There are two things that will make your fingernubs smile. One is slamming them fist first into fresh strawberry jam. The other, a wearable 3D mouse… that fits on your fingertip. Now, it could be that you’ll interface with machines with a device that hangs around your neck, but a four-button 3D mouse with programmable gestures that slips around your fingertip and is developed to interact with the 3D models/environment you enjoy? That’s impressive. Nick Mastandrea of Innovative Developments is the brains behind the possibilities. His product is called the Mycestro. We spoke with Nick about how the idea came about and where the technology is headed.
Mycestro Wearable 3D Mouse
First, check out the demonstration Nick provides, showing how he uses the mouse to interact with the SolidWorks interface.
SolidSmack: You’re solving some frustrations with this wee device, eliminating a dependency on the desktop. How did the idea come about?
Nick Mastandrea: Well, I had had a successful exit of a company I owned called MT Manufacturing in 2009 where we designed and manufactured spray-on-tanning booths for the sunless tanning industry, the product is called “Versasap”. I was looking for something interesting to sink my teeth into and had an idea of creating a data acquisition system for the action sports industry. I started to concept the idea and with that ended up at an SIA trade show to get feedback. On the way back sitting in coach I noticed a gentleman across the aisle, slight heavyset, trying to maneuver a mouse across the limited space of his laptop. Well, I started to have a vision of being able to control my cursor and mouse functions with the movement of my hand. I thought, now that would be cool! I could have my hand at my side, or over the laptop. I thought, well I should be able to even type with it on.
SS: The mouse has 4 buttons and also recognizes gestures. Are the buttons programmable and how are the gestures recognized?
NM: Yes, the mouse acts as a four button mouse. The first generation prototype has a touch sensitive panel that’s broken into a single touch button located at the front of the panel and slide along the remaining three quarters of the panel. The windows based GUI incorporates a graphic depicting the slide which has movable handles that allow the user the ability to break up the slide into left, right and middle mouse functions. By positioning the handles the user can enlarge, shrink or even remove mouse functions along the slide. Of course, cursor position is only engaged when the user touches the panel. Mycestro also has the ability to perform in-air click and double click with a simple in out motion of the index finger or by tapping the index finger and thumb together. We are still working on adding more functionality to the GUI which will allow users to program button clicks for specific tasks. The touch sensitive slide also allows the user to scroll and zoom just by swiping the panel with their thumb. Gesture recognition is not incorporated yet, but our vision is to have the ability for users to create their own gestures and then tie the gestures to specific commands.
SS: I’ve always appreciated the idea of bringing 3D data off the 2D screen. Do you see the possibility for a device like the Mycestro to 1) encourage the development of this technology and 2) interact with data or geometry that doesn’t reside on the screen?
NM: Oh yes, as a cad user myself I have had visions of being able to manipulate objects on my screen by hand movements in 3D space. Most of the work being conducted is thru the use of cameras and I have seen some pretty interesting stuff being presented at TED. We are taking the non-camera based approach, using MEMS sensor technology to capture hand motion and the users intent. Yes, there are systems on the market today, virtual reality gloves, that give the user the ability to manipulate 3D objects, but they are not practical for all applications. As an engineer my day does not only consist of 3d design, unfortunately we still have to write reports, do projections, and type emails. “Mycestro” allows the user the ability to transition from 3D environment to 2D applications efficiently. I foresee developers in the CAD industry creating applications specifically for “Mycestro”
SS: One frustration I have is repetitive processes in CAD software. There are certainly things the developers can do to automate and adapt to a users workflow. How does/could the Mycestro mouse adapt to a users workflow and make the process of selection, command access and geometry interaction more automated?
NM: Being that “Mycestro” has the point and click ability of traditional mice combined with the 3D data of hand movement makes it unique. What makes it more exciting is as we develop the next revision of Mycestro, making it more ergonomic, users will be comfortable wearing one on each hand. What this means for user is the ability to have more programmable features, dropdowns, combinations of left and right hand movements, button clicks and gestures.
SS: Certainly, there are possibilities beyond 3D design software. What other application have you tested with the Mycestro?
NM: There are many exciting applications for Mycestro which we are exploring. For the military market to be able to access critical tactical information thru the use of a head or helmet mounted display, a compact wearable computer and Mycestro incorporated into military glove. This enables military infantry personnel access to this information while maintaining combat readiness. For the medical market we are exploring physicians and nurses using Mycestro with medical imaging and informational systems, PACS (Picture Archive and Communication Systems). We gained interest from the entertainment industry for a specific application. We have also explored using Mycestro as an alternative for an IPTv controller. We are looking forward to having application in the gaming and tablet markets.
SS: Is there a date and price set for Mycestro availability?
NM: I can’t give you any official date as of yet on when Mycestro will be available except that it will be in 2012. The target price for the first initial run will be in the range of $130.00 us.