10 Microsoft research projects

A sneak peek at 10 technologies developed in Microsoft's R&D labs, ranging from laser mice to robotic receptionists

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Codename: LucidTouch

Ask anyone with big hands whether they like the Apple iPhone and you will likely get a resounding "No!" in response. The reason? The 2-by-3-in. screen requires fairly small fingers to control the interface. If your fingers are too big, you'll likely make frequent errors.

The Microsoft LucidTouch V2 technology seeks to solve this problem. It's one of those early research projects that seems like a head-scratcher at first: A device with a small 2-by-2 screen that's about the size of a thick credit card that allows you to reach behind the screen to make selections. A representation of your fingers shows up on screen. Your fingers can be shown smaller, or with a red dot that shows your fingertips.

LucidTouch

"A touch-screen device is governed by the size of your fingers," says research scientist Patrick Baudisch, who studied human interfaces in Germany before coming to Microsoft. "If you look at home automation systems, they are targeted to a bigger screen size. We're asking: what happens in a few years when a touch screen is embedded into a watch? It turns out that touch screens don't do well at these sizes. Since it's difficult to make your fingers transparent, why not make the device transparent?"

The project reminded me of several products Nokia tried a few years ago in which a very small interface was embedded into a locket or other jewelry, but they were still difficult to use. LucidTouch could be used to power very small gaming devices or cell phones.

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