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Intelligent Thimble Could Replace the Mouse In 3D Virtual Reality Worlds

Unknown Lamer posted about two weeks ago | from the ring-of-wizardy dept.

Input Devices 65

New submitter anguyen8 (3736553) writes with news of an interesting experimental spatial input device. From the article: "The mouse is a hugely useful device but it is also a two-dimensional one. But what of the three-dimensional world and the long-standing, but growing, promise of virtual reality. What kind of device will take the place of the mouse when we begin to interact in three-dimensions? Anh Nguyen and Amy Banic ... have created an intelligent thimble that can sense its position accurately in three-dimensions and respond to a set of pre-programmed gestures that allow the user to interact with objects in a virtual three-dimensional world. ... The result is the 3DTouch, a thimble-like device that sits on the end of a finger, equipped with a 3D accelerometer, a 3D magnetometer, and 3D gyroscope. That allows the data from each sensor to be compared and combined to produce a far more precise estimate of orientation than a single measurement alone. In addition, the 3DTouch has an optical flow sensor that measures the movement of the device against a two-dimensional surface, exactly like that inside an ordinary mouse." The prototype is wired up to an Arduino Uno, with a program on the host machine polling the device and converting the data into input events. A video of it in action is below the fold, a pre-print of the research paper is on arxiv, and a series of weblog entries explain some of the development.

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65 comments

I always wondered (0)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47404063)

Why a thimble in Monopoly.

Re:I always wondered (1)

anguyen8 (3736553) | about two weeks ago | (#47404337)

Why a thimble in Monopoly.

If not thimble, what other choices you have as a universal 3D input device working on both desktop and spatial settings?

IT IS A THYMBOL OF MY MATHUCLINITY (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47404397)

I just farted some cocaine. Tee hee.
 
PS: MSNBC told me that California is racist for banning black cars.

Mod parent up (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47404689)

You are a racist, you RACIST!

Re: I always wondered (0)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47407563)

The LEAP motion?
https://www.leapmotion.com

Re: I always wondered (1)

cyberchondriac (456626) | about two weeks ago | (#47409313)

Ugh, not that thing. Close, but there are differences. I had a Leap motion, it broke after a year. But in any case, it never quite worked out that well, and suffered almost as badly from gorilla arm syndrome as a touch screen. I was disappointed with it. It's also difficult to perform small, sensitive movements with your hands in the air hovering over the sensor, despite the fact that LEAP has high definition scanning.
My first thought was this was too similar and just as futile, but on further reflection, maybe not.. if you can just rest your arm on the desktop surface like you would for using a mouse, and not have to aim your fingers anywhere specific this might be comfortable and useful enough to be the "mouse killer" HID developers have been hoping for.

Sorry, no. (1)

djupedal (584558) | about two weeks ago | (#47404071)

I remember the thimble IBM used on one of their early laptops long ago, so...no, thanks.

Re:Sorry, no. (1)

Kremmy (793693) | about two weeks ago | (#47404621)

I remember it as well...and found IBM's to be surprisingly high quality. The models that found their way onto Dell laptops, on the other hand, made me carry a mouse.

Re:Sorry, no. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47406281)

Too true - those Dell and HP trackpoint wannabe's are poor excuses since the touchpad gets in the way. I have found it helpful to disable the touchpad on those PC's so they don't generate random inputs from accidental brushes of my thumbs.

The newer IBM/Lenovo designs are even better with a softer concave top that is much easier on the fingertip for long sessions compared to the "eraser head" that typically gets hard as the rubber dries out, and can become very uncomfortable quickly. Better yet, I have really been enjoying a Lenovo Thinkpad Tablet 2 keyboard with an optical Trackpoint that is even easier on my finger. When I have carpal tunnel and/or "tennis elbow" issues bother my mousing arm, this is so much easier since I do not have to move my hand from the keyboard to do 90% of my input (scrolling with a mouse wheel still is easier).

Another benefit of Trackpoint only is that no touchpad means more space for the keyboard so bigger keys, and more dedicated ones can be provided. That Tablet 2 keyboard has dedicated home/end/PgUp/PgDn keys - how many other 10-inch keyboards can fit those in with all the space wasted on the touchpad/palm rest area? My palm rest is a separate memory foam cushion in front of the keyboard instead of the hard surface typically next to the touchpad on either side, which is much better for my carpal tunnel issues.

Ring (1)

NEDHead (1651195) | about two weeks ago | (#47404095)

I had a 3D ring based system 15 years ago. I hope this is better

entrepreneurial embellishments (1)

turkeydance (1266624) | about two weeks ago | (#47404101)

ground floor opportunity: kickstarter to the rescue...pink pony thimbles, green zombie thimbles, and disposable/recyclable ones, too.

Who would want this shit? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47404111)

Faggots are dirty birds.

Your arm will get tired... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47404125)

Waving your arm around to interact with the 3d space will surely tire your arm out if you are sitting at a computer. Using it in the 2d space seems like an overly complex way to get the functionality of a mouse.

However, it does seem pretty neat despite the aforementioned pitfalls. It could be a neat way to interact with a computer that you might be standing a few feat away and need to start a process or something, just do the correct hand motion and it would start. Sure I could come up with more uses if I thought about it.

Re:Your arm will get tired... (2)

anguyen8 (3736553) | about two weeks ago | (#47404355)

Waving your arm around to interact with the 3d space will surely tire your arm out if you are sitting at a computer.

Fatigue problem you mentioned is exactly right... as it occurs with Kinect, LEAP, and Wii... that's why this touch device has potential with less fatigue incurred.

Re:Your arm will get tired... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47404413)

Fatigue.

With a Wiimote.

You gotta be pretty freaking lazy and weak to get tired moving a Wiimote around. Really, you're not waving it around all the time. You should know this even with a passing interest in the simple tech it uses. If you alternate between having your arms partially extended and keeping your elbows at your sides, you can play for hours.

Sorry, but no. Fatigue on the Wii. Heh.

Re:Your arm will get tired... (1)

parkinglot777 (2563877) | about two weeks ago | (#47406909)

You gotta be pretty freaking lazy and weak to get tired moving a Wiimote around.

It all depends on what game you play, who you are playing with, how often do you play, how intense you play, etc. You may never experience fatigue or muscle pain on the next day because you keep playing certain game that does not require much of the movement. Or you spend all your time playing Wii everyday so your muscle gets used to the movement. Who knows?

Re:Your arm will get tired... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47407323)

You can get "gorilla arm" from moving your arm in the same way all day.

It's not about the mass of the wiimote, it's about the movements it requires (typically the optimal movements to play the game are not something the human body is well built for as it's just that little bit different from real exercise), how frequently they're repeated and how long you play for.

You can get similar repetitive stress injuries from typing and operating a mouse under certain circumstances.

Arm. Tired. Really fast. Not practical. (2)

Lumpio- (986581) | about two weeks ago | (#47404157)

That's the only thing I can think of every time something like this surfaces. Try holding your arm horizontally in the air for 15 minutes. Bet you get tired before you hit 5. And I use the computer for hours on end.

Re:Arm. Tired. Really fast. Not practical. (1)

ReekRend (843787) | about two weeks ago | (#47404239)

You use the computer for hours? That's f'in nuts.

Re:Arm. Tired. Really fast. Not practical. (1)

rmdingler (1955220) | about two weeks ago | (#47404353)

Not to presume to tell another bloke how to behave,

but if it was me?

I'd rest during breaks for work.

Re:Arm. Tired. Really fast. Not practical. (1)

StripedCow (776465) | about two weeks ago | (#47405893)

If you can accomplish a task faster with a 3d-mouse than with a conventional mouse, and with less irritation, then why not?

Re:Arm. Tired. Really fast. Not practical. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47410139)

The solution:

submerge your entire arm horizontally into a block of jello-like substance.

5 of them for a virtual keyboard (1)

dibos (129766) | about two weeks ago | (#47404167)

Now, put one on each finger, and we can make virtual keyboards, and have all sorts of fun with the UI. 8 fingers.... 8 bits per byte... we could have each finger represent a bit, on or off. Then without moving the hands or stretching the fingers, each key on the keyboard is represented by which the fingers being lowered or not. Saves the thumbs, one for mouse positioning, the other for enabling mouse mode. In mouse mode, the rest of the fingers would do things like Ctrl-Alt-Shift-Super-Meta on one hand, and left click, right click, middle click on the other hand.

Re:5 of them for a virtual keyboard (0)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47404243)

What a stupid fucking idea

Re:5 of them for a virtual keyboard (0)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47404271)

What a stupid fucking idea

QFT.

Re:10 of them for a virtual keyboard (1)

renfrow (232180) | about two weeks ago | (#47404331)

This was the first thing I thought of when I read this. With a positional accuracy of 1mm (sure to get better) you can 'easily' type away at a virtual keyboard. You could do the above key chording as well for shortcuts or whatever. I would love to lean back in my chair, position my hands comfortably, and be able to type without being tied to a particular format of keyboard on my desk. My current favorite keyboard is a Microsoft 4000, I HATE the non-ergonomic straight line keyboards, and save particular loathing for laptop keyboards.

Re:10 of them for a virtual keyboard (1)

anguyen8 (3736553) | about two weeks ago | (#47404377)

I agree.. with all 10 fingers, it might be an overkill. However, modular solutions like 3DTouch will be the future.

Re:10 of them for a virtual keyboard (1)

pepty (1976012) | about two weeks ago | (#47404873)

How difficult is it for most people to memorize relative finger positions as opposed to absolute positions on a keyboard? How much lag will users experience transitioning to some other interface each time they get to a character they haven't memorized?

Re:10 of them for a virtual keyboard (0)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47423819)

The smaller the "thimble", the more people will like having them on every finger.

I'm already hesitant to use others' keyboards. Don't loan me your thimble. I won't know where it's been.

Re:5 of them for a virtual keyboard (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | about two weeks ago | (#47406899)

8 bits per byte... we could have each finger represent a bit, on or off.

66.

Or if you're British, 195.

20 years on the nose (2)

SpeedBump0619 (324581) | about two weeks ago | (#47404255)

Scott Adams predicted this many years ago [dilbert.com] , and I still agree with his analysis.

Re:20 years on the nose (0)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47407971)

Amazing. He predicted glassholes too!

Done, and done well already. (3, Insightful)

s.petry (762400) | about two weeks ago | (#47404263)

3DConexion, formerly Spacware/Spacetech and possibly a few other names have had advance 3D positioning devices since forever ago, replacing buttons and dials in CAD and CAE software. A thimble is not going to be more or less ergonomic. As with mice, I'm sure it's a personal preference so someone will like it better.The Spaceball however is designed for use with a relaxed hand and does much more than 3D positioning. Like zooming, centering, and what ever else you program the buttons to do

If you want to take "it's position" as the starting point I'll argue that the ergonomics is less than that of a Spaceball, and more in line with motion detecting devices that again we have had for well over a decade. The thimble won't be as useful in HFE, because open and closed hands are at least as important as position and rotation.

In short, this is a wheel that's already been invented. I don't see anything "novel" or even better than what we have had already. Maybe if fits a niche I'm not aware of or care much about.

Re:Done, and done well already. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47404515)

Yes, this. s.petry beat me to it.

The CAD engineers/designers at my place of employment already use the 3D Connexion devices (and no, I don't work for them or get any kickbacks for this). Agree 100% with s.petry that this wheel has already been invented. For reference, here's a link: http://www.bhphotovideo.com/bnh/controller/home?O=&sku=712775&gclid=CLrwpPLNtL8CFfHm7Aod6RYAug&Q=&is=REG&A=details

Tilting the wheel forward/back moves in Z space, left to right moves X space, and pressing down/releasing up moves Y space. Twisting the wheel rotates space clock/counterclock accordingly.

I don't see how this thimble concept is better. Meh.

Re:Done, and done well already. (1)

drkim (1559875) | about two weeks ago | (#47405229)

... I don't see anything "novel" or even better than what we have had already. Maybe if fits a niche I'm not aware of or care much about.

I think the advantage here is that this could be used be someone freestanding in a VR space.

The 3Dconnexion type devices (and I use one) is, like a mouse or keyboard, for someone with a desk surface in front of them.

Re:Done, and done well already. (1)

s.petry (762400) | about two weeks ago | (#47408049)

Not only are you ignorant to technology we have had in Virtual Reality for nearly 2 decades, you chose not to read (or ignored) my 2nd paragraph. No, the thimble is not better than motion tracking in VR space. It can cheaply track 1 point, but for HFE that is not very useful. Even a thimble on every finger won't be able to track the elbow, head, foot, knee, etc... so has no benefits for VR over anything we already have.

Re:Done, and done well already. (1)

Theaetetus (590071) | about two weeks ago | (#47407369)

In short, this is a wheel that's already been invented. I don't see anything "novel" or even better than what we have had already.

Then, with all due respect, you don't know what the word "novel" means. Something is novel when it is new or different from what has been done before. This is a thimble that sits on the user's index finger, allowing them to make 3D gestures in space. That's certainly novel compared to the 3DConexion interface, which is a knob with 6 degrees of freedom. They're clearly different devices, and accordingly, this one is novel compared to the Space Navigator.

Now, maybe what you really meant was that this isn't an improvement on the 3DConexion stuff. That, although new and different, it doesn't provide any advantages over the Space Navigator. But there, you'd be wrong, too - the Navigator requires the user to use two separate pointing devices, as well as shifting between Navigator and keyboard. The thimble, however, allows the user to make those gestures, plus dragging across a surface (which the Navigator can't do), as well as allowing the user to return to the keyboard and type without removing the device. Maybe those aren't features you'd appreciate or prefer, but they're certainly different features that the Navigator simply can't do.

Re:Done, and done well already. (1)

s.petry (762400) | about two weeks ago | (#47407991)

With all due respect don't accuse me of not understanding a word because you failed to read! Go back and read what I stated regarding motion tracking. My comment was not limited, you chose to ignore content.

no rest no peace (1)

goombah99 (560566) | about two weeks ago | (#47404267)

These 3D whizmos, like for example LEAP motion (incredibly cool), all work great.... for about 20 minutes. Then you put them in the drawer because they require too much muscle coordination and energy to operate. in contrast when you REST your finger on a scroll wheel or REST your hand on a mouse it is not merely not moving, it is at rest in 3 dimensions. it only takes a small effort to move it, but you are not having to run a whole lot of muscles in coordination to keep the hand or finger in a constant position. it's hard to poise your hand in empty space. In the old days, good typists could do this with hands poised over the KB and fingers hovering above the keys. Most people now days use palm rests or put pressure on the keys. those old time secretarial pool typists had to sit up straight and brace their feet on the floor to pull that off. Girdles probably helped!

the first successful mouse replacement will have that feature. Perhaps something with haptic feedback to support your finger a little till you really want to move it.

personally I suspect the some sort of eye motion or maybe a joystick like thing will be the first 3D controller that people can use for long periods.

LEAP Motion (4, Interesting)

aaronb1138 (2035478) | about two weeks ago | (#47404285)

LEAP promised similar things. Logically, their technology should work well, but the execution was piss poor. The trick to getting 3D finger interaction to work will either be higher immersion, such as proportional (to the controller) 3D displays or Occulus Rift style implementations where you can see your hand interacting. Another issue LEAP has is defining the horizontal and vertical ground planes. Their controller would work better if it detected and calibrated to you monitor and activation motions occurred when you touched the screen in many cases.

3D gesture identification and intent management seems to be a stumbling block so far as well. Seems largely that programmers figured out the hand skeletal structure and then immediately ignored that musculature, tendons, and fine motor control are not the same in all positions and directions.

Some example dumb hand / finger gestures for 3D control (I see these in LEAP motion software and in proposed hand gesture libraries for similar technology):
  - Triggering a thumb against the side of the index finger - most of the hand moves, especially the index finger (which is typically being keyed off of for cursor position)
  - Triggering by pulling the index finger like a trigger - surprisingly inconsistent when there is no resistive grip or button
  - Holding a splayed out hand(s) horizontally, mid air as a default centered position
  - Keying z-rotation off of a hand pointed at the screen as if one's arm protruded from the chest
  - Expecting the hand to translate mid-air like camera dolly & track.
  - Lots of other ergonomically / kinematically ignorant ideas. I think they modeled everything with those articulated wooden hands for clay sculpture. And no arms.

Just some things to consider before creating your own 3D motion controller...

Re:LEAP Motion (1)

chihowa (366380) | about two weeks ago | (#47404907)

Fixating on 'gestures' and reducing the entire scope of the input device to them is where the Leap went wrong. And from the summary: "...respond to a set of pre-programmed gestures...", it's where this one will go wrong, too. Gestures are fine for making limited input devices more powerful (as is the case with trackpads) but there's nothing intuitive or compelling about a 'set of pre-programmed gestures' in itself.

There's a bunch cool stuff you could do with these sort of input devices, but everyone seems so compelled to turn them into clumsy trackpad replacements.

Re:LEAP Motion (0)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47406229)

Agree - it strikes me that some resistive feedback in 3D would be needed. The hand needs to have some resistance to its motion to the extant that the user can "feel" what is happening.

Re:LEAP Motion (1)

anguyen8 (3736553) | about two weeks ago | (#47407911)

And from the summary: "...respond to a set of pre-programmed gestures...", it's where this one will go wrong, too.

I totally agree, even the LEAP allows user-defined gestures. However, for this device "pre-programmed gestures" can always be "re-programmed" as users desire because they are eventually just gestures (not fixed buttons or keys).

Re:LEAP Motion (1)

aaronb1138 (2035478) | about two weeks ago | (#47417187)

They also missed out on the concept of thresholds, dead zones, and sensitivity that were standard concepts with joysticks on DOS games 20 years ago. Even the concept of usage based calibration!

The controller should be able to see the "ground plane" of the monitor and adjust rotationally +/- 5-10 degrees and its position between the user and screen and then calibrate that cursor and hand movement are proportional. It's not even difficult projection math to have a cursor that is perceptually under your finger. The hand-eye coordination to see your hand in front of yourself but have to visually track a disproportionate cursor is about as bad as it gets. Then to have every hand shake and micro-movement send everything flying. Or worse, to have the whole thing jerk around because the tracking briefly lost track of a finger and reset the center of the palm (input smoothing!).

Re:LEAP Motion (1)

anguyen8 (3736553) | about two weeks ago | (#47412181)

Thanks for your ideas! Some of these are actually documented in our paper here: arxiv.org/abs/1406.5581

Johnny Mnemonic gloves (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about two weeks ago | (#47404485)

Johnny Mnemonic gloves where cool this seems like an mini ver of them.

You know what my mouse doesnt do? (1)

citizenr (871508) | about two weeks ago | (#47404727)

It doesnt lag 3-5 video frames after the movement.

may special name (0)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47404783)

My special name is is "intelligent thimble".
We all have a special name for it and I call mine "intelligent thimble"

Neat idea, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47404817)

Can you imagine how tiring it'd be to hold your hands in the air, and wave 'em about for any length of time?

I find your lack of faith disturbing. (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | about two weeks ago | (#47406973)

I am fucking up your UI. Pray I do not fuck it up further.

mo3 up (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47404983)

spot when done F]or Been the best, Problems wHith unless you can work

Re:mo3 up (0)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47412251)

spot heu doue F]or Beeu the Pest' broPlems Hth nuless on cau ork

Fact Check (0)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47405043)

This is a simple MPU with Kalman filtering for relative motion estimation and the sensor out of a laser mouse for absolute positioning over a table. OculusVR uses the former technique for detecting rotation and heading in their Rift HMD. Control-VR has the 10 finger version of the same idea already working as a prototype. The addition of a laser mouse sensor is new, but why is that worth a paper? Optical tracking is also used in the Rift DK2 but using a camera and pose estimation.

Re:Fact Check (1)

anguyen8 (3736553) | about two weeks ago | (#47412233)

. Control-VR has the 10 finger version of the same idea already working as a prototype. The addition of a laser mouse sensor is new, but why is that worth a paper? .

Control-VR is still in their pre-ordering phase. Similar interfaces like Fin, Ring or other emerging prototypes. These including 3DTouch just come out in the same time!

Not gonna replace the mouse (0)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47405403)

nobody cares to hold sth the mouse is popular because u can get stuff done with minimum energy and high efficiency, add a UP down key on the mouse or keyboard and u got ur 3rd dimension,

Re:Not gonna replace the mouse (1)

anguyen8 (3736553) | about two weeks ago | (#47412213)

nobody cares to hold sth the mouse is popular because u can get stuff done with minimum energy and high efficiency, add a UP down key on the mouse or keyboard and u got ur 3rd dimension,

So how would you use the mouse in a spatial setting such as the Cave Automatic Virtual Environments (CAVE)?

Why, web devs? For the love of god, why? (3, Informative)

FatLittleMonkey (1341387) | about two weeks ago | (#47405607)

"Hi, welcome to MIT Tech Review. You've never read our site before, you probably know nothing about our site since you followed a link from an aggregator, and we're blocking you from reading the site now via this pop-over. WOULD YOU LIKE TO SUBSCRIBE?!?!?!?!?!"

No.

To the best of my knowledge, no.

Already done in India (0)

madfly8082 (2171464) | about two weeks ago | (#47406249)

Sorry to break it to you guys, but this has already been done in India...in a more polished form. http://www.wearfin.com/ [wearfin.com]

Re:Already done in India (1)

anguyen8 (3736553) | about two weeks ago | (#47412201)

Sorry to break it to you guys, but this has already been done in India...in a more polished form.

There is this thing called Ring as well. First of all, they are all just prototyping not on the market yet. So is 3DTouch. Second of all, 3DTouch serves a different niche market of 3D applications while those two don't.

It's a finger-mounted "wand" (1)

Misagon (1135) | about two weeks ago | (#47406605)

I have used and made software for a device precisely such as this one, with position and direction in space, only that it was not worn but handheld and called a "wand". This was fifteen years ago, '98/'99.

It was used for control in a CAVE [wikipedia.org] environment where you are enclosed in a cube of six computer screens with the perspective adjusted to the position and direction of your 3D glasses.

Minority Report (0)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47407287)

That looks like an Asian lady!

Mechanical engineer here (0)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47407893)

I've been navigating 3D worlds my whole career, and a Spaceball [3dconnexion.com] works just fine. A Spaceball already has a comfy surface to rest your hand, and you don't have to squeeze a switch to move.

Re:Mechanical engineer here (1)

anguyen8 (3736553) | about two weeks ago | (#47412183)

So how would you use 3DConnexion in a spatial setting such as the Cave Automatic Virtual Environments (CAVE)?

Re:Mechanical engineer here (0)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47416041)

I would use a standing desk, maybe just a small podium or something. I don't think it would be comfortable to hold my arms up to navigate for more than a few minutes with either the spaceball or thimble.

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