Mouseless mouse

It might seam funny but it’s true. Researchers at MIT have put together a camera, an IR sensor and a software that detects hand movements and finger clicks which acts like a mouseless mouse. How cool is this? Very cool. No more physical mouses around the desk! But. Is it really that cool? Let’s look at some similar technologies and what happened to them.

The first thing that comes to my mind is keybordless keyboard. They were just about to replace the market of foldable keyboards and desktop keyboards. It has been 8 years ago when they were introduced and … I still haven’t seen anyone typing on one. Instead, mobile devices come equipped with small QUERTY keyboards with small buttons.  Projected keyboards are visible and the user can’t press something accidentally (although there is no feedback). While with a mousless mouse an area of detection will have to be defined to avoid accidental gesture recognitions.

The second thing that comes to my mind are touchscreens. First let’s look at physical touch screens. Similar to mouseless mouse and projected keyboards, touchscreens do not provide any physical feedback to the user. This technology is old as they were first developed 60 years ago. But only in the last decade the market really stated to blossom. While the pubs cashing machines, ATM’s, and similar products used them before, PDA’s and so called smart phones with touchscreen were adopted by users only recently (in the last 10 years). Still a lot of usability experts argue that no feedback is their main flaw and touch screens with buttons coming and go were developed to make users aware of pressing a button on a screen. More comparable with keybordless keyboard and mouseless mouse it touchscreenless touchscreen. Intel has developed the technology to turn any surface in to touch aware surface.

Gestural interfaces (that don’t expect users to wear special equipment) are nothing new either. Recently LCD screens were equipped with gestural interface to control whatever there is on a screen. These screen were promised larger market deployment, but waving in front of the phone or a TV may still result in the Gorilla-Arm effect. I’m wondering what the TV might do when it detects no one is watching it :). 

Now imagine all the potential use for these technologies. They all have great potential to be implemented in consumers electronics (although touch screens are already here, I still believe that there is much more to expect out of this technologies with physical feedback). Only time will tell what consumers will accept. Maybe we will really wave, type and click in the air on the bus, train or in the park. But wait: we already do it in the Mediterranean countries anyway :). Now there will also be some good use to it!