University of Wyoming researchers have developed a novel wearable device, called 3DTouch, which could revolutionize the way we interact with computers. While a computer mouse is useful and has dominated the way we have interacted with computers for the last 50 odd years, it is restricted to two-dimensional movements; this new piece of technology would allow us to interact in three-dimensions. The device has been described in arXiv.
Interacting in 3D is certainly not a new idea. You’ve been able to buy a mouse capable of sensing its position in three dimensions for some time, but they’ve generally had poor resolution. Then there’s the awesome Kinect for Xbox or Nintendo Wii, but unfortunately they’re not transferrable to computers.
This new mobile device, which sits on your finger like a thimble, can accurately sense its position in 3D and is capable of responding to various preprogrammed mouse-like gestures, for example a finger tap, that allow the user to interact with objects in 3D. It’s also small, cheap and can be used with almost any computing device.
The device makes use of three different types of sensor: a 3D accelerometer, a 3D magnetometer and a 3D gyroscope. The marriage of these 3 different sensors allows a superior estimate of orientation compared to using them in isolation. Furthermore, wearing several devices on different fingers enables multitouch interaction.
While the device may look a little untidy at the moment due to the wires needed to connect it to the controller, the researchers told MIT Technology Review that this could eventually be swapped with a wireless solution.
The researchers say that the pointing accuracy is reasonably good but has room for improvement. However, they already know how they could shrink positioning errors, for example by using a more reliable optical sensor.
It’s a little too early to tell if the device will live up to expectations, but at this stage it certainly seems promising.
Check out this video for a demonstration: