If you thought that technology would stop at a wireless mouse, think again. Consider this scenario – you and your laptop curled up on a couch or your bed comfortably. Where will you get a flat surface to place the mouse? This is where the floating technology comes in handy.
This new concept being developed by Microsoft Research makes it possible to operate the mouse without a flat surface – by just holding it in your palm. When a flat surface like a table top or a lap desk is difficult to reach or too bothersome, a floating mouse is the ideal solution. It works like a Wii remote, but far superior in usability and accuracy.
Patrick Baudisch is behind this invention. He is an associate professor at the University of Washington in the computer science department. He is part of the adaptive systems and interaction research group in Microsoft. This invention named ‘Soap’ is in fact a cordless optical mouse, enclosed inside a hull of fabric. It is like a flexible beanbag with a mouse inside. When the fabric is moved backward and forward over the mouse’s optical sensor, the cursor will navigates on in your computer.
The name Soap is reminiscent of the way the mouse behaves in on your palm. It’s just like holding a piece of wet soap. According to Baudisch, Soap is a combination of a mouse pad and a mouse navigator. In Soap, you move the mouse pad over the mouse instead of the conventional method of moving mouse over the mouse pad.
Baudisch stumbled on this idea of floating mouse by chance and built the original model using an old optical mouse and household items. He used the mechanism of an optical mouse for the new prototype. He then reconstructed them inside an empty hand sanitizer bottle. It suited his purpose perfectly as it would move freely inside the fabric hull. In addition, it was transparent. He used some lubricant between the fabric and the bottle to make the movements smooth. Thus the floating mouse was born.
As the fabric and bottle are not connected, the relative movement can be sensed by the mouse -like when the mouse is moved over a mouse pad. Baudisch explains,” The sensor of the optic mouse looks out-ward, so it can identify the fabric that’s moving and that is all how the hold thing function.” The principle behind the new invention is incredibly simple, but the outcome overwhelming.
The accuracy of Soap is very high and is proved by the fact that it may be used to play a high-speed first-person shooter. Baudisch displayed the prowess of his new invention at Computer/Human Interaction conference (CHI) held at San Jose, California this year. He played the games standing with the mouse in his hand to the amusement of the spectators. However, the only drawback was that mouse couldn’t execute the back flip by rotating upward.
Baudisch is planning to improve the functioning of the mouse by eliminating the lubricant and adding more movements. The lubricant is a detriment to the commercial production of the mouse. The smooth functioning of the prototype gives much hope to the PC user, freeing them from the tabletop.
Baudisch adds that this mouse is compatible with any PC or display and works like the ordinary mouse. The only difference is that it gives the user freedom of movement and allows the PC to be controlled from practically anywhere.