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The Cursor, My Friend, Is Blowin' In The Wind

I'll huff and I'll puff and I'll blow your mouse down..
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I'm going to pretend I came up with this idea in order to help disabled people who physically can't use a mouse, rather than expose the depths of my own laziness by revealing that sometimes I can't be arsed pushing a wee bit of plastic around my desk for hours on end.

So, for the ultimate in hands-free computing, I'd like to be able to literally blow the cursor about the screen. Like a wind-blown leaf it would arc and glide across the monitor, with only a couple of artfully-aimed puffs impelling it. A more laid-back and relaxed user interface would be hard to imagine, I'm sure you'll agree.

But how can this be done? Well, I'm glad you asked.

First off, in the Control Panel, instead of selecting "mouse sensitivity", you choose "cursor weight" based on your lung capacity and how precise you need your cursor movement to be. The "lightest" setting will cause the cursor to to flit to the very edge of your screen at the slightest sigh (not recommended), whereas the "heavy" end of the scale requires Pavarotti-sized lungs even to the nudge the pointer one pixel to the right. A useable level lies somewhere inbetween.

Next, stage: well, there's two mechanisms for this, each with their own pros and cons.Here's the first, which is admittedly a bit fiddly -

Imagine a series of tiny tines running around the edges of your computer screen. Lots of little wires that stick out perhaps half-an-inch or so from the screen. All of these tiny tines are actually very sensitive pressure gauges (told you this was fiddly). Then you take a sheet of clingfilm-type stuff (transparent, but with a bit of give in it), and suspend it from these tines slightly above the screen of the monitor. The sheet is held taut by the tines, but, if you blow on the sheet, the tines measure the pressure of your breath. The computer collates all the data from the various sensors, works out where you're blowing and how hard, and puffs the cursor about the screen accordingly. The advantage of this system is that you can just sit before it and blow- it's kind of simple, but when you need to click on stuff it does begin to suck. Plus, if a fly lands on your screen, you may never see your cursor again. Ditto if your computer is situated in a draughty room.

But; there's always the second option. That of the lightgun straw. Still a hands-free user interface, but weaker in that it needs a bit more technology for it to work. And one that you clamp between your teeth, at that.

It's a straw with a tiny propellor installed at the far end. Some unspecified miracle of minature engineering ensures that the speed at which the propellor rotates is conveyed to your computer - thus telling your overworked computer how hard you're blowing. Also built into the straw is a tiny, laser pointer-like colourmeter. As soon as the computer registers some activity of the straw-fan, for a split second it displays the entire spectrum of colours over your computer screen. Thanks to the colourometer built into the straw, the straw relays the particular colour it has seen during that split-second of colouric overload. Which tells the computer where it was pointed at. The cursor itself would perhaps have a singular identifying colour, one puff for a left click, two for a double click. Or perhaps you could suck rather than blow.

Obviously, all the working parts would be water proof, and so you could continue to dip that same straw into your vodka martini whilst still blowin' three sheets to the wind online...

lostdog, May 03 2004

Gravité http://www.wildbits.com/gravite/
Makes your icons obey newtonian laws (Mac OS 9 only) [Macwarrior, Oct 05 2004, last modified Oct 17 2004]

Hands-Free Mouse http://www.naturalp...at/at_overview.html
Not the same, but interesting nonetheless. Cursor controlled by head movements. [lostdog, Oct 05 2004, last modified Oct 17 2004]

[link]






       (blows cursor over to +, then blows on "single click" box attached to the right side of monitor.)
Worldgineer, May 03 2004
  

       I worked on an American Cancer Society grant back in 1980-81 to develop a prosodic (pitch changing) speech aid for laryngectomees. We used a self-heated thermistor to sense breath velocity, and temperature to sense direction (breath going out is fairly stable 98.6 deg. F, breath coming in is room temperature.) We used soda straws as throw-away hygenic input to demonstrate the use of the device.   

       Various switching techniques were tested to change (up-down) vs (left-right), and clicking could be accomplished by rapid in/out tongue/mouth motions. Pretty easy to learn.
csea, May 03 2004
  

       This idea reminded me of a great program I had at one point, for Mac OS 9: it was called gravité.   

       Essentially, it made items on your screen obey the laws of physics. Icons would rotate about the point that you clicked them at, and you could toss things around (they'd fly on a trajectory). You could set weight, gravity, air resistance, etc. It was great. I even got good enough to toss things accurately in folders from the opposite side of the screen; great fun.   

       [link] I wish there was an OS X version.
Macwarrior, May 03 2004
  

       Nice one, [lostdog]. Nothing wrong with being lazy. Isn't laziness the father of invention?

Now, how am I going to get all the flecks of Bloody Caesar off my screen?
lintkeeper2, May 03 2004
  

       //Bloody Caesar// Meat eaters are so strange.
Worldgineer, May 03 2004
  

       Isn't someone out there working on eye-movement cursors?
RayfordSteele, May 04 2004
  

       I love it. If the pointer could look like a kite...
spacecadet, May 04 2004
  

       ...or a leaf.
Detly, May 04 2004
  

       Seems very inaccurate to me. Interesting but not really very useful, and likely to trigger hyperventilation to get anything done.
waugsqueke, May 04 2004
  

       How typical of him. Well, I like it - have a pastry.
krelnik, May 04 2004
  

       [csea], wow!
[Ray], I had the opportunity to test an eye movement cursor in the 80ies. Doable for simple selections, but takes some getting used to, and very little accuracy. The way we look at things is kind of jerky and squiggely, and you really don't want something moving on screen that's always where you look; but without that, how can you be sure where it is? You'd need a custom interface to work with that.
jutta, May 05 2004
  

       I like the kite and leaf modifications - wish I'd thought of that myself. Best I could do was an empty-plastic-bag cursor that keeps getting itself tangled up on the on-screen icons. Ho hum.
lostdog, May 05 2004
  

       I just don't think it would be controlable except on the heavy mode.
schematics, May 05 2004
  
      
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