CES - Wear your mouse -- or your whole PC

A trend toward computing mobility is one theme of the Consumer Electronics Show, and it appears in several products that offer alternative ways to interact with your PC.

If you dislike having to clamp your hand on a mouse all day or if you have problems holding your wrists in a certain position, consider this strange concept: mousing in mid-air. Essential Reality LLC has developed an odd-looking hand contraption that lets you control your mouse when you flick your fingers and wrist in various (and customizable) ways. The P5 is designed to take advantage of 3D games but could also be a useful alternative to desktop navigation and moseying around in certain apps.

Think air mouse

Here's how it works: You place a glove-like apparatus on your hand, which includes separate extensions for your four fingers and thumb. A tall and narrow docking station (a tracking device) is hooked up to a USB (Universal Serial Bus) port on your PC. This infrared-based device will interpret your hand's movements and make things happen on the desktop.

Now, holding your hand out in front of you, if you wave your index finger around, say, you can control the cursor on screen. Flick your finger twice mid-air and you can open programs. With 3D games, you can customize your hand movements to shoot a gun or swing a bat or rotate your position.

Wearers of the P5 glove have about a three-foot range from the infrared unit. Essential Reality hopes to increase that a bit. Despite previous promises to ship last fall, the company now says it expects to release the P5 this May. The price is expected to range between US$129 and $149. Lefties are out of luck for now, although the company says it may come out with a wireless device for both left-handed and right-handed computer-users. The P5 won't replace your keyboard by any means, but it can give you more freedom to mouse-click in an entirely new way.

The product bears some conceptual resemblance to a pair of wearable keyboards introduced last fall at Comdex. Both Samsung and Senseboard are developing alternative input devices that let you type in midair. The input comes via flexible motion sensors you wear on your hands.

Tech headgear

And speaking of wearables, Xybernaut is showing off its Poma, the company's first consumer product. The company also markets an industrial product, the Mobile Assistant 5. The Mobile Assistant products are wearable personal computers designed to perform tasks such as remote video teleconferencing, retrieve and analyze information from remote locations, or coordinate remote commercial and industrial activities. The products can also be used in military field operations.

Poma is a portable mini-computer and you wear some of it on your head. The display is mounted on a stiff silvery headband that you wear just above your eyes on your forehead--think of Wonder Woman wearing an oversized eye patch. You control the cursor with a compact (and lightweight) pointing device.

The unit comes with a Hitachi SH-4 32-bit RISC processor and 32MB of memory. Based on Windows CE, the Poma is set up to give you access to your e-mail, the Web, and your data, and you can also play your stash of MP3s. The Poma is scheduled to ship in March, with a $1005 price tag.

When I tried out the unit it certainly felt weird: You have to focus your eyes on the head-mounted display in a peculiar way--I felt I was going cross-eyed at first. It would take a while to get used to a whole new way of working.

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Aoife McEvoy

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