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Microsoft launches site for mouse-drawn artwork

The software giant creates The Art of Touch site to encourage users to create digital paintings and learning about the company's hardware products.

A creation from a user named John Lindblom on Microsoft Art of Touch Web site, meant to promote its Touch series of mice.
Microsoft; screenshot by Jay Greene/CNET

Microsoft today launched a Web site, The Art of Touch, that lets Netizens create their own digital paintings.

On the site, which uses HTML5, users can select three different width paint brushes as well as six effects that alter each "brush stroke" with mouse movements. The palette of pastel colors are pre-selected, generated as would-be artists move their mice at different speeds. So when users slide their mouse slowly, for example, they can create a ribbon of red surrounded by starbursts of blue and yellow.

For Microsoft, the idea is to generate interest in its "Touch" series of mice, though, the site works with any mouse, or even a touch pad on a laptop. It doesn't work with tablets, such as the iPad, where finger strokes move or resize the screen.

Ben Reed, a senior manager in Microsoft's hardware group, calls the effort a "social experiment." Microsoft's goal is to engage consumers and raise awareness of the company's products.

The company has recruited three generative artists to create special effects for the site. One of them, Norwegian artist Marius Watz, said he was intrigued by the possibility of users tinkering with his creations, something that doesn't typically happen with his art.

"As an artist, you're not usually that promiscuous with your work," Watz said. "I'm pleased that it is irreverent."

Users can print out their work, share on social networks, or even create T-shirts, coffee mugs, and the like featuring their work through a connection with Zazzle. And Microsoft is holding a contest, where the top vote-getters can win a computer and mouse.