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Thursday, 10 June, 2004, 12:34 GMT 13:34 UK
Handy future for gesture sensor
John Elias and Wayne Westerman, University of Delaware
MultiTouch pads could replace the keyboard and mouse
The familiar keyboard and mouse method of interacting with your computer could soon be redundant.

Two US researchers have developed a novel way of using a computer that uses hand gestures and a smart pad that watches how hands move.

The inventors claim that the smart pad system, called MultiTouch, is easier on the wrists and less likely to promote the repetitive strain injuries often associated with prolonged keyboard and mouse use.

The researchers also claim that it is significantly more flexible than a mouse/keyboard combination and could help identify users.

Gesture politics

Since it was invented by Douglas Engelbart in the late 1960s, the computer mouse has become familiar to almost all computer users.

But its days could be numbered if the MultiTouch system invented by John Elias and Wayne Westerman at the University of Delaware becomes popular.

MultiTouch removes the mouse and replaces it with a smart pad studded with sensors that can form part of, or be attached to, a keyboard.

Commands for well known operations such as opening and closing files or selecting and moving text have particular gestures associated with them.

The smart pad watches what the hands of a user are doing and carries out the command associated with particular gestures.

Winston Churchill makes 'V for Victory' gesture
Some gestures are very powerful
Opening a file involves rotating your hand as if opening a jar; double-clicking to select an item could be replaced by tapping three adjacent fingers once.

"For what it was invented for, the mouse does a good job," said John Elias, co-inventor of the MultiTouch system and a professor in the Electrical and Computer Engineering department at the University of Delaware.

But, said Professor Elias, the mouse/keyboard combination was now a bottleneck and stopped people exploiting the full potential of their computer and prevented people communicating effectively.

Co-inventor Wayne Westerman said the MultiTouch system was much more flexible than a mouse which had a single moving point as its main method of input.

By contrast, said Dr Westerman, each finger had at least 12 different gestures available to it that MultiTouch could recognise.

Fingers can be made to wobble, point, slide or press, making them much more effective as tools to help people use their computer.

The inventors speculate that eventually people will be identified to a computer by the gestures they make as well as by supplying the correct passwords.

The co-inventors have now formed a company called Fingerworks to make and market the smart pad system.

See also:

15 Oct 02 | dot life
18 Jun 02 | Science/Nature
08 Jul 02 | Science/Nature
05 Nov 01 | Science/Nature
25 Jun 01 | dot life
10 May 00 | Science/Nature
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