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Wednesday, July 14, 1999 Published at 13:53 GMT 14:53 UK


Touching the Web

The new mouse goes on sale in the States in the September

A US firm has produced a "feelie" mouse to enable us to "touch" the objects we see on screen before buying them. The "feelie" mouse could be the next big thing to get us to join the e-commerce revolution.

Lewis Rosenberg: "The 'adult' market is certainly interested"
It will give surfers the chance to "touch" objects and give them the once over before they commit their cash to an online purchase.

As the you move your cursor over an image on a Web page, embedded motion commands are sent to a microprocessor in the mouse, telling it how to move to produce the desired sensation.

Two small motors inside the mouse make it go from side to side or up and down.

In this way, you will get an idea of the texture and shape of items you see on the screen.

'Smooth, slippery'

"It allows the cursor to become an extension of your hand. Anything the cursor touches, you can feel," said Lewis Rosenberg, Chief executive of the Immersion Corporation, based in San Jose, California.

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "The technology allows you to simulate the feel of any type of physical property, whether it be the weight or the stiffness or the texture. Things can feel smooth, slippery."

Mr Rosenberg waxed lyrical about the "additional perceptual benefits" of the invention for science, commerce and education but was more coy when asked about the obvious pornographic element of such a sensual piece of technology.

He said: "The 'adult' market is certainly one but we're seeing interest from web developers from across the spectrum."

Pre-feel in San Francisco

Visitors to an Internet convention in San Francisco last week were able to try out the "feelie" mouse for themselves, according to New Scientist magazine.

They could feel the tautness of the strings of a tennis racket and the texture of a pair of corduroy jeans and even sense how a car handled curves and accelerated on the straight.

The mouse could also simulate an attempt to move through a strong headwind.

It could be used to teach children about the forces of nature - even invisible atomic forces - or allow them to "feel" their way around a molecule.

The product - full name Logitech WingMan Force Feedback - runs on any Windows operating system and goes on sale in the US in September at a cost of $99.

New cordless mouse

In the meantime, Logitech is plugging its latest cordless mouse as a touchy-feely version, going on sale in the UK this month at around 50.

[ image: Look no strings!]
Look no strings!
The Logitech Cordless Mouseman Wheel has a sleek, contoured shape, a scrolling wheel and a thumb button on the side which can be used as a browser Back button.

Logitech says it features "a unique soft material that covers the sides where users grip their device, allowing them to hold the mouse more comfortably and control it more easily."

The mouse works in a range of up to two metres through a radio transmitter plugged into the mouse port, avoiding the line of sight needed for infrared versions.

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