Despite all of its various reinventions the basic design of the mouse hasn't changed very much--it's still the same old pointing device we know and love. But Moixa's newly patented Sphere is such a radical rethink, melding mouse and touchscreen in one, that it's truly a taste of the future.
In fact Sphere is so exotic it can't quite be built yet.
Its basic premise is to take the motion-sensing abilities of a controller like the Sony Sixaxis device, powered by gyroscopes and accelerometers, and combine it with a 3-D touchscreen. The combined apple-sized device is a powerful input system that could offer a degree of control over a computer that's impossible with current mice technologies, multitouch touchpads, or touchscreens. It could, for example, display a GoogleEarth image on its screen, that you control by waving around or by gesturing on its surface. Or, it could even act as an incredibly flexible gaming joystick alternative. In fact, it offers so many options that it's actually quite difficult to guess exactly what its usefulness will be.
What's key about the Sphere is that it's "flexible", designed to unwrap into a flat ellipsoidal shape that offers a more conventional 2-D screen and stick-like controller format. Moixa insists that it's really in development, however, and has patented its design in Europe--robbing the device of all but the most fervent April Fool's accusations. Moxia's even touting a 2010 launch date for the device, on the assumption that flexible touchscreen tech will advance significantly in the course of the next year.
Whether or not Sphere actually becomes a real product, it represents a tantalizing glimpse of the sort of radically re-thought control device we'll use in the future--it may even be more imaginative than the gadgets in Microsoft's vision of 2019.