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Why the computer mouse will soon be obsolete

Tue, 01/08/2013 - 9:04am
Kasey Panetta, Associate Editor

If you thought being able to “pinch” your iPad screen to zoom was cool, hold on to your hats, because there is something even better coming: a way to use your computer without even touching it.

To fully understand why this technology is so awesome, you have to ask yourself about the actual reason the computer mouse is designed the way is it. The obvious answer would be so the user can manipulate the computer screen. But the real is answer is: There isn't a reason why the mouse is shaped the way it is. The mouse exists in its current form only because it’s what we’re used to using on a desktop, but there’s no real reason we need a mouse at all. As we move towards a society that values a more intuitive interaction with technology, the mouse might be the first thing kicked to the curb.

That’s where Leap Motion comes in. The company designed a device that allows you to control your computer with just the motion of your hands in the air.  The Leap Motion is a “near-mode finger/hand 3D motion detection device” that will allow you to use the eight cubic feet around your computer as a virtual play area, according to the company. Not bad for a gadget that’s only the size of an iPod. Plus it  “tracks in-air movement to 1/100th of a millimeter”, according to Wired.

Need to get a closer look at a small font? Pinch the air. Want to switch to another window? Swipe your hand. Want to plan a route on Google Maps?  Use your fingers.

 

We’re talking Tom Cruise in Minority Report levels of hand waving here.

This means the end to an age requiring a stylus, digital pen, game controller, mouse, or any other tool to manipulate the screen image. For this, you don’t need anything except for your hands. You don’t even have to touch the screen. That being said, you can use whatever you want to use the computer. Use a pen to sign a document or—as seen in the video—chop sticks to play  Angry Birds. The 3D-motion world is your oyster.

If you’re not impressed, consider the implications in other fields. Surgeons who just need to wave a hand in front of a computer to get a different angle or image, graphic designers who can manipulate a digital image with their hands, or office worker bees who will be able to use computers in a more intuitive ways. It’s not that the product allows you to do anything revolutionary, it allows you to do things in a manner that is revolutionary (and basically limitless).

If you’re wondering what the difference is between Leap Motion and The Kinect,  Microsoft’s technology is for full-body movements while the Leap Motion is just for hand movements.

The company has just joined with Asus to include the technology on some of their computers, but it’s also available for $69.99 for those of us who want the Leap Motion without the Asus.

This is a technology that is interesting because it completely ignores all of the “rules” and goes for something that just makes sense intuitively. Yes, it could be just one more thing to go wrong with your computer, but in an age where everything is increasingly wireless and touchscreens are as commonplace as phones, it’s not really that surprising. It is, however, really cool.

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