between two traditionally separate teams.

Investing in people is key to successful transformation

People-related factors like talent attraction and retention and clear top-down communication will determine whether your transformation progresses or stalls.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose WongIllustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at customer-service@technologyreview.com with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.