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Mauz goes all 'Minority Report' as a mouse replacement

The Mauz Kickstarter project gets a CES 2013 debut as a working prototype of the iPhone-based mouse replacement shows off its gesture-control technology.

Mauz on an iPhone
Mauz is currently up as a Kickstarter project. Amanda Kooser/CNET

LAS VEGAS--We tech writers are constantly comparing real products to what we've seen in sci-fi movies. I'm still waiting for my Hoverboard, but at least we're inching a little closer to some "Minority Report"-style computer interfaces with the Mauz, a device that turns your iPhone into a mouse with special skills.

Mauz prototype
The hardware portion of Mauz is reasonably discreet. (Click to enlarge.) Amanda Kooser/CNET

Mauz is like a combination of the Wii remote, the Kinect, and a desktop mouse. It involves a small device that plugs into your iPhone and an app that makes the magic happen.

Visiting Mauz at CES 2013, I caught the team looking pretty stressed as they struggled with getting Mauz to work over Wi-Fi at the same time 50 gajillion other exhibitors were weighing down the network. They did get it up and running to show off using the phone like a traditional mouse with touch-screen clicks; like a Wii by manipulating a 3D model on-screen by waving the iPhone in the air; and like a Kinect by switching between tabs on a browser by waving a hand in the air above it.

So how does this experience compare with Tom Cruise waving his hands around and getting things done in "Minority Report?" It's not really very close, but you can see the potential. Mauz uses the iPhone's front-facing camera to detect hand movement. That means you can wave your hand over it to change channels, for example. It's far away from the super-detailed work we saw Cruise do, but for right now, we'll take what we can get.

The Mauz demo I saw was conducted with a production-ready prototype. The electronic innards are all ready to go and the app is running. A freshly launched Kickstarter project is aiming to get the funding together to go into production. The early-bird pledge price for a Mauz is $45. The Mauz team estimates it will take about six months to get the device into production.

A lot of the potential for the Mauz centers around harnessing the capabilities of the iPhone. Users can set shortkeys and the app can could be extremely customized to work with specific devices and programs. It also frees you from the flat surface of your desk, giving you an opportunity for a more natural interface with your computer. Plus, you can pretend you're Tom Cruise if you're into that sort of thing.

Mauz in use
Mauz works up in the air as well as down on a desk. Amanda Kooser/CNET