Microsoft has invented what could only be described as a Magic Mouse-like device. There's little doubt that the inspiration for their new device derived from Apple's Magic Trackpad. Yet to be fair, the similarities end rather quickly when you realize that Microsoft has dreamed up a much more aggressive design by introducing us to a specific user input in the form of a "Virtual Mouse" with everything that goes along with that: right and left clicks, double click and so forth. In addition to that, their proposed input device, which they describe as a "Satellite Input Device," will also allow users to work in stylus mode and switch back and forth between modes rather effortlessly. While I believe that this device holds some real potential over time, I fully expect die-hard desktop users will bemoan this newfangled concept.
Microsoft Thinks Magic Trackpad on Steroids
According to Microsoft's patent filing, modal touch input allows a single multi-touch input surface to provide input functionality that has previously necessitated the use of separate input devices. The benefits of mouse, pen, and/or multi-touch input modalities may be achieved via a single interaction model that involves one or both hands interacting directly and in an ergonomically pleasing manner with a multi-touch input surface.
In some embodiments, applying the heel of the palm or the edge of the hand to the multi-touch input surface causes the device to act as a mouse, or if a stylus is detected, as a pen. In such embodiments, finger contact in the absence of palm or edge of the hand contact causes the device to act as a multi-touch digitizer.
According to Microsoft's invention, the user may transition between mouse, pen, touch, and/or idle modes by touching the multi-touch input surface with different hand postures (e.g., selective application of the palm or edge of the hand to the multi-touch input surface).
Microsoft's patent FIG. 1 shows a computing system with a satellite touch input device 56 that cooperates to provide modal touch input. Modal touch input allows a single touch device to provide the most beneficial characteristics of mouse, pen, and multi-touch devices. Further, a user is able to seamlessly transition between different input modes using the touch device.
In other embodiments, the touch input device may be integrated into the display to form a touch screen device.
In Microsoft's patent FIG. 10 shown below we find an example touch input that triggers initiation of a stylus input mode.
Microsoft's patent FIG. 2 noted above depicts a user performing an example touch input 200 on a multi-touch input surface of touch input device. It will be appreciated that the depiction of the touch input device shown in FIG. 2 is exemplary in nature and the touch input device may take a variety of forms.
As shown, the user may rest a portion of their hand (e.g., palm, knuckles of ring and pinky fingers, tips of thumb, index, and middle fingers) on the multi-touch input surface. Such a hand posture is akin to the hand posture of holding a mouse, and the hand is supported in much the same way as when holding a mouse. Thus, during long periods of input a user may experience a decreased amount of fatigue in their hand, wrist, arm, and shoulder when compared to other types of touch input techniques requiring a user to keep their palm elevated above the multi-touch input surface.
Virtual Mouse Input Mode
As shown in Microsoft's patent FIGS. 4 and 5 below, a control region 402 may be defined in the virtual mouse input mode. The location of the control region may be based on the position and/or shape of the diffuse touch contact. Each mode may have at least one initiation criterion that determines when that input mode is initiated. When a user applies a large diffuse contact, such as that of the palm heel or the side of the hand to the multi-touch input surface 62, the first criterion may be fulfilled, and the virtual mouse input mode may be initiated, for example.
Likewise the size of the control region may be based on the size of the diffuse touch contact, in other words, the general position with which a user's index and/or middle fingers would likely touch the multi-touch input surface may be inferred from the size and shape of the touch contact from that user's palm.
An exemplary "satellite touch input" is a mouse click touch input. For example, a mouse click touch input may include removing a satellite touch contact from a multi-touch input surface, represented by satellite contact image 404 in FIG. 4, and re-applying the satellite touch contact to the multi-touch input surface, represented by satellite touch contact image 504 in FIG. 5. It will be appreciated that the satellite touch contact is executed within the control region 402. Alternatively, a mouse click touch input may include an application and subsequent removal of a satellite touch contact on a multi-touch input surface within the control region.
Another exemplary satellite touch input is a mouse drag touch input. A mouse drag touch input may consist of (1) a tap or increased pressure under the finger to send a click message to the system and engage an element of the user interface, (2) transfer of cursor tracking to the finger, (3) movement of the finger to displace the element, and (4) lifting of the finger to disengage the element and terminate dragging.
In response to the implementation of the satellite touch input on the multi-touch input surface within the control region 402, a satellite mouse command may be output. The satellite mouse command may be a right click command, a left click command, or an auxiliary button command, for example. Click commands may include multi-click commands (e.g., double click commands). The satellite mouse commands and corresponding satellite touch inputs may be similar to the types of inputs that may be provided by a peripheral mouse. As a result, the user may quickly learn how to implement mouse commands in the virtual mouse input mode.
At the End of the Day
At the end of the day when you add in Microsoft's other contiguous projects like fingerprint ID and Cooperative Touch + Pen, you quickly realize that this project has depth to it drilling several layers down.
Beyond today's invention, Microsoft's new Surface product line rolls out later this month and the quiet Giant is about to awaken. Whether they have what it takes to pull off a meaningful comeback is a question that will take several years to fairly answer. Yet in my opinion, I think it would be healthy to have a strong Microsoft back in the game to help advance the desktop and to provide the market with some leadership in user interface design for tablets and smartphones which Google's Android sorely lacks at present. But it's a race and the more competition there is fighting for our business, the better it is for all of us.
Microsoft's patent application which was filed under serial number 031030 was originally filed in Q1 2011 and published by the US Patent and Trademark Office in H2 2012.
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