This past weekend’s iPhone launch has introduced hundreds of thousands of users to a new paradigm for mobile computing interfaces, multi-touch. While only time will show if an small, touchscreen keyboard will be a pleasant and productive experience, there are any number of other companies and researchers experimenting with different ways of controlling our digital devices. I’ve been using a Kensington Orbit for years, for instance, a USB trackball that has proven tough, easy to use and helpful for scrolling and editing long lines of code. Earlier this year, I invested in a Logitech MX Revolution, easily the best wireless mouse I’ve ever experienced. I can’t emphasize how much I love the hyperscroll wheel, forward/backward buttons right where my thumb rests or programmable buttons.
This afternoon, however, I found a new and downright fun new way of moving the cursor around the screen. Sadly, the brain-computer interface (BCI) that DARPA is developing isn’t quite ready for prime time, so don’t get too excited — yet. Instead, programmer Larry Lart has created uMouse, a free Windows application that, in concert a USB webcam, allows the user to control the cursor and left- or right-click using head movements or hand gestures. While the real-time visual tracking the program uses to translate movement into directives is a bit processor intensive, anyone who presents often or needs to have more flexibility in where and how they interact with a laptop or workstation now has another option with undeniable geek appeal.
Nice work, Larry! Now, to decide what I want my PC to do when I smile.