Apple Puts a Camera Where Its Mouse Is - InformationWeek

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7/5/2007
08:25 PM
Thomas Claburn
Thomas Claburn
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Apple Puts a Camera Where Its Mouse Is

Apple just can't bring itself to make a two-button mouse. Partly it's an issue of aesthetics. "Unlike the conventional mouse, the unibody mouse does not include any mechanical buttons thereby making it more elegant than the conventional mouse (e.g., no surface breaks or lines)," a newly published Apple patent appl

Apple just can't bring itself to make a two-button mouse. Partly it's an issue of aesthetics. "Unlike the conventional mouse, the unibody mouse does not include any mechanical buttons thereby making it more elegant than the conventional mouse (e.g., no surface breaks or lines)," a newly published Apple patent application explains.

It may also have something to do with the fact that Microsoft favors dual-button rodents.Then there's the issue of the poor performance of the unibody Apple Mouse. That at least has been my experience trying to use the Apple Mouse on a Power Mac G5: It's a bad choice for games like Quake III and IV because you can't reliably generate a right-click event.

Apple puts it differently: "Although mice such as these work well, improvements to form, feel and functionality are still desired," the patent application says. "For example, more elegant ways to provide inputs through the mouse are desired."

Whether the issue is functionality or elegance, Apple has an improved model in the works. Apple's latest mouse-related patent application, "Mouse with optical sensing surface," describes an "an optically transmissive top shell" that "includes a camera" for tracking multiple points of contact with the user's hand and fingers.

Apple foresees using this data for "determining the identity of the user," which would work "by analyzing the orientation and size of the fingers or alternatively using some sort of fingerprint transform." (I'm trying to imagine Apple's famous Orwell-inspired Macintosh commercial redone to advertise Apple-branded biometrics.)

It also describes a mouse that would function much more like the gesture-sensitive iPhone. "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," the patent application states. "Moreover, sliding a finger up and down may initiate vertical scrolling, and sliding a finger side to side may initiate horizontal scrolling."

As to whether it will be useful for Enemy Territory: Quake Wars, we'll have to wait and see.

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