Bag-based? Sack-based? Balloon-based? Balloon-boy-based? There's no shortage of ways to describe Microsoft Research's new tactile interface concept, which lets people interact with prods, pokes, massages and squeezes instead of clicks or taps.

The bag you see above isn't actually the core component of interface deviceā€”that'd be the sensor tile at its base, which generates and monitors a magnetic field. Any disturbances in the fieldā€”that's where the bag, filled with some kind of magnetic substance, like iron filings, comes inā€”can be translated into movement, whether it be simple X/Y gestures around a flat plane, or more complex gestures that take into account prod pressure. Technically interesting, but I feel like this concept needs a little something extra:

[A researcher said] making a device that could switch between an input and output device would be challenging. While moving ball bearings using magnetic fields shouldn't be too hard, "[moving] ferrous fluid bladders would be trickier," he says.


WHO SAID ANYTHING ABOUT OUTPUT? Consider this, mouse jockies: a few years from now, your Intellipoint might be an actively pulsating pouch of magnetic fluid. John C Dvorak, 1984:

The nature of the personal computer is simply not fully understood by companies like Apple (or anyone else for that matter). Apple makes the arrogant assumption of thinking that it knows what you want and need. It, unfortunately, leaves the "why" out of the equation - as in "why would I want this?" The Macintosh uses an experimental pointing device called a ā€˜mouse'. There is no evidence that people want to use these things. I dont want one of these new fangled devices.

Just replace "mouse" with "undulating sack of ferrofluid" and then tell me I'm crazy. Anyone? [Technology Review]