I don't usually write about product designs but Microsoft's Arc Touch (Fig. 1) caught my eye, and fingers. The Arc Touch is a wireless mouse with a scroll wheel that utilizes Cypress Semiconductor's CapSense technology (see Touch Screen Controllers Support Many Apps). I also was able to check out one of Cypress Semiconductor's development kits.
The optical Arc Touch mouse is designed for mobile use with laptops and netbooks. It comes with a very small USB dongle and starts out flat (Fig. 2). Bend the mouse (Fig. 3) to turn it on. This also makes it easier to grab. Flatten the mouse to turn it off.
The CapSense touch system is employed with the scroll buttons in the center. The left and right buttons use conventional switches. Sliding a finger over the scroll area provides audible and tactile feedback. The audible feedback is a set of clicks. Flick a finger quickly and the scrolling and feedback continues in the same fashion as a physical wheel would perform.
Developers can check out CapSense using Cypress Semiconductor's CY8CKIT-003 PSoC 3 FirstTouch Starter Kit. The FirstTouch board (Fig. 4) included with the kit has a CapSense slider area in addition to a range of other peripheral interfaces. The set of 8 LEDs is used with the accelerometer to display information when the board is waved back and forth. There is also a CapSense-based proximity sensor interface as well.
The board is based on the PSoC 3 that has an 8051 core. CapSense works with all of the PSoC platforms including the PSoC 5 that has a Cortex-M3 core and the original PSoC 1, an 8-bit platform exclusive to Cypress Semiconductor.
I have covered PSoC Designer in other articles (see PSoC Development Tools) so I will not go into too much detail here. The tools handles system configuration because the key feature of the PSoC is not CapSense but rahter its configurable analog and digital peripheral subsystem. CapSense is just one of the peripherals that a PSoC developer has access to.
The touch demo area on the dev kit board provides slider support and the kit includes sample applications. This kit was a snap to set up and use. There is also a wireless kit that provides similar peripherals but adds Cypress Semiconductor's wireless support.
The Arc Touch has other neat features that are less obvious. The USB dongle is about the size of a dime. It also matches up with a magnet in the underside of the Arc Touch.
I've been using the Arc Touch for a couple weeks now. It is still impressive and fun to use. I have a large hand so it is a bit small for me but it is actually much nicer than the other compact mice I have been using with my laptop.