Under normal circumstances, a mouse has a limited number of functions: point and click are about the extent of this little guy's controls. But according to a recently published patent finding, Apple (News - Alert) may have some new plans for the mouse that open up its possibilities in terms of interacting with a computer.
The patent filing in question details an input device--the pictures attached to the patent seem to make it pretty clear that this will be a mouse--that offers motion controls, allowing different functions to be activated by different motions with the mouse itself. Tilting the mouse in one direction or another, for example, would trigger one function, while other functions would be activated by lifting the mouse off the normal surface, or by tapping the mouse in place.
Perhaps even more noteworthy is that, under Apple's projected plan, gestures could actually be combined to form new commands. For instance, while tilting the mouse would do one thing, and lifting it would do another, the combination of lifting and tilting might yield a third, completely different function.
Image via Shutterstock
How would the mouse be able to tell when all these things were happening? It's actually a lot simpler than might be expected; the mouse would contain a variety of extra components, like at least one gyroscope as well as accelerometers and optical sensors, to help the mouse identify where it is in space as compared to the flat surface on which it is currently resting. For those who prefer one gesture over another, or simply don't want to mess with some gestures, the interface is even programmable, allowing users to remove some functions or have specific manipulations perform specific functions within the graphical user interface (GUI).
While the early patent drawings seem to indicate a mouse, there's also a potential that this design scheme could be worked into Apple's iOS device line, allowing iPhones and iPod Touch models to be used as input devices for larger Apple hardware. There are already some apps that will do this, but Apple may be out to make a first-party solution instead.
The particularly good part about this idea is the level of customization. If the idea of having a huge array of functions is daunting, just dial down the total function count to a more manageable level. Users will be able to select for themselves if they want a mouse that can do a dozen things, or a mouse with just a couple extra functions, as they like. That gives such a mouse an incredible versatility, and makes it well worth considering for most anyone.
Whether or not this Apple mouse will make it past the patent stage--many Apple patents never see the light of day--isn't yet known, but the possibility for Apple to make a powerful new device for controlling its larger hardware may be just a couple clicks, a lift and a tilt away from reality.
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Edited by Brooke Neuman