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Apple patents multi-touch mouse concept

updated 11:35 am EDT, Thu July 5, 2007

Apple Touch Mouse Patent

Apple today was shown to have filed a US patent that may point towards the future of its desktop mice. Originally submitted in March 2006, the patent would use a variant of the multi-touch concept behind the iPhone and apply it to a hand controller. An optical sensor built inside the mouse would map the surface and recognize contact from the user's hand based on changes in the image. Information would then be translated to a flat grid in software that the computer can use to recognize the user's intent, the patent says.

Using an image-based system would eliminate the problems of most mice with touch-sensitivity, Apple says. Instead of limiting touch to a specific area of the mouse and usually limiting input to a single point, the optical sensor could potentially cover the entire mouse surface and recognize multiple fingers. This adaptation would allow the mouse both to recognize common mouse functions such as left- or right-clicking but also gestures, such as a pinching motion for zoom (similar to the iPhone), swiping movements for scrolling, or circular movements for rotation.

The technology would also have the side benefit of greater customization. As the system could in theory recognize particular hands, it could change to a control profile simply by examining the shape and potentially the fingerprints of a user. Experienced users could also change or add controls through a software control panel.

Apple does not give clues as to whether or not it will implement the technology in a shipping mouse but notes that the patent favors unibody mice such as the Apple Mouse and the Mighty Mouse, which include seamless surfaces on the inside and out that are well-suited to image sensors.

by MacNN Staff




  1. danviento

    Joined: Dec 1969


    I dunno about

    having pinch-to-zoom we be the best ergonomic idea if the mouse is still moved about to move a cursor like a traditional one. Who knows, though. usually, these patents never leave to the exact product we're thinking of :-.

  1. testudo

    Joined: Dec 1969



    Apple figured out how to make a simple 2-button mouse really complex and prone to misuse. So, rather then fix that (like, I dunno, just put a second button on the freakin' thing!) they're designing more ways for the mouse to misinterpret hand gestures and drive users insane.

  1. Fast iBook

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Quiet testudo.

    Sh. Thanks.

  1. Roehlstation

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Re: Alright!

    I've never had any issues with my Mighty Mouse and so far everyone in my office has had no issues either....but maybe it is because we wash our freaking hands.

  1. ApeInTheShell

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Best line ever

    quiet testudo. Sh. Thanks. posted by fast ibook

  1. Paco01

    Joined: Dec 1969



    Want a cookie or a chill pill?

    Your inability to use a one mouse button doesn't mean that the the concept is flawed. And why just 1 extra button? I'm always use 4 on my trackball. Oh yeah, that's right: you can plug a mouse or trackball of your choice if you don't like the one-buttoned mouse. Unless you're so poor that you can't buy one....

    And I actually like the idea. I can imagine a replacement of the trackball. No more moving parts. Using my index and middle finger to to navigate, like I do now on the trackball, and add other gestures to replace the use of some many used commands: to use the middle finger to hold on an object and use the index finger to move that object. Things like that.

    @ Testudo: I forgot, but do you actually own a mac, or are you just a trolling around?

  1. cho

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Pinch to Zoom--bad

    Ergonomically, pinching to zoom in or out is bad. Any physiotherapist will tell you that that finger pinching too much leads to tendonitis. Any time small muscles are over-used (such as in pinching) that can lead to tendonitis.

  1. MacnnChester

    Joined: Dec 1969


    The best practice...

    Design the UI so that you don't NEED multi-button mice 90% of the time, but also design the I/O to SUPPORT multi-button devices.

    Why MS dweebs and testudo can't see this, I don't know. I can run a Mac with everything from a one, two or more button mouse equally well. A PC is harder to use and bad app design forces people to use multiple buttons inelegantly. You could have five legs on a chair, but why when four or even three (the most stable config.) work just fine.

  1. resuna

    Joined: Dec 1969


    I agree with testudo

    The mighty mouse is completely unusable for anyone who is already used to multi-button mice.

    macnnchester: it would be nice if APple had been able to design the user interface so you didn't need more than one button, but they failed completely. Mac OS, in fact, requires more complex button combinations and chording than any other GUI I've ever used... they "simplified" the Xerox three button mouse by putting four of the buttons on their five-button mouse on the keyboard: control, command, shift, and alt. They also invented double-click... a virtual sixth button, to replace the middle button on the Xerox mouse... and click-and-hold because they didn't have a control key on the first Mac keyboards.

    The original Xerox user interface was far superior. You only had three buttons to remember, instead of five: select/perform/menu. The UI was consistent in all applications... you didn't have to remember that Finder does shift-click differently in icon mode, or what alt-click does in iTunes, you just right-clicked and got a context menu (immediately... not after half a second in some applications that don't seem to get click-and-hold and right-click right).

    Einstein once wrote that everything should be made as simple as possible... but no simpler. Xerox followed that rule... Apple tried to buck it, and ended up making things far more complex.

  1. gskibum3

    Joined: Dec 1969



    I hope this is better than the old hockey puck iMac mouse and keyboard for babies. Boy were those ever winners. Now we get the current Mighty Mouse. Images of Apple input devices should be included in the dictionary next to words such as "idiotic" and "useless"

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