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College Student Hacks Watch into Gesture Interface Mouse

Spurred on by the best inspiration of all, laziness, Texas Instruments intern and college sophomore Jack Toole has hacked the TI eZ430-Chronos watch to create a hands-free mouse. Whereas many gesture interface devices cost hundreds of dollars and require advanced technology, Toole’s “Flying Mouse” allows web surfing from across the room at only the cost of the watch itself.

The Flying Mouse grew out of a competition to find the best eZ430 application that Texas Instruments held for its interns. The watch comes with the ability to connect to Windows computers via a USB radio receiver, but leaves the software, and the capabilities of the watch, up to the user.

Toole had plugged his computer into his TV to watch some videos, when the perfect contest entry hit him.

“I was watching TV on Hulu, and I thought it’s nice to watch TV on your computer, and but I had to get up every time I wanted to pause, or rewind,” Toole told TechNewsDaily. “I realized you can use [the eZ430] for video games, browsing the web, anything else you might do when you’re not sitting at your keyboard.”

After quickly checking the internet to make sure no one had beat him to the punch, Toole started writing the software to transform a watch into a mouse.

The watch contains an accelerometer, like the Nintendo Wii controller, that allows it to track motion. To left click the mouse, Toole rigged the computer to recognize the motion signature of high frequency movement, so a shake of the wrist or a snap of the fingers can open any application. To right click or scroll, Toole remapped the buttons on the right side of the watch.

Additionally, the Flying Mouse has a joystick mode that converts the watch into a dedicated gaming device.

The Flying Mouse eventually won second prize in the competition, but it did show enough promise that TI engineers quizzed Toole afterwards in the hope of integrating the technology into the watch’s basic software bundle.

So far, responses have been positive, but since Toole released the software as open source, there’s no money to be made. However, when Toole returns to the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champagne, in the Fall to begin his junior year, he will almost certainly be the only guy in his dorm who can tell time and play Starcraft with the same device.

Stuart Fox currently researches and develops physical and digital exhibit experiences at the Science Liberty Center. His news writing includes the likes of several Purch sites, including Live Science and Live Science's Life's Little Mysteries.