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Apple's Magic Mouse Fulfills A 2008 Patent. So What's Next?


When Apple launched their new iMac line-up for the Christmas Season last Tuesday, I was certainly pleased to see that their higher end iMac's are now earmarked to sport Intel's i5 and i7 Nehalem processors by November. Equally fun was the news that Apple's iMacs would have LED backlighting, something that was forecasted in a March 2009 patent report. Upon closer scrutiny of Apple's new line-up, it is now clear that Apple's new multi-touch mouse, rebranded as the Magic Mouse, was equally forecasted in yet another patent report posted in June 2008 which was appropriately titled "Apple's Mighty Mouse to Incorporate Touch Pad." In that patent, Apple pointed to several advantages of a multi-touch mouse: One being that "it requires no obvious button to actuate a GUI movement. Buttons break the surface of the housing and are therefore less aesthetically pleasing." Secondly, the patent stated that "the user can manipulate his or her finger side to side for horizontal scrolling."  Yet according to that same patent, Apple's new mouse may still have more Magic Tricks up its sleeve for the future.



What's Next: Haptics and Audio Feedback


Two of the specific patent features that remain on the drawing board include haptics and audio feedback.


When it comes to haptics, Apple's patent provides us with a simple example that "tactile features may be bumps, lips, recesses, cavities and/or the like. The tactile features should be least obtrusive as possible while still allowing the user to feel or view the boundary." Beyond the desktop, of course, these attributes sound more as if they would be better applied to either future video games and/or a virtual-world application. This could go a long way in explaining why this feature was omitted in its debut last week.


Furthermore, in respect to audio feedback, the patent states that the mouse would be able to produce "a clicking sound. In most cases, the clicking sounds provide audio feedback to the user at the rate at which the finger is moved across the active surface. The number of clicking sounds per unit time increases the faster the movement, and the clicking sounds per unit time decreases the slower the movement."


Uniquely, Apple's patent goes one step further. It points to a fact that "in one embodiment, the buzzer is a piezo-electric buzzer." If you click on that last hyperlink, then you'll see for yourself that this type of buzzer could also be applied to such things as video games and phones. Therefore this mysterious mention of "one embodiment" using the piezo-electric buzzer could very well be relating to a future Magic Mouse application for video games and/or a virtual world. It's by putting these two missing features together, haptics and audio feedback that allows us to realize that there's likely a particular application that Apple has in mind for the Magic Mouse - beyond the desktop.    



Another "Think Different" Product 


For now, Apple's new Magic Mouse is yet another think-different product that is bound to annoy the industry's copy cats who are already trying to mimic Apple's iMac all-in-one coolness, the iPhone's everything, the iPod's capabilities, the App Store's thunder … and, well, you get the picture.


For a lot of us, a cooler fact is that we don't only get the coolest toys to play with, but we actually get to sit back and read about these cool new products in development way ahead of the curve by reading Apple's patents every week on this site. Does it get any cooler than that? – Not!


Oh – and one more thing: The Ghostly figure(s) that you see below? Well it may be Halloween and all, but that's really Redmond's Mr. FUD dressed up. Windows 7: Ooh, ooh, I'm so afraid. Ha!  For more information about Mr. FUD and the secret Halloween Documents, click here.






I had hoped that the new Magic Mouse would have the same functionality as my old (but still in use) Kensington ADB "ThinkingMouse." Although there is no scroll wheel, the four symmetrical buttons give me six programmable clicks. For me it's the best time saver since learning how to type.

With the Magic Mouse, I had envisioned a touch surface that could, since it knew where your finger was, be programmed for 1, 2, 3, 4 or 6 buttons and yet still have vertical and horizontal scrolling. The Kensington 'MowseWorks' software has had that functionality (6 buttons + scroll) for years now, but no touch surface mouse, or even a mouse that even resembled the old ThinkingMouse.

Apple now has a touch surface mouse but, Alas! no proper software to take advantage of the mouse.


I almost pissed my pants about Mr. FUD and the halloween docs. Funny stuff.

There is a case for a virtual world app for sure, but my vote is for future games that tap into Intel's HAVOK

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