The way in which humans interact with computers has been dominated by the mouse since it was invented in the 1960s. However, when we use the device, we're limited to two-dimensional movements.
Anh Nguyen and Amy Banic from the University of Wyoming in the US have created an intelligent thimble that can sense its position accurately in three-dimensions and respond to a set of preprogrammed gestures that allow the user to interact with objects in a virtual three-dimensional world.
According to MIT Technology Review, Nguyen and Banic aimed to create a cheap device that works as a universal input for more or less any computing device. They want to make it as small and unobtrusive as possible so that it can be easily transported.
The 3DTouch sits on the end of a finger, equipped with a 3D accelerometer, a 3D magnetometer and 3D gyroscope.
That allows the data from each sensor to be compared and combined to produce a far more precise estimate of orientation than a single measurement alone.
The 3DTouch also has an optical flow sensor that measures the movement of the device against a two-dimensional surface, exactly like that inside an ordinary mouse.
For now, the device is hooked up by wire to an Arduino controller which combines the data from all the sensors. The fused data is then streamed to a conventional laptop.
"This wired connection later could be replaced by a wireless solution using a pair of XBee modules," researchers said.
Researchers have also built in a number of mouse-like gestures that allow a user to interact with 3-D objects, by selecting and dragging them.
They have tested their new device to measure its pointing accuracy and say that it is reasonably good.