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An Apple patient application suggests Apple might be extending the technology behind the iPhone’s touch sensitive screen to a new generation of mice. Users would be able to perform gestures, such as pinching or a virtual scroll wheel, as well as the normal range of left, right mouse clicks and scrolling. One embodiment of the touch-sensing mouse would use a light source within the mouse and an optically transmissive mouse top surface and internal sensors to determine the positions of the users fingers etc. Apple in the past has submitted patent applications for remote scroll touch devices but these devices probably didn’t get past the testing stage because except in certain circumstances (for controlling iTunes etc) they didn’t allow the degree of control needed to be the only input device on a PC.
Pinch and tickle your mouse!
Another mode of this touch sensitive Apple mouse could be computer mapping the top surface of the mouse from a curved surface onto a flat surface and using this information to control the computer (reverse warping transform (which is a high order polynomial used to do mapping)) – one could imagine this could be used as a simple keyboard with virtual keys mapped to various regions of the mouse (various areas representing different buttons for specialist applications such as video editing or even iTunes).
Gestures can also be used to invoke and manipulate virtual control interfaces, such as volume knobs, switches, sliders, handles, knobs, doors, and other widgets that may be created to facilitate human interaction with the computing system.
Further, a new sort of gesture could be used on this mouse- combinations of taps with different fingers could lead to different actions. Tapping with the middle and ring fingers could open iTunes or be set in the preference panel to do any particular action. The application suggests the mouse (or rather the computer) to learn about the usual positioning of a users fingers (and determine whether they were left or right-handed for example).
To make sure the mouse doesn’t fail at its primary purpose namely; pointing and clicking. The mouse could have a physical clicker on the front surface so that user gets the feedback of a physical click when doing a left or right button click. Tactile and audio are also suggested as possible.
Your mouse is glowing red you must have new mail
Another enhancement could be the that the light that is used for sensing could change colour or flash. Your mouse could start glowing red when you had new mail for example.
This looks to be an exciting prospect for a new Apple mouse. The technology seems possible in today’s environment and would extend the iPhone touch-pad technology into the computing space.
Other recent patent applications from Apple.
Patent Application Details: Mouse with optical sensing surface
Inventors: Krah; Christoph H.; (Los Altos, CA) ; Hotelling; Steve P.; (San Jose, CA)
The invention relates, in one embodiment, to a configurable mouse with an extended sensing surface, which provides the mouse a customizable, programmable or adaptable way of generating inputs. The mouse includes an arbitrarily shaped grippable member having a 3D shape. The mouse also includes a position detection mechanism that detects the movement of the mouse along a surface. The mouse further includes a multipoint touch detection mechanism that detects one or more objects that are contacting or in close proximity to a substantially large portion of the grippable member. The mouse additionally includes a controller for processing signals generated by the position detection mechanism and multipoint touch detection mechanism.
In another embodiment, the signals generated by the imaging system are used for gesturing events. For example, the user may be able to perform different hand gestures on the top shell with each gesture meaning a different action in the host device. The gestures may be performed with one or more fingers, and may include translating, rotating, pressing, tapping and the like. The actions may be widely varied and may include for example zooming, paging, scrolling, rotating, enlarging/shrinking, etc. By way of example, rotating a finger in a circular manner may initiate rotation of a displayed object in the host device or moving a highlight bar through a list of media items, or moving fingers together and away from one another may initiate zooming or enlarging/shrinking of a displayed object in the host device. Moreover, sliding a finger up and down may initiate vertical scrolling, and sliding a finger side to side may initiate horizontal scrolling.
The invention relates, in another embodiment, to a computer mouse. The computer mouse includes a mouse housing for enclosing mouse electronics and including a top shell that is connected to a base. The base is embodied as a flat member capable of traveling across a flat surface. The top shell is embodied as a single 3D shaped member that fits inside a user’s hand and that is optically transmissive. The base defines the bottom surface of the mouse. The top shell defines the top, front, back and side surfaces of the mouse. The mouse also includes a mouse tracking unit for tracking movements of the mouse along a flat surface. The mouse further includes an optical image system for imaging a substantially large portion of the 3D shaped top shell. The optical imaging system includes an illumination source for illuminating the 3D shaped top shell, an image sensor arrangement for imaging the 3D shaped top shell when the 3D shaped top shell is illuminated, and a wide angle lens assembly that allows the substantially large portion of the 3D shaped top shell to be imaged by the image sensor arrangement. The illumination source includes one or more light sources. The image sensor arrangement includes one or more image sensors. The mouse additionally includes a controller operatively coupled to the mouse tracking unit and optical imaging system, and configured to control the operations of the mouse tracking unit and the optical imaging system. The controller includes a mouse tracking module associated with the mouse tracking unit and an optical sensing module associated with the optical imaging system.
The invention relates, in another embodiment, to a method of inputting from a mouse into a host device. The method includes imaging the entire or substantially large portion of a 3D shaped top shell of a mouse. The method also includes mapping the 3D image to flat space. The method further includes segmenting the flat space image into one or more features, each of which represents a discrete touch on the surface of the top shell. The method additionally includes calculating contact patch parameters for each of the features. Moreover, the method includes sending the contact patch parameters to the host device so that actions can be performed base on the contact patch parameters.
In block 38, a function is assigned to the touches and touch events produced therefrom. The function may be assigned to an individual touch (e.g., index finger) or to a group of touches (e.g., index finger and middle finger). With regards to group, any combination of touches may be used as for example index/middle, thumb/ring, thumb/index/middle, etc. This may be accomplished by referring to a system configuration (e.g., O/S), a program configuration associated with an active program (e.g., word processing), a user configuration (e.g., control panel), a mouse configuration, and/or the like. Each of these configurations map particular touches and touch events to particular function. These may come as defaults settings that cant be changed or alternatively they may be programmable or learned. In the case of programmable, the user may go to a control panel where they can enable/disable functionality or reassign functionality to different touches/touch events.