Your mouse and keyboard may soon be history if University of Delaware researchers have their way. They've developed a new computer-interface device that uses a touch pad and finger motions to communicate with a computer. A rotating hand motion similar to that of opening a jar, for instance, opens a computer file. Expanding or contracting hands indicates whether to zoom or pull back. According to UD professor of electrical and computer engineering John Elias, the system, dubbed iGesture, has much greater communication power than a mouse. The new technology uses all 10 contact points of human hands and a wide range of motion, providing thousands of different patterns, says Elias. "This is not just a little step in improving the mouse, this is the first step in a new way of communicating with the computer through gestures and the movements of your hands." He predicts iGesture will greatly reduce stress-related injuries from mousing, such as tendonitis and carpal tunnel, because it only uses light, subtle finger touches.

Elias says the touch pad acts like a video camera, recording the objects touching its surface. An embedded microprocessor then applies an algorithmic process that converts the touches into computer commands.

FingerWorks, Newark (www.fingerworks.com) is marketing the iGesture as both stand-alone touch pads and touch pads built into nonmechanical keyboards. The keys on the keyboards overlap the touch pad so operators needn't move their hands when switching between typing and using the mouse. The plug-and-play device needs no special software.