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Next-gen Apple mouse may dump scroll ball for touch housing

post #1 of 51
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One of the Apple fellows behind the company's multi-touch iPhone interface has shifted his attention to a next-generation mouse design that will forego the use of buttons or a scroll ball in favor of a touch-sensitive housing, a recent company filing has revealed.

In a December 6, 2006 patent filing with the United States Patent and Trademark Office, iPhone interface designer Brian Huppi describes a next-generation Apple mouse design method that is capable of switching between operational modes based on the way a user holds or grips the device's enclosures.

"The method generally comprises first sensing in which hand position the mouse is being held, each hand position indicating a corresponding mode of operation of the mouse," Huppi wrote. "If the mouse is being held in a first hand position, the mouse performs according to a first mode of operation, whereas if the mouse is being held in a second hand position, the mouse performs according to a second mode of operation."

The Apple interface designer said the first mode of operation may be a cursor control mode and the first operations on the display screen may be cursor movements on the display screen. The second mode, he continued, may be a pan and/or scroll control mode and the second operations on the display screen may be scrolling and/or panning movements on the display screen.

For example, Huppi in the illustrations accompanying the filing shows that when the mouse is held in its conventional form -- with the index finger somewhat centered near the upper housing and remaining fingers spread towards the sides -- it will function in cursor control mode. However, should the user shift their grip on the mouse downwards or engross the top housing with four fingers, it would shift into pan/scroll control mode.

As part of the invention, Huppi notes, the mouse is configured to provide command information, which informs the host system (Mac) as to which of the GUI movements (e.g., cursor or scroll/pan) to implement when the mouse is moved along the surface.

The Apple Mouse Held in Cursor Control Mode

"The command information is generally provided by a switch arrangement that is actuated by the user during manipulation of the mouse, i.e., the user may switch between cursor movements and scroll/pan movements," he wrote. "For example, the switch arrangement may activate the cursor movements when the hand is positioned proximate the modal areas and it may activate the scroll/pan movements when the hand is positioned away from the modal areas (or vice versa)."

The position of the modal areas relative to the mouse housing may be widely varied, Huppi added. "For example, the modal areas may be positioned almost anywhere (e.g., top, side, front, or back) on the mouse housing so long as they are accessible to a user during manipulation of the mouse."

The Apple Mouse Held in Pan/Scroll Mode

In one particular embodiment of the invention, the Apple designer said optical sensors are used. "In this embodiment, the optical sensors are located within the mouse housing, and the mouse housing has light passing portions close to the optical sensors that allow the optical sensors to work through the housing," he explained. "The light passing portions may be formed from a translucent or semi-translucent material or from a material that is filtered so as to allow only certain spectrums of light (e.g., infrared) therethrough."

The Apple Mouse Designs Sans Scroll Ball

Like Apple's existing Mighty Mouse, Huppi's invention calls for the device to include one or more concealed buttons that provide a clicking action for performing actions on the display screen. "By way of example, the actions may include selecting an item on the screen, opening a file or document, executing instructions, starting a program, viewing a menu, and/or the like," the filing states. "The buttons may be widely varied. For example, the buttons may be mechanical buttons that are disposed in the housing or a unified button/housing that incorporates the functionality of a button (or buttons) directly into the mouse housing."

The patent application, revealed for the first time Thursday, remains under review.
post #2 of 51
Maybe I am just to fussy but I do not care for my mighty mouse because it lacks enough tactile feel. I can't see myself going for a mouse like this.
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post #3 of 51
While a cool use of technology, it's not exactly intuitive.
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post #4 of 51
Quote:
Originally Posted by bigdaddyp View Post

Maybe I am just to fussy but I do not care for my mighty mouse because it lacks enough tactile feel. I can't see myself going for a mouse like this.

I agree! I'll stick to my Logitech G5, Thinking about a Logitech G7

 

 

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post #5 of 51
I can see some potential here, but it sounds like more work to move your hand into pan/scroll postition than just putting your finger on the scroll ball. Maybe it isn't explained well enough why you want these different operation modes instead of having them available at the same time without moving the hand.

Personally, the Mighty Mouse is the best Apple mouse yet, but it still has it's problems as have all Apple mice. They are made to look good, not function well.
post #6 of 51
I see this more as a solution to issues with the scroll ball. A really cool idea, but pretty far off.

Lots of users are complaining about the scroll ball getting too dirty to work correctly. If fact, my Might Mouse won't activate the dashboard with its button because [assuming] it got too dirty too. I don't consider myself a very dirty person, but I'm not going to wash my hands each time I go to the computer. . .
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post #7 of 51
So... not all of Apple's product line is going touch-screen, eh?

I suppose that while touch is great for tablets and phones, graphics pros on 30" screens may prefer an input device.

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post #8 of 51
Hm... Well, I hope it works better than the Might Mouse. I was excited to buy mine when they first came out, but after using two different Mighty Mice, I have to say it's a very unreliable, often frustrating mouse.

The only reason I think Steve hasn't yet thrown his Mighty Mouse at the designers is that he uses it in single-click mode without ever reaching for the scroll button
post #9 of 51
It seems like the basic idea behind this is to mimic the cursor icons for pointing (an index finger up), and pan/scrolling (The hand with all 5 fingers outstretched)

Sure it's a cool idea, but as was pointed out. It takes more effort to put your fingers in the appropriate position than to just move the scroll ball a little bit. I like the scroll ball, and I think it's the best feature of the mighty mouse. They definitely need to stick with it. If it gets dirty, just clean it!
post #10 of 51
Those are the ugliest hands I've ever seen!
post #11 of 51
I wrote an article about that very topic over a month ago.

http://themacjedi.com/blog/files/200...se-coming.html
post #12 of 51
Glad to see ET's hand-modeling career really start to take off.
post #13 of 51
Quote:
Originally Posted by DeaPeaJay View Post

If it gets dirty, just clean it!

If only they let you. At some point, the ball WILL stop working beyond what a wipe with an alcohol swipe will cure. For me, that point is roughly every 6 months, when I complain and get another new Mighty Mouse free from Apple. I'm on my fourth.

IMHO, you should be allowed to pop the cover off, remove the ball and clean the stuck spindles.
post #14 of 51
I'll happily embrace a change to the current Mighty Mouse. I applaud the additional buttons, but the scroll ball isn't able to be cleaned. Once something gets in there, you basically toss the mouse or deal with a loss of that functionality.

I believe there's a lot of room out there for touch screen mice. This is a new technology for the mouse so it's going to seem odd to a lot of us. I hope it's something that works better than the Mighty Mouse. If I could have the finger gestures on the new mouse similar to how the iPhone works with scrolling I'd buy it in a heart beat. There'll probably be a few features to them that we're completely not expecting.

Anybody think this will be held for Leopard?
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post #15 of 51
The ONLY thing I like about the mighty mouse is that it has a short cord. All third party mice seem to have this wicked long cord for PCs that need the mouse to connect to the back of the computer instead of a nice short cord to connect to the keyboard instead.

I get extremely frustrated using the Mightymouse, as it is way to easy to accidentally click with the side buttons, or have your finger resting in just the right position to right click, etc.

The scroll ball is another mess. As a service provider, we exchange those buggers on a regular basis for customers. Apple has to see that there is such a high return rate on them to know they have to change something.
post #16 of 51
whatever it takes to get a working scroll mouse out of apple. as much as i love my mighty mouse, i'm tired of having flashbacks to the eighties every time i need to clean the silly little scroll button. it always seem to get stuck at the most inopportune moment. i've also often contemplated what kind of hands you need to make the side buttons work for you. buttons '4' are usually the first thing i turn off when i set up a mac.
post #17 of 51
Quote:
Originally Posted by aegisdesign View Post

For me, that point is roughly every 6 months, when I complain and get another new Mighty Mouse free from Apple. I'm on my fourth

That's funny because I've had my mighty mouse for a year and the scroll ball is still working fantastically. People always complain more than giving compliments so I thought I'd chip in.

Keep hands clean. It's always a good idea anyway. I swear to god some people just don't care about personal hygiene. I'm a guy, and if you pay attention to what other people are doing (or not doing) in men's restroom, you'll think twice before shaking hands with a total stranger.
post #18 of 51
Quote:
Originally Posted by emig647 View Post

I agree! I'll stick to my Logitech G5, Thinking about a Logitech G7

Best mouse I ever had was a logitech marble mouse. Only reason I don't use it know is because its not wireless. I know its going to sound sacrilegious but I went back to my microsoft wireless mouse and keyboard because that mouse may have less functionality but has a better feel then the mighty mouse.
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post #19 of 51
You are lucky that you haven't yet had problems. One can only keep their work environment so clean. Eventually dust and grime will build up in the mouse. Unless you do daily cleanings, this will happen. Some people have sweatier hands than others, so it may happen more often to them.

The design of the ball is such that when it does happen, there is no recourse. Back in the old days with ball mice, at least you could remove the ball and clean it. Here, you're simply screwed.
post #20 of 51
Why can't they use optical technology in the scroll ball instead of the wheels, which are apparently getting stuck and dirty.

I had an optical scroll ball mouse once, I don't remember dirt being a problem with it. I remember it had little markings on the ball, presumably for the optical sensor to use in tracking. Perhaps the scroll ball in the mighty mouse is too small for optical technology to work with it?
post #21 of 51
I've always felt the mighty mouse as a whole was a solution looking for a problem. Apparently Apple is the only company out there who thinks that having two specific buttons is a major headache/design flaw, and building a mouse as a big button that depends on finger location to know left or right click was the cure.

And the ball is another "Look what we can do different!" feature that solved the never-ending problem of scroll-wheel reliability/usability.

Apple just needs to stop always putting design and form over function. I mean, the macbook pro looks nice and all, but couldn't they make it a little clunkier but easy to replace the harddrive???
post #22 of 51

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post #23 of 51
Quote:
Originally Posted by Louzer View Post

I've always felt the mighty mouse as a whole was a solution looking for a problem. Apparently Apple is the only company out there who thinks that having two specific buttons is a major headache/design flaw, and building a mouse as a big button that depends on finger location to know left or right click was the cure.

And the ball is another "Look what we can do different!" feature that solved the never-ending problem of scroll-wheel reliability/usability.

Apple just needs to stop always putting design and form over function. I mean, the macbook pro looks nice and all, but couldn't they make it a little clunkier but easy to replace the harddrive???

That's what makes Apple a great company! You'll notice it's only the geeks who complain about the Mighty Mouse. Most ordinary people don't care. They like the mouse fine. I admit though, that the Mighty Mouse is sort of petty about not having multiple buttons.

By keeping things simple and intuitive, Apple *IS* putting function over design and form. You can have all the functionality in the world, but if it's not designed well, it's worthless. If Apple took advice about functionality from geeks like us they wouldn't be as good, because they don't design products for geeks like us. They design them for the ordinary person and that's where their strength is.
post #24 of 51
Quote:
Originally Posted by DeaPeaJay View Post

They design them for the ordinary person and that's where their strength is.

Hmm... I'm not sure that's entirely accurate. I'd say, they design products for Steve right now, so nearly everything reflects his likes.

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post #25 of 51
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Originally Posted by zzcoop View Post

Those are the ugliest hands I've ever seen!



I was thinking that exact thing.
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post #26 of 51
Hopefully this new thing will work for us left-handed, too. It would worry me if not.
post #27 of 51
Quote:
Originally Posted by JCE10 View Post

Keep hands clean. It's always a good idea anyway. I swear to god some people just don't care about personal hygiene.

I'd say I was pretty clean most of the time, however, the little critter is in my hand for 12-18 hours a day, 7 days a week normally for me so I guess I'm using it more than you do to get a year out of it. I also reckon it's not dirt/grease on the hands that's the problem as that can be cleaned off with an alcohol swipe and the mouse upside down. I reckon it's specks of dirt, an eyelash or whatever jamming in the roller rather than dirt on the ball/roller interface that stops the roller going round.


Quote:
Originally Posted by DeaPeaJay View Post

That's what makes Apple a great company! You'll notice it's only the geeks who complain about the Mighty Mouse. Most ordinary people don't care. They like the mouse fine. I admit though, that the Mighty Mouse is sort of petty about not having multiple buttons.

By keeping things simple and intuitive, Apple *IS* putting function over design and form. You can have all the functionality in the world, but if it's not designed well, it's worthless. If Apple took advice about functionality from geeks like us they wouldn't be as good, because they don't design products for geeks like us. They design them for the ordinary person and that's where their strength is.

There's nothing wrong with being a geek *AND* liking good aesthetic design. I spend most of my time looking at a computer all day so making it look good too shouldn't be dismissed as unimportant, even when I'm doing über geek tasks like writing code. I once worked in a mainframe machine room staring at large blue and orange boxes and green screens all day - no windows and the sound of large air con fans all around. The work itself was a geek wet dream but the environment I worked in wasn't pleasant.

I also think the 'no buttons' design is quite good for computer novices who have real problems with two button mice and context menus. I bought my parents a MacBook at Christmas and having just one button to press is one of the things they really like in comparison to the multi button nightmare they had with their old Windows PC.
post #28 of 51
Come on, Apple. Stop trying to "improve" the mouse and just give us another MultiTouch tablet. The iGesture can do all this and more but it needs to be in production again if people are going to buy it. I live in some fear that my iGesture tablet is going to drop dead someday and I'll have to replace it with one of the rare ones that sell on eBay for 3x original retail price. But what can I say, once you go MultiTouch, you never want to go back. This patent is, after all, nothing more than an adaptation of MultiTouch functionality. Fingerworks iGesture users have been using 1 finger to move text cursor, two to move mouse pointer, four to scroll and pan for years. It's easy for some people to claim "it takes too much effort" because they've never actually used such gestures.
post #29 of 51
Quote:
Originally Posted by SpamSandwich View Post

Hmm... I'm not sure that's entirely accurate. I'd say, they design products for Steve right now, so nearly everything reflects his likes.

Well I would venture to say that Steve has a good eye for design, and knows what the average person needs and is looking for. He turned Apple around with it! There's no debating that.

There is a fine balance between good design and functionality.
post #30 of 51
Quote:
Originally Posted by DeaPeaJay View Post

That's what makes Apple a great company! You'll notice it's only the geeks who complain about the Mighty Mouse. Most ordinary people don't care. They like the mouse fine. I admit though, that the Mighty Mouse is sort of petty about not having multiple buttons.

By keeping things simple and intuitive, Apple *IS* putting function over design and form. You can have all the functionality in the world, but if it's not designed well, it's worthless. If Apple took advice about functionality from geeks like us they wouldn't be as good, because they don't design products for geeks like us. They design them for the ordinary person and that's where their strength is.

No, the complaints I usually see on the mighty mouse come down to "its great as a one button mouse, but its a pain using the right-click". People shouldn't have to re-invent the way they've used a device just because Apple decides they want to "improve" it. Apple didn't make a "better mouse", they just made a "different" mouse. Basically, the whole single-button design was done because apple doesn't want to have a multi-button mouse "by default". You still need to enable the right-click, so half the users may not even know there is a right-click.

As for design over functionality, apple overdoes it (and I look at design as in looks, not 'ease of use', which is completely different and a whole different topic). Again, why can MacBook owners easily swap out a hard drive, but macbook pro owners can't? Or, more imporatantly, why in the hell does a mac tower have to weigh 60 pounds? My G5 looks nice (for those three seconds I see it sitting under the desk every day), but after that, who cares? I see my Dell for the same amount of time. Yes, the PowerMac "looks" nicer. But, it can only hold two hard drives, and three PCI slots (one a PCI-X). I've got three firewire disks sitting on my desk because I can't put them in my mac. I also need a USB hub because once you plug in the keyboard and UPS, there's no more available ports on the back of the computer! What kind of stupidity is that? My crappy looking dell tower was way cheaper, is smaller, lighter, can have more hard drives, two external bays, a PCI-Express slot, 8 USB ports, etc, etc, etc.

Sorry, but Apple worries too much about things looking good, and not enough about what people actually need.
post #31 of 51
No thanks. I require tactile feedback... and a non horse-pill shape.

Get with it, Apple. Your mice have sucked ever since the Puck.

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post #32 of 51
Well, I hope they wait at least 6 months after iPhone to come up with more touch-screen products, because i've got the distinct feeling that touch-screen will soon be a thing of the past for a 3rd time in the last 3 decades. I think the touch screen will doom not only iPhone, but make the forums light up with people talking about how they wish Apple would re-release the small-screen iPod...

While I think the Mighty Mouse feels pretty crappy as a product already, I think a touch interface would make it even less intuitive. I'll stick with my logitech, which has buttons and scroll wheel in all the right places... It's great that Apple is trying to re-invent the wheel so often, but they've also stuck to their guns a little too long on things like 1 button mouses and trackpads, no forward delete key, using different names than ctrl and alt (at least in North Americal), and of course not supporting quality audio/video codec options like XVid, FLAC, etc. etc.

Also, anyone who thinks the Mighty Mouse is "functional and intuitive" must think that only needing one hand to use a mouse is not, which seems ridiculous to me. Needing a hand on the keyboard to get right-click functionality seems to defeat one of the great uses of the mouse, namely, one-handed functionality...
post #33 of 51
You almost had me until you said using different names than ctrl? What is that left bottom and right bottom key on your keyboard? Why does the keyboard mapping ^ point to ctrl, why do the docs say to use control-c to quit a terminal process? All they did was replace the windows key with command... I love command so much more than control on windows. It's a lot easier to keep my hand in home row position and use my thumb then to move my entire hand to put my pinky on control.

 

 

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post #34 of 51
Quote:
Originally Posted by emig647 View Post

You almost had me until you said using different names than ctrl? What is that left bottom and right bottom key on your keyboard? Why does the keyboard mapping ^ point to ctrl, why do the docs say to use control-c to quit a terminal process? All they did was replace the windows key with command... I love command so much more than control on windows. It's a lot easier to keep my hand in home row position and use my thumb then to move my entire hand to put my pinky on control.

Sorry, I'm just thinking about documentation issues, or switching between windows and osx apps, when it becomes confusing and redundant to have to constantly translate and remember the differences between command, option, control, alt, etc. It wouldn't be so bad if option was always the same as alt, etc. but it isn't in apps like photoshop and logic.

Also, I bought my macbook in Denmark, where the option key doesn't exist (it is called the alt key here), but is still referred to in all of the documentation, which is ridiculous. It feels like Apple could save some needless headaches by going with the keyboard layout which exists on over 80% of computers (also, by including a forward-delete key...). I know it's a pride thing to the brand to stick with some of its unique things like this, but it's also a waste of energy in my opinion.
post #35 of 51
You know you can change the command and control keys in the keyboard prefs? So if you wnat the control key to act as the command key you can do that

I see your point though...

 

 

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post #36 of 51
Quote:
Originally Posted by SpamSandwich View Post

I knew it.

So did I, thats why I started this thread last July. I for one can't wait for that ball to be gone.
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post #37 of 51
Rather than detecting different hand positions, how about letting the user tilt the mouse horizontally or vertically to scroll & pan? The greater the angle, the faster the scroll, like rolling a ball bearing around on a surface.

For more, see: http://stealthisidea.com/articles/tilt-mouse/
post #38 of 51
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ireland View Post

So did I, thats why I started this thread last July. I for one can't wait for that ball to be gone.

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post #39 of 51
Quote:
Originally Posted by phaine View Post

Rather than detecting different hand positions, how about letting the user tilt the mouse horizontally or vertically to scroll & pan? The greater the angle, the faster the scroll, like rolling a ball bearing around on a surface.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.

Try it in all 4 directions with your own mouse, imagine doing it 20 times a day and you'll see just how bad an idea that is.
post #40 of 51
Quote:
Originally Posted by Superbass View Post

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.

Try it in all 4 directions with your own mouse, imagine doing it 20 times a day and you'll see just how bad an idea that is.

You are right that a steep tilt angle would kill. A little tilt would have to go a long way.
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