Death of the computer mouse? Meet the 3DTouch.
Image: Anh Nguyen and Amy Banic

When we use a computer mouse, we’re limited to two-dimensional movements. But what if we had the ability to interact with our computers in a three-dimensional fashion? 

Anh Nguyen and Amy Banic from the Department of Computer Science at the University of Wyoming in the US have developed an intelligent ‘thimble' that sits on the end of your finger and interacts with your computer, sensing its position accurately in three-dimensions.

It does this through the use of three types of sensors, a 3D accelerometer, a 3D magnetometer and a 3D gyroscope. This combination of sensors, says MIT Technology Review, "allows the data from each sensor to be compared and combined to produce a far more precise estimate of orientation than a single measurement alone. In addition, the 3DTouch has an optical flow sensor that measures the movement of the device against a two-dimensional surface, exactly like that inside an ordinary mouse.”

The device also works by responding to a set of preprogrammed mouse-like gestures that allow the user to interact with objects in three-dimensions within the interface of their computer. These gestures include selecting and dragging, finger tap, double tap, and click. If you own two 3DTouch devices, you can wear one on each hand to enable ‘multitouch’ interaction.

The team has published the research that went into the device online at arXiv.

Right now, the device doesn’t look so slick, but the team is now looking into taking it from wired to wireless. When it goes to market, it will be cheap to buy and will work on pretty much any computing device. It will be small and unobtrusive, and easily portable.

"Overall, these guys have an interesting device on their hands that could be coming to fruition at precisely the right time,” says MIT Technology Review.

Here's how it works: