To Kill a Mouse…

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There’s been a lot of discussion about human interface devices in the last few years, and in the light of the recent SXSW additions, I thought I’d throw my hat in. I’ve been looking forward to getting rid of my mouse, keyboard, gamepad, etc in lieu of “simpler”, faster, more immersive devices. Here are a few options, and my opinions on their possibilities from a gamer’s point of view.

Touch screen/MS Surface etc

Useless. I’m confused with this as an option and always have been. Sure, it gives you a more visio-tactile method of interaction, but who wants RSI (Repetitive Strain Injury) in their shoulders? Imagine geeks with mounds of lats stacked up behind their necks. Not good. I could see it as a party game interface, but there’s no way a multi-touch surface is going to win over a mouse/keyboard in an RTS environment. Unless you don’t care about winning…

Wii-mote/PS3 SIXAXIS etc

This, in my mind, is basically a wireless mouse – but one that you have to elevate. Seems like more work – not less – to me. One would also conceivably need to continue use of the keyboard. While it has possibilities for use as a pointing/aiming device, again, RSI in the shoulders. No thanks.

Retinal Tracking

Wiki says this, “A camera focuses on one or both eyes and records their movement as the viewer looks at some kind of stimulus. Most modern eye-trackers use contrast to locate the center of the pupil and use infrared and near-infrared non-collumnated light to create a corneal reflection (CR). The vector between these two features can be used to compute gaze intersection with a surface after a simple calibration for an individual.”

Combine a lightweight headset like this with a voice support and you might be on to something. Retinal tracking headsets also could use a “retinal painting” technology to combine output with this input device, thereby killing the monitor as well.

Direct Neural Interface/”Jacking In”

This headset was recently in the news, as a model from “Emotiv” (http://www.emotiv.com/) will be on the market this year for about $300USD. It will most likely be simply a sub-par attempt and your money might be well saved for a second or third generation attempt. In my mind, this is the ideal interface option. If you’re having problems picturing it, imagine the interface from the film The Matrix, but without the implant. Direct input to a machine, which sends direct output back into your brain.

However… I’ve often wondered if human beings could mentally handle such an interface. Doubtless, the separation of real life and fantasy would begin to waver with some users. At the other end of the scale, many would embrace such a seamless integration with open arms. Who really knows how we would react to such an experience… I suppose no one, but every day that passes is one day closer to finding out.

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