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New Types of Input on Offence: from Multi-Touch Pads to Project Natal

For over two decades the world has used keyboard + mouse type of input on the PC. Maybe it’s time for a change?

Although traditional input seems to be rather ideal for two-dimensional operating systems, with the increased amount of information nowadays some may find contemporary types of input inefficient or unintuitive. There were numerous attempts to change the input of various devices, but so far we still use keyboard + mouse to control personal computers as well as remote controls for TV-sets.

Back in 2006 Nintendo introduced its Wii game console with motion-based input and in 2008 Asustek Computer introduced Wii-like controllers for personal computers. Around 2007 many notebooks got multi-touch pads that could recognize certain gestures to perform certain operations (obviously, scrolling had been supported by touch-pads for years back them). Late in 2008, Toshiba introduced notebooks with SpursEngine processor that could be controlled using gestures (when special software was installed). Finally, in 2009 the new operating system from Microsoft – Windows 7 – started to support touch-based input. Obviously, with four or more new input technologies neither of them can really gain traction and become an alternative to traditional devices.

We do not really expect any unconventional input technologies to become a de facto standard in 2010, but we are looking forward to popularization of certain new input methods.

Microsoft Natal motion sensor

Firstly, with the introduction of Microsoft Natal and Sony motion controller motion-based input will become an official standard on video game systems. Nintendo Wii will have to prove that its platform is still better compared to those from rivals as even improved precision of Wiimote the console still lacks modern graphics and multimedia functionality despite the lack of any price advantages. At this point it remains to be seen how good motion sensor Natal actually is since while gesture-based input does work for HDTV, it may not be precise enough for dynamic video games.

Secondly, with the introduction of any new input technology, mice and keyboards are not going to disappear overnight. With the support of touch-screen input by Windows 7 many vendors will indisputably add such capabilities to their desktops, notebooks and tablets, but sincerely it is hardly convenient to use such input method on anything but tablet PC. Makers like Toshiba can also add gesture-based input, but such method cannot be used in public places due to natural reasons. Asustek has been touting voice-control for its Eee PCs, but so far no progress can be observed.

Logitech MX Air mouse/pointer

What we guess will happen in 2010 is availability of more personal computers with untraditional types of input. More systems will come with touch-screens, there will be computers that can be controlled using gestures and some systems may even adopt motion-based controllers like Logitech MX Air.

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