Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Replacement of Computer Mouse

A lot of efforts have been made by industry to replace computer mouse with more intuitive user input technology. Until now, it has only made thing more complex in term of software development, hardware development and user interactivity.

Problem with The Mouse

Mouse are damn slow. Though mouse have more intuitive than keyboard, most keyboard based input still dominates when it comes to speed of control. If you have ever used MPlayer and VLC keyboard shortcuts, you will realize how much energy and time you are wasting to get the things done by the mouse. Not all screens are shrinking. Screens are becoming bigger bigger in case of personal computer and other devices like television. And as screen becomes big, use of mouse make the controlling slower.
Mouse is not feature rich. Today’s mice has only two main features: Point to click and scroll. It lacks vital feature called ‘gesture’ (how you love that iPhone based gesture to zoom something?). Apple tired, and still trying to sell, mouse with gesture technology but I feel it is pathetic and only suitable for touchpad. Apple too know that and they have come-up with touchpad (i.e. trackpad) for desktops.

Has Touch Screen Potent to Replace The Computer Mouse?

Most popular among new user input technology is touch screen which is more successful as it enables high backward compatible and its ‘intuitive’ nature. Gestures based on touch have added a new dimension to it but it is still limited to mobile devices (and at information kiosks) as it is not feasible for a lot other devices are not guaranteed to be in reach of user finger (say, your TV). Also, it has not proven itself as potential successor of mouse as its main usage domain – handheld devices – never had mouse. So yes, touch screen technology will still remain master of its domain for years to come before exhausting itself and will continue where mouse shouldn’t be there or cannot be there. But it cannot be viewed as candidate for totally replacing the mouse.

What Can Replace Mouse?

  • Fast to point
  • Support for gesture
And both of above should come with steep learning curve, intuitiveness and must be less stressful.

What Else Can Work?

Trying to solve everything by single device or technology may not be wise and unfeasible in shorter duration. Engineers need to employ many technology and devices to phase-out mouse from the face of desktops and other devices. Let’s relook at the features listed above and potential technology which can satisfy that.
Faster to point: When you want your mouse to point at a pixel, you first look at it. Then your learned brain gives single to appropriate muscles to move so you can move mouse at desired position on the screen. If you come-up with a camera based solution which can just point where you are looking, it will reduce a lot of work for user. Learning is not much required as that’s all our eyes do – look at the area of interest. And as said, that’s what we do first. Also, you can control a multiple devices wirelessly and minimum possible time.
This solution may seem very complex to implement but already some researchers have submitted paper at many forum making this process easier and more accurate. Some of them are based on infrared camera making the process more robust where lighting is not a factor so it can work in dark too.
Support for gesture: Clicking may not be feasible with camera based technology but a smaller version of trackpad (say clickpad) or clip in your hand may just do fine. A clip or ring kind of device in your hand or finger(s) with motion detection can become very simple and accurate device to input user gestures to system. There are many ways to achieve this and no sensor based technology can be under estimated when it comes to gesture. But as people have already experience, computer vision based gestures would not work as they are more stressful to user.

Bye For Now

My suggestions to replace mouse may not be the best but they definitely makes system more easily usable. My gut says that that’s where the future is. Mouse were invented when we didn’t have many technologies to gather user inputs and they have served well by tremendously increasing user base of personal computers. It’s time we move on for something even simpler and better. With wishes that you happily interact with your PC for now and in the future,

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Brain Farms

Humans are becoming dumb day by day. They are getting all resources with using little brain. The only one thing driving them to use head is earn money or to get power. But many do not use it even for that.
Anyways, my main motive was to write about how future humans will use power of multiple brains to think about a same thing with inputs from all the brains.
Let's say you are fighting a war against a country. Decision taker of the war has to have knowledge about many things which a single human brain cannot handle or some time, time is not enough to train the brain.
What you need to do is just 'connect' the brain of generals in different areas and let one brain use power of other brains to get analysis about situation in other front and take decision. This is not as easy as it seems but if done, picture of human society, job description, educational systems will change radically.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Full automation in Retail Industry

I work with industry leader of Supply chain software. We have software to integrate with the most sophisticated tools helping people in warehouse and supplying good to the end user. But that’s not what I am excited about. Industry is focusing on making work easy for warehouse guys so reduces number of warehouse guys required by ‘managing’ their operations and remembering which item is where.

But there is huge potential to grow when ‘automation’ is included in warehouse. Right now, there are ways people automate the delivery of container into right truck with intelligent conveyer belt. The revolution will come when the picking of an item and putting it into the container will be automated. It’s possible at this time by using robotic hands. Even more can be done with integrating this whole system with vending machine or automated teller machine which can revolutionize the way people shop. This is not thing which will take 10 years to come. Everything exists and only thing that needs to be done is right kind of integration and make a general purpose vending machines.

Go to a general purpose vending machines, insert your credit card, select the items that you want, accept the item, get the bill, pay it, go home. Easy! huh?

I am not aware if anyone is trying for this. But I can foresee it coming as that is the next thing which I can see clearly.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Printers in the future

This topic may look dry for some future talk. It may look like ‘dry’ as it as not evolved a lot. Computer revolutionalized the centuries old printing technology but the output has remained as a printed paper. And there are less reason to believe that output may change much in near future.

Direction of revolution till yesterday:
Printer’s have become faster, smaller, easy and cost efficient.

Direction of revolution today:

Inkless printer:
Next era is of compact and multipurpose devices. Inkless printers exist today more in POC and less in practice. These printers don’t have ink in it but it uses special paper - papers which have special dye on them and they can be reused. These technology will make printers smaller with less moving parts which effectively increases the printing speed.
3-D Printing:
Don’t be surprised by this tile as they are not my imagination. They also exist in real but in POC stage. All above are wrongly put under ‘revolution’ title as they are merely ‘evolution’. This one is real revolution in printing. This will enable you tomorrow to print any model in matter of minutes then which are in todays world done in days.

After tomorrow,
Printer which are going to come after tomorrow, may be in next 75 years (earlier if nanotechnology makes breakthroughs). The 3-D printers today use powder spraying and drying them layer by layer. But future printer will make object by the material you feed. Main implication of these will drastically improve the speed and cost of manufacturing. But what I am interested in seeing is self upgrading printers. If any manufacturing defect is left in the printer, all you need to do is get upgrade instructions and give it to printer. Printer will remold itself to remove the ‘bug’.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

From M N Venkatachalaiah’s mouth

Yesterday, former chief justice of India M N Venkatachalaiah spoke about National Values and it’s preservation in an even organized at Bangalore. This is what he has to say about humans of 2050 and beyond,

“If you live till 2050, you’d probably live forever. I almost think it’s feasible like writer Raymond Kuber says. I believe we will enter a time that would leave no mark of resemblance with the present era. It will happen soon.”

“25 years from now, we would not know what the present was like. We are probably entering the most confusing time of our life. Change as we can see in technology is tumultuous. How do we protect our value of kindness, honesty and patriotism in these time of rapid change?”

Does this mean future is coming with ruthlessness, dishonesty and flexible morality? I think it coming if we don’t change our approach. What he had to say at the first quotation is that science will enable us to do many things as it has done in future. But if rich people become greedy and just keep consuming the resources, we will soon be trapped into the world with less resource for common man.