Half a croissant, on a plate, with a sign in front of it saying '50c'
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Mouse barcode reader

Teach an optical mouse to read barcodes
  (+21, -2)(+21, -2)
(+21, -2)
  [vote for,

Inspired (or at least suggested) by the "paper CD" and "paper USB" ideas, vaguely.

Most mice these days are optical, and work by detecting the relative motion between the mouse and features (such as surface irregularities or colour variations) on the mousepad or tabletop.

It should be possible to create software which would allow an optical mouse to read barcode data: it just has to use the same information differently. You would just sweep the mouse over the barcode on a printed page, perhaps whilst holding down a particular key-combination (to tell the computer you are reading a barcode instead of mousing).

The barcoded data would then be entered just as if you'd typed it in at the keyboard.

Possible applications include adverts (mouse-swipe the barcode to type the advertiser's URL straight into your browser, or a specific product code straight into their online catalogue), manuals (instead of typing in the example in the book, mouse-swipe the printed barcode), or in fact any situation where you would normally copy a small amount of text from a printed page.

The mouse is not a perfect barcode reader (for example, the barcodes would need to be printed quite tall, to be sure you "hit" them with the sweet-spot of the optical mouse), but everybody has one already.

MaxwellBuchanan, Aug 16 2007

Laser Mouse Docs http://www.avagotec...ocument.do?id=14781
ADNB-6532 is just one of many; should be able to read bar code close up [kbecker, Aug 17 2007]

Laser Mouse http://www.microsof...etails.aspx?pid=042
[nuclear hobo, Aug 19 2007]


       And this is different from widely available existing optical bar code readers how, exactly? Only in that it is a mouse instead of a myriad of other possible interface devices, most commonly a pen? Well, that's not even patentably distinct enough, I'm afraid.
globaltourniquet, Aug 16 2007

       [Global] As you sit at your computer now, do you have a barcode reader?   

       As I pointed out, an optical mouse is not an especially good barcode reader. It's just a potential barcode reader that everyone already has.
MaxwellBuchanan, Aug 16 2007

       I get it now. You made do that wretched thing called "read".   

       This is software that turns the mouse I am now inches away from into a reader of barcodes, the nearest one to me of which is probably yards away.
globaltourniquet, Aug 16 2007

       Precisely so. And, may I add, || ||| |||| ||| ||||| |.
MaxwellBuchanan, Aug 16 2007

       Bun just for the potential to write crazy stuff on mousemats.
moomintroll, Aug 17 2007

       I like it! I would use it. Well, if I had a mouse like that I would. I have a trackball - as optical as it is, it could not be used this way. :(
drememynd, Aug 17 2007

       I don't think you could teach an old mouse new tricks. It'll probably need to have its brain changed.
Ling, Aug 17 2007

       I like the idea. But barcode scanners use lasers, the optical mouse would need lasers. Sorry but lasers and the AVERAGE consumer is asking for trouble. Though It would be nice.
Mick Gyver, Aug 17 2007

       I agree with [ling]   

       Great idea, but you would need to change the firmware in the the mouses microcontroller for it to interperte the barcode digits.   

       Fresh pasty to you this morning Sir   

       And [Mick Gyver] there are several optical mice that use lasers already. Go to your local staples and check them out
evilpenguin, Aug 17 2007

       [Evilpenguin] I think you're probably right about the firmware.   

       [Mick Gyver] you probably don't need lasers. The resolution of a barcode is not very fine, and standard optical mice detect movement over very small distances.
MaxwellBuchanan, Aug 17 2007

       I was hoping it was a little mouse house just past where the person sits at the till... As your foodstuff trundles by on the conveyor belt, a little mouse with a little photo-diode muzzle, would scurry out, scan your goods, and return to his abode...
Dub, Aug 19 2007

       That too.
MaxwellBuchanan, Aug 19 2007

       //you would need to change the firmware// Actually, I suspect you might just be able to get away without new firmware. I tried my Apple optical mouse on a barcode printed on glossy white paper.   

       The mouse could not track the movement on the plain white paper, but did so as it crossed the barcode - presumably, the featureless white has nothing for it to register. Therefore, perhaps, a careful plot of mouse- distance against time would show that the movement was in steps as it crossed the barcode. With a little decoding (of distance-v-time), it might be possible to recover the barcode data.   

       I'll go away and write some software to see if this is feasible.
MaxwellBuchanan, Aug 19 2007

       Well, OK, it sort of works. If I plot the apparent mouse movement against time, as I sweep slowly across a barcode printed on glossy white paper, I get a low-resolution "image" of the barcode (ie, there are peaks of movement corresponding to the barcode lines), but the resolution isn't quite high enough: I can identify dense and sparse areas of the barcode, but some pairs of lines merge. However, this is just using mickey-mouse software. I think that smarter software would manage to decipher the barcode if you made several "swipes" with a standard optical mouse.   

       Firmware would certainly be a better solution: you'd want to record optical intensity directly, rather than tracking position and then decoding that; this would also make the mouse able to read barcodes on non-glossy paper. (My mouse can't see the barcode if it's on matt paper, because it can track its position using the paper roughness, regardless of a printed barcode.)   

       But I think this shows that it's vaguely doable even with existing mice. It would be fun, anyway, to experiment with using mice in this way for optical data input.
MaxwellBuchanan, Aug 19 2007

       I thought a laser mouse would be a good idea but M$ has already baked it. [link]
nuclear hobo, Aug 19 2007

       True, but it doesn't read barcodes.
MaxwellBuchanan, Aug 19 2007

       As long as you're writing software, the next step is what to do with the information: URL's go to bookmarks in your web browser, phone numbers go to the contact list on your PDA or cell phone, and bibliographic citations go to your bibliographic database (with automatic download of PDFs when available), etc. (This obviously applies to OCR scanners as well, which I would have much more use for.)
Ford, Dec 06 2007

8th of 7, Dec 06 2007

       //the next step is what to do with the information//   

       The simplest solution is to use the barcode reader as an application- independent data entry device, in parallel with the keyboard. In other words, scanning a barcode is equivalent to typing the same characters in from the keyboard.   

       I have a barcode reader like this (I mean a keyboard-parallel reader, not a barcode-reading mouse) on one of our robots; it works fine and can be used to enter data directly into any application.
MaxwellBuchanan, Dec 06 2007

       At first I thought we were talking about LIVE mice reading bar codes. But anyhow it keeps things nice and neat on the desktop and having the reader conveniently inside of the mouse, you don't have to think about having a separate reader ready.
Jscotty, Dec 07 2007

       Applause for both the OP and MaxwellBuchanan's baking attempt.   

       The problem may be more than just the firmware in the mouse, though. The sensor itself may be based on edge detection and motion detection cells, rather than straight image capture and software (firmware) comparison.   

       Such a sensor was featured in the camera for the original Gameboy, so that it could be used for motion-based games without relying on the console's piddling Z80-derived CPU for support.
BunsenHoneydew, Dec 09 2007

       I think they should just update things so that mouse palmcurve is webcam; CCD is cheap, I've just placed a mouse on its side then righted it:   

       stable enough to be an image cam on the side; if the plastic is microfresnel is looks opaque to humans but is software transparent   

       as a palm reading cam you might be able to do truth detection or even diagnose cardiovascular ills   

       rubbed on a visually coded surface it acts like the title idea   

       if you like you could stego data onto any magazine type picture then every picture could contain url data
beanangel, Mar 13 2008

       Treon, I think they would, but the radius would be different, surely? If you could do this, then people would have already have been about to have done so, but they haven't. But IF you could, then it wouldn't have been quite the same after all.
MaxwellBuchanan, Mar 13 2008


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