Trackball hacked by Valve engineer becomes tonguecontrolled mouse

first_imgMany companies are looking into alternative input devices right now. Between touch sensors, hand gestures, voice commands, and eye tracking there’s almost a solid idea to replace the mouse, but none of these ideas are fully baked yet. Fortunately there are people like Ben Krasnow of Valve willing to think ever further outside of the input box and shove a mostly disassembled trackball into his mouth. For science, you monster.Trackballs work a little differently from mice, by using the laser to read the texture on the ball to determine how far or how fast to move the mouse. As it turns out the human tongue is similarly textured, which gave Krasnow a crazy idea. If you could put the sensor from a trackball into your mouth in a fixed position, you should be able to move your tongue across the sensor and have it read the action in the same way moving the trackball would work.In order to make this work, a 3D printed retainer was made to house the sensor and a piece of plastic was placed just above the sensor so you aren’t licking the actual sensor and to set a focal point.Krasnow admits that this isn’t exactly functional for precise motion, but just having it work at all is impressive enough. The trackball was set to the pattern on the ball it came with, not the surface of your tongue. For a cobbled together proof of concept, it actually works really well. Being able to tweak the input mechanism would be a huge step towards precision, or the interface could just be gesture focused if this were to ever really become a product.While there’s absolutely no indication that this is going to become a real thing anytime soon, the idea is not without merit. Being able to offer an input mechanism for the handicapped, or a gesture control to work with a certain yet-to-be-announced Oculus Rift competitor would be a really cool add on. These are the kinds of alternative input concepts that lead to actual products once someone decides it is time to take things to the next step. We probably won’t see Valve take this much further, but maybe someone else will?last_img

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