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Moving beyond the mouse trap

National | Two University of Delaware researchers may have built the proverbial "better mousetrap" by getting rid of the mouse.

Issue: "Troops hunt for weapons," June 14, 2003

Two University of Delaware researchers may have built the proverbial "better mousetrap" by getting rid of the mouse. They invented a new way to control a computer with a combination of hand gestures.

Users can point, click, and zoom by wiggling their fingers. Secret gestures can replace passwords. A twist of the hand opens files. Tap three fingers on the pad to double click.

Inventors Wayne Westerman and John Elias developed a system called MultiTouch that uses special sensors to detect hand motions. Right now the device is a work in progress as they develop new ways to make it more useful.

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Computer designers have long looked for mouse substitutes so that users can point and click without having a gadget dangling from the desk. Most laptops use some sort of touchpad where the finger moves to guide the pointer. The IBM Thinkpad is famous for the TrackPoint, a little red eraser-like tip that directs the arrow across the screen. Joysticks and trackballs have crossed over from video arcade games as possible replacements.

Westerman and Elias claim their creation is the most stress-free yet, so the user should be able to work faster without fatigue.

The catch is that users must learn a set of gestures to control the iGesture pad. The device automatically recognizes the left or right hand and adjusts accordingly. It comes with a basic set of gestures, optimized for office productivity software, and can be customized for other functions.

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