Friday, May 31, 2013

Replace that mouse with Camera Mouse 2013

How to turn your camera as sensor to move the mouse pointer?

I have got this crazy idea for several days now about using my webcam to move my mouse pointer instead of using the mouse. I did several search on the internet and I came up with one that seem to be perfect to what I wanted to do.

It is the Camera Mouse. There are 2 versions of this application. One is the version 2011 and the latest which is the 2013. The camera mouse performs by following a certain point in your body (normally the corner of the eye or any other distinct part of the face) and moves the pointer in the same manner as the reference point moves.

I choose the 2013 since any issues that they may have had in the initial release I assume would have been fixed.

The Camera Mouse application is free with no pop-up ads bundled with it. All you need to have is your webcam. Any webcam is applicable with this app.

It does require though that your OS is Windows XP or higher. For XP OS, it has to be updated to SP3 with the latest .NET framework installed. For other operating systems however, sorry to say that it is not yet supported.

The Camera Mouse is a very simple program with a very simple user interface. The settings selection are pretty much explanatory with some instructions on the window on certain settings.

To use it, simply select a feature in your body that is always visible on the camera and so you are limited to selecting a feature on your face. You may select a finger but first you need to show it in front of the camera but once it leaves the camera's field of view, the app automatically selects the part of your body from where your finger lives the field of view. If the finger reappears on the camera's view, the app will not take it as the reference again and so once a finger is selected, it must never come down as such the best choice for a reference point if from the face.

The application is so responsive in fact that even the slightest movements registers which makes the mouse pointer to keep moving which is not so much of a good thing because you would want the pointer to move smoothly and not erratically. It is possible to fine tune it though through the settings window but doing so will limit the ability for the pointer to move in any direction. So there must be a balance and practice will make the experience a lot better.

Users must however refrain from making sudden drastic movements else risk loosing the set reference.

The Camera Mouse still has a lot of areas it needs to work on but it is already a working app. I had fun trying it out and would definitely keep it for use when I am watching movies and am a couple of feet away from my desktop. Surely, disabled persons can benefit from this application, even at this stage, and I suggest they get it anyway it is free.

Here are a couple of my recommendation for future design considerations:
1. I prefer using my hand instead of my head to move the pointer but don't loose the existing feature already (using the head) for physically challenged individuals. In this respect, whatever has been chosen as reference should not get lost. When the reference went out of the camera's field of view, it should reestablish same body part reference once it comes back on camera. This way a hand can be used and when it gets tired, it can be put down to rest. Same with using a part of the face, with the current version, you can not go away even for a second without loosing the reference.

2. More fine tuning should be done so that even with sudden movements, the reference point is not lost. This allows the user to be more relaxed and be at ease.

3. There should be a way to calibrate the range at which a person wants to move himself.

4. Lastly, availability of the software across all platforms and not only Windows. This way more people will benefit from it especially if it will remain free.

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