Microsoft Touch Mouse aims at bringing touch input to the desktop user.But can it succeed in making multitouch more widely available?
Multitouch is great - as long as you have an input device that supports it. For the desktop machine this is something of a problem. Not many have multitouch enabled monitors and the ones that do aren't exactly natural to use in a vertical mode. Multitouch works best on mobile devices that you tend to hold horizontally. Now Microsoft thinks it has the answer in the form a new mouse - Touch Mouse, that supports gestures.
The Touch Mouse was launched at this years CES. It is a development resulting from the Mouse 2 project at Microsoft Research.
The mouse works with one, two or three-fingered gestures, all performed on the surface of the mouse which is a capacitive (the best kind) touch sensor. By moving a single finger over the surface you can scroll and pan and a thumb movement gives a back-forward signal. Two fingers moved together produces a snap window left/right command or maximise/restore. Three fingers produces a task switch or show desktop command.
Most of these gestures are translated into key combinations of standard events that Windows 7 can interpret without modification. What isn't clear at the moment is if there will be a public API for the new mouse so that we can map gestures to new types of action.
The mouse component of the device uses "BlueTrack" technology which means it can be used on any surface (i.e. no mouse mat required) and it uses a tiny nanotransreciever that plugs into a USB port for cordless operation.
You can see a short demo video of the new mouse in action below:
It seems like a useful way of extending the interaction with a desktop machine, but multitouch it isn't. If you can't do a pinch zoom or orientation then it probably doesn't do enough.
So will "stroke your mouse" become the new phrase of 2011?
Let's hope that the API follows soon, or that a hacked version is made available, because this looks like another hardware device from Microsoft that isn't being used to its full capacity.
The mouse only comes with Windows 7 drivers and should be available later in the year (June) for around $80. You can place pre-orders at Amazon (US only at the moment) - click the link at the top of the side panel.