Unflattening Touch Screen Buttons

24 11 2009

Ever wish the flat touch screen buttons on your phone felt more like physical buttons?

Chris Harrison and Prof. Scott Hudson at Carnegie Mellon have developed a simple technology that turns touch screen buttons into physical buttons by using pneumatics.

The technology consists of a flexible surface area with a hard backing that acts as a mask for the button shapes.  An air chamber behind the backing can be pressurized or depressurized using pneumatic technology, in this case fan-based pumps.

When positive pressure is applied, the buttons pop out.  When the pressure is neutral, the screen is flat.  When negative pressure is applied, the buttons pop inwards.

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Apple vs. Microsoft: Multi-touch Mouse Comparison

23 11 2009

Both Apple and Microsoft have introduced mice with “multi-touch” sensing.  This is arguably the first substantial improvement to the mouse since it was invented in 1968 by Doug Englebart.  Apple’s product, the Magic Mouse, is commercially available for $69.  Microsoft has 5 prototype mice that are still in the R & D stage.

Regular mice only allow movement via the palm and the clicking of a left, right, and middle mouse button.

Why not detect inputs from all 5 fingers all over and around the surface of the mouse?  Multi-touch sensing technology for touch screens has allowed detection of multiple simultaneous presses all over a display screen.  A multi-touch mouse simply applies multi-touch technology on a mouse.

This article will compare the Apple and Microsoft offerings.

Apple: Magic Mouse

The Magic Mouse is a straightforward application of multi-touch to mousing and is a tame improvement compared with Microsoft’s more radical designs.  The Magic Mouse is based on a regular mouse body but covers the top with capacitive sensors.  These sensors are the same that would be used in standard touch screens, like on the iPhone.

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