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Last Updated: Thursday, 2 March 2006, 11:33 GMT
Microsoft aims to stamp out spam
Close-up of interactive mat, AP
Researchers adapted the Dance Dance Revolution mat
Soon PC users could be literally stamping out spam instead of hitting the delete key.

Microsoft researchers are working on a way to let people use their feet to perform many routine computer tasks.

By tapping buttons on a pad on the floor users can scroll through their inbox and open, close and delete messages.

The researchers said they developed the foot interface to make interacting with computers more energetic.

Spam stomping

"Many information workers spend a majority of their time trapped at their desk dealing with e-mail," said Brian Meyers, from the Step User Interface Project Group who helped develop the prototype.

"We wanted to provide them with an alternative," he said.

The group has adapted the mat that game firm Konami developed for its hugely popular Dance Dance Revolution game. Playing DDR involves copying the moves shown on screen by stepping on one of six sensors on the mat.

Microsoft's adaptation means that stepping on the six sensors carries out well-known tasks when going through an e-mail inbox.

One of the most popular manoeuvres is the double-foot stamp used to delete junk mail.

Mr Meyers said getting users standing up and using the mat interface gives people a break from mouse and keyboard and could help limit the spread of repetitive strain injuries.

It could also help those with limited hand movements interact with their computers.

Findings from a study of how the step interface changes the way that PC owners use their computer will be presented in April at the ACM Computer Human Interaction conference in Montreal. An early look at the technology was given at Microsoft's TechFest meeting this week.

Open only to a select list of invitees and Microsoft employees the TechFest shows off the work of more than 400 researchers from the software giant's five development labs.

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