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Future Tech: 

Ditch the mouse with these new computer control schemes

computer mouse

Fed up of holding this little fella? We’ve lined up some alternatives.

The mouse and keyboard. Like old friends, we’ve been through a lot together, but also like all old friends, surely the time has come to ditch them in a bin somewhere, and get something more shiny? Something a bit more Minority Report

Seriously, the mouse and keyboard have been practically unchanged in 25 years. Sure, we’ve ditched the wires, and things are a bit less angular, but at their heart, we’re hanging on to the past like a security blanket. Time to cut the cord and embrace the 21st century. Maybe. Upon seeing the alternatives, you might decide that the old ways are the best afterall.

1. Flow

Looks a bit like an off-center tee light to us.

Looks a bit like an off-center tealight to us.

Proving that there’s certainly demand for at least giving the mouse and keyboard a much needed rest is Flow. The portable dinky dial doohickey raised 505% of its Indiegogo crowdfunding target, raising a massive $281,071 in the process, and the first Flows are due to ship in June. In fact, demand is so great that anyone wanting to buy one now will have to make do with the fourth batch, which won’t be in your hands until August. So what is it, exactly?

It’s a portable controller that accepts hand gestures, gentle touches and more tactile twists to control everything from Photoshop and video editing, to music and presentations. Crucially, it is seen as a companion for traditional inputs, rather than a replacement, which is handy, as typing out an email on it could be quite a challenge.

If you’re interested, it can be pre-ordered on Indiegogo for $119 – a 20 percent saving on its planned RRP.

2. Leonar3do

1

“Go ahead and try it,” they said. “It won’t bite”, they said…

It’s times like these that we’re glad we write our words on websites, rather than needing to try and pronounce them, because we don’t have the first clue how you say this. We can only assume that the three is silent. Also, it makes us think of this.

Leonardo… okay, okay, Leonar3do, promises to transform your desktop into a 3D environment. It comes complete with three depth sensors that sit on top of the monitor, a pair of 3D glasses, that look a bit more sturdy than the old cinema ones, and the BIRD. What’s the BIRD? It’s your mouse replacement, a multi-pronged device that allows you to manipulate the objects in 3D space, making it useful for 3D modeling.

Confused? So were we, so we watched the video. Prices start at $499, but go all the way up to $1,999 to include all the software bells and whistles.

3. Leap Motion

Leap Motion

As far as we can tell, this man is using the cutting edge technology to play Jenga. Okay.

Leap Motion is actually already out there in big numbers in the wild, in HP Envy laptops. On the surface it seems a bit like the Xbox’s Kinect controller for PC, in that it allows you to use your limbs to manipulate the computer, rather than using the mouse and keyboard like a sucker. Cut out the middle man – what’s not to like?

Well mainly the lack of support. It’s limited to specific applications, like Google Earth and Fruit Ninja. It feels nice and immersive (well, as immersive as slashing virtual fruit can seem), and the big install base means that hopefully more developers will look to implement the technology in neat ways in the future. It can also be integrated with Oculus Rift, meaning you can control your 3d world with gestures. You’ll look strange, but you can do it.

If you don’t have an HP Envy laptop, and want to see what the fuss is about, you can buy a Leap Motion Controller on its own for $79.99.

4. HP Sprout

hp-sprout

Where are the keys? Well, you’ll need to turn the projector on for a start

We’re not quite sure why they called this weird hybrid Sprout, but perhaps a bit more focus grouping would have helped come up with a more descriptive title. As for the technology itself, it’s rather neat – the all-in-one desktop computer system comes complete with a projector poking out the top, which then fires content onto the touch sensitive mat that lives where your keyboard and mouse used to live, before they were evicted.

The computers come with both Windows 8.1 and HP Workspace – and the latter of these is where most of the neat functions happen. Designers, for example, can scan in real world 3D objects using the projector, and then manipulate the 3D rendering with their fingers on the touchpad. The projector can also display a keyboard on the pad, but you can always connect a bluetooth one, should you miss the traditional clacking of tactile buttons.

Sprout costs $1899 from the HP webstore.

5. Cortana

Cortana-Windows-Phone

Cortana will soon live inside our computers, as well as our smartphones

Like having a personal assistant, but don’t like paying a salary? There’s Siri for that on iOS, and Cortana on Windows Phone. Soon though, Cortana will be making the jump to the desktop computer in Windows 10. You’ll also look a lot less silly, because you’ll be able to do it behind closed doors, rather than shouting into your phone like you’re slightly unhinged. Or rather, you’ll look the same level of silly, but nobody will be around to tell you.

Make calls on Skype, add things to your calendar, search Bing (it’s still Windows, remember) – all these things are possible with the voice. The possibility of pranks in the office are also extremely promising. Repeat after me: “Cortana: search Rick Astley – Never gonna give you up”

It’ll be rolling out to desktop computers over the next few months, so ask Cortana to put that in your diary. Oh.

6. Steel Series Sentry Eye Tracker

Steel-Series-Sentry-Eye-Tracker

Pro gamers will need to keep their eyes off the prize if this takes off, and on the screen.

Eye tracking software has come on quite a way from its original high-minded purpose of helping disabled users operate computers without use of their hands, it’s now available for folks who just can’t be bothered.

That’s not quite fair. Steel Series Sentry Eye Tracker – a name that’s at least four syllables too long for our tastes – is to be used in the gaming space. Not just in eSports, where wannabe athletes can learn how the pros play by following their eye movements. Certain games could even integrate it into their control schemes – Assassins Creed will the first big series to do it. We’re not quite sure about this, being easily distracted gamers. Glancing at a text message could send us hurtling off course…

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