LONDON--The same technology that exterminated the roller-ball computer mouse will claim another casualty soon: the four-way rocker switch that lets people point and click on countless mobile phones.
So asserts Jeff Raynor, principal technologist of ST Microelectronics' imaging division and a designer of the image sensors at the heart, or rather in the eyes, of optical mice. He spoke at the Image Sensors Europe conference here.
What will extinguish the rocker switch? What Raynor calls the "fingermouse"--a small, smooth pad you can sweep your finger over to direct a mouse pointer on a screen. Some newer BlackBerry phones sport the devices.
Fingermice use exactly the same image sensors as optical mice, but they're mounted upside-down, pointing upward toward a finger rather than downward toward a desk. The sensors take 400-pixel images, then recognize the movement of features in the photo sequence--desk irregularities or fingerprints, for example--to gauge motion.
Raynor's company makes silicon-chip image sensors for optical mice, so one shouldn't be surprised by his enthusiasm, but he is in a position to know what he's talking about.… Read more