As Apple preps multi-touch mouse, Microsoft shows off its own

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With rumors swirling that Apple will launch an updated Mighty Mouse with multi-touch capabilities, Microsoft has shown off its own unique hardware with a number of prototypes.

Calling the concepts "Mouse 2.0," new pictures and video from Microsoft Research show a five multi-touch mouse prototypes that would allow users to control and manipulate objects on the screen by using their fingers. The images from Microsoft Research were obtained by Engadget.

In one example, a user playing a first-person shooter rolls their hand left and right, and the view of the on-screen image leans accordingly. The "Orb Mouse" used in the demonstration includes an internal camera and a source of diffused infrared illumination, which allows it to track a hand across its surface.

Another hardware prototype uses a camera to track the position of fingers on a table. In a manner similar to multi-touch on the iPhone, the user pinches or spreads their fingers to zoom in and out on a map. However, the "Side Mouse" includes no buttons — it tracks all of the finger gestures on the table in front of it.

One concept dubbed the "Arty Mouse" uses three optical mouse sensors to track movements of the wrist, thumb and index finger independently. The use of two fingers and the wrist allows for manipulation of 3D objects on screen.

Microsoft's concept mice: FTIR, Orb and Arty. Photos courtesy Engadget.

The "FTIR Mouse" stands for Frustrated Total Internal Reflection. It has an internal camera that tracks fingers as they touch the front of the device, which is a translucent surface.

Finally, the "Cap Mouse" uses electrodes to track the position of fingertips along its surface. In the video, it shows, rotating and zooming by running fingers across the surface of the hardware.

Microsoft Mice 2
Microsoft's concept mice: Side and Cap. Photos courtesy Engadget.

The news comes as AppleInsider reported last week that Apple is planning a makeover of its Mighty Mouse. The new hardware is expected to feature multi-touch capabilities, but will go beyond just the hardware.

The new Mighty Mouse is said to rely on sophisticated software that will deliver an intuitive new feel in scroll navigation. Sources have said that the upgrade will do away with its predecessor's mechanical roller ball, and the functionality will be replaced on the mouse's touch-sensitive housing.

But while the Microsoft designs are merely prototypes, the new, yet-to-be-unveiled Mighty Mouse could debut as early as this year.