Logitech Takes Mouse Off Pad

Boldly claiming “the future of PC navigation starts now,” peripheral vendor Logitech has unveiled a laser mouse that uses motion-control and wireless technology so users can click, scroll and perform other control functions while holding the unit in the air from across a room.

The new Logitech MX Air rechargeable cordless air mouse will become available in August for US$150.

In announcing the device, Logitech noted computers are now much more than productivity tools found at desks. They are increasingly being used as hubs for digital media and are being installed in living rooms and home theaters.

Standard mice do not lend themselves well to those uses, since they usually need to be attached to, or in close proximity of, the computer and often need pads or other flat surfaces to work properly. Its new device overcomes those issues, Logitech said.

Don’t Get Up

“Similar to the way people use a remote to control a television, when holding the MX Air mouse, people can now lean back and relax while navigating the computer and enjoying media content,” said the company.

In announcing the MX Air, Rory Dooley, a Logitech senior vice president and general manager, offered a number of situations in which the device could be valuable.

“It’s for anyone who has listened to music on their PC and been frustrated by having to return to the desk to change songs or volume,” he said. “It’s for people who want to share vacation photos with friends and family without being tied to the desk. It’s for any of the millions of people using the Internet to browse and watch videos on sites such as YouTube or Grouper. And it’s for people with a living-room computer or media PC who want to navigate their media content on their terms.”

Combined Magic

The mouse combines Freespace motion control (a technology created by Hillcrest Labs), gesture command and wireless “so people can point, select and play media files with just a flick of the wrist,” Logitech said.

Freespace provides accurate, responsive navigation based on a combination of MEMS (microelectromechanical systems) sensors, DSP (digital signal processing) technology and RF (radio frequency) wireless technology, according to Logitech. Combined, the technologies allow the mouse to work while being held in any orientation and pointed in any direction.

“Sophisticated algorithms” can differentiate between intentional and unintentional hand movements, Logitech said. This means the MX Air knows about and ignores “the slight involuntary tremors everyone experiences when holding a device in the air,” said the company.

Additionally, the unit’s “gesture-based command” capability means users can change volume, skip tracks and perform other functions with simple wrist gestures.

The MX Air does not have a traditional scroll wheel. Instead it is equipped with a touch-sensitive scroll panel. “A swipe of the finger across the surface enables the inertial scrolling mechanism, which adjusts its speed according to the speed of the finger swipe,” said Logitech. Functions including play/pause, volume/mute, back and select are activated “in the air” by pressing a thumb to orange lighted buttons on the back of the mouse.

Richer Navigation

“I’m really impressed with this mouse,” Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group, told TechNewsWorld. “It uses a better technology than the Nintendo Wii game controllers to transform 3-D movement into mouse screen movement. It is arguably one of the best looking mice I’ve ever seen and has kind of a future look with an edge.”

The MX Air will be ideal for systems like Media Center PCs “and presentations where a table mouse simply isn’t practical but you need to work with a Mac or Windows interface,” Enderle said.

The mouse uses Logitech’s 2.4 GHz digital cordless technology, meaning it can work at up to 30 feet away from the computer.

Tthe MX Air is “well positioned to take advantage of the ever-increasing blending of two-foot (home computer) and ten-foot entertainment and multimedia experiences,” Kurt Scherf, vice president and principal analyst at Parks Associates, told TechNewsWorld.

Television is evolving “to embrace a much more rich multimedia experience” and navigational tools — such as program guides and traditional remote controls — will evolve “to embrace more search and navigational functionality,” he added.

Flipping the Channels

Parks Associates, said Scherf, has been stressing for two years that enhancement of search and navigation tools are vital to help people more easily deal with all the digital integration. “The home computer is already the multimedia hub for the home, and users are going to want to extend the functionality beyond the desk,” said Scherf. “So, the point-and-click functionality of the computer mouse … is going to have to evolve to incorporate a much less-restrictive functionality.”

The MX Air is “an incredibly impressive piece of technology and likely a shining example of why Logitech dominates the quality mouse segment,” added Enderle.

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