Minput brings mouse control to small devices

A proof-of-concept input device from Carnegie Mellon University promises to make very small mobile devices easier to use by turning them into mouse-like input tools.

Tim Hornyak
Crave freelancer Tim Hornyak is the author of "Loving the Machine: The Art and Science of Japanese Robots." He has been writing about Japanese culture and technology for a decade. E-mail Tim.
Tim Hornyak
2 min read
Carnegie Mellon

Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University have devised a prototype input technology that brings mouse control and optical motion tracking to very small mobile devices.

Minput, by Chris Harrison and Scott Hudson of CMU's Human-Computer Interaction Institute, effectively turns small mobile devices into mouse-like input tools. It was recently presented (PDF) at the ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems in Atlanta.

Harrison, whose Skinput device can turn parts of the body into a touch screen, says Minput could allow for matchbook-size media players controlled by moving them around on a surface like the palm of your hand.

The proof-of-concept device is based on an NHJ VTV 100 TV wristwatch with a 1.5-inch TFT LCD screen. The underside of the watch was fitted with two optical sensors from SlimG4 mice. A USB cable linked the watch to a separate PC, which handled interface control and sensor data.

In the video, a photo browser and media player in Minput are controlled by flicking left/right and up/down, as well as twisting. These allow the user to scroll through media and navigate menu hierarchies. A separate function can zoom into and scroll through media like photos and Web pages.

A number of research projects, including MIT's SixthSense and Japan's Ishikawa Komuro labs are positing fingers as replacements for mice or traditional touch screens.

Minput is a neat idea if you appreciate the accelerometer functions in the iPhone and iPod Touch (for instance, shaking the unit to play the next song) but don't like their bulky size. If you'd really want to read The New York Times on a screen the size of a watch face, Minput would make it easier.