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Microsoft Patents

Microsoft Says Goodbye GUI, Hello MUI 79

theodp writes "On New Year's Eve, the USPTO revealed that Microsoft is seeking patents for controlling a computer by simply flexing a muscle. Microsoft proposes using Electromyography (EMG) sensors and a wired or wireless human-computer interface to interact with computing systems and attached devices via electrical signals generated by specific movement of the user's muscles. 'It is important to consider mechanisms for acquiring human input that may not necessarily require direct manipulation of a physical implement,' explained the inventors. 'For example, drivers attempting to query their vehicle navigation systems may find it advantageous to be able to do so without removing their hands from the steering wheel, and a person in a meeting may want to unobtrusively communicate with someone outside. Also, since physical computer input devices have been shown to be prone to collecting microbial contamination in sterile environments, techniques that alleviate the need for these implements could be useful in surgical and clean room settings.'"
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Microsoft Says Goodbye GUI, Hello MUI

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  • by sopssa ( 1498795 ) * <> on Friday January 01, 2010 @09:44AM (#30613762) Journal

    It's the sound of all the slashdotters coming on the idea of not having to use a mouse when porn surfing. Just move your, eh, muscle to the direction.

    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Don't you mean move your erection in the direction?
  • Rule 34 (Score:1, Redundant)

    Imagine the ungodly porn that will be developed for this technology... eeew!

    • Most popular technologies are popular precisely because of porn! It's a wet dream for any inventor to get noticed by the porn industry
  • by noidentity ( 188756 ) on Friday January 01, 2010 @10:11AM (#30613872)
    So blind people will be able to use this MUI (since their muscles work)? How does it relay things back via muscles? Oh wait, you mean it's still a GUI? After all, even a keyboard-controlled graphical UI is still a GUI, not a KUI. FFS.
    • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Slashdot's headline is misleading. It's not meant for blind people. It's meant to eliminate "Human-computer interactions" such as "mice, keyboards, pens, dials, and touch-sensitive surfaces" that require a "direct manipulation of a physical implement". It'll still require some type of visual input for the user.

      • "It's not meant for blind people. It's meant to eliminate "Human-computer interactions" ...

        I thought they already released Vista ...

      • by Khyber ( 864651 )

        Direct manipulation of a physical implement. So, we won't even have to flex our muscles? Just use our brains?

        I think Sony was already in line for that patent, like 3 years ago.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      we already have MUI now. its controlled by the Mouse :p
    • So blind people will be able to use this MUI (since their muscles work)? How does it relay things back via muscles? Oh wait, you mean it's still a GUI?

      The keyboard and mouse are a form of muscular control.

      So is the Wii controller. Project Natal.

      That doesn't make alternative input device any less useful or significant.

      I can hear the geek going into cardiac arrest if Microsoft did patent muscular feedback - and control.

      Tech of enormous medical and military significance.

      Unlimited commercial potential.

  • Anyone remember Q-branches invention of wrist muscle triggered darts? There has to have been loads of similar devices in science fiction! Just goes to show 90% of patents should never be approved.
    • *start pedant mode*
      Old news, new technology.
      Watch some reruns of 'Wild, Wild West'{mid 1960's TV series}...The main character frequently uses a modified card sharp's mechanical device strapped to his inner wrists/forearms to deliver into his palm some tool to extricate himself[usually a Derringer], in lieu of a playing card.(the devise was based on a late 1800's device)
      */end pedant mode*

      So it may have already been patented...and expired.

  • ...from Rainbows End, circa 2006.

    I don't know whether to be happy or angry that Clarke set the precedent by not trying to claim ownership of the notion of geosync communication satellites. Ideas want to be free, but I'd love to see Vinge take Microsoft out behind the woodshed for this.

  • by Zero__Kelvin ( 151819 ) on Friday January 01, 2010 @10:21AM (#30613910) Homepage
    Linux Admin: Does Joe seem even more retarded to you lately?
    Windows Admin: I told him not to install Service Pack 2 ...
  • Great in concept (Score:5, Insightful)

    by GMonkeyLouie ( 1372035 ) <> on Friday January 01, 2010 @10:22AM (#30613912)

    ...but probably terrible in implementation.

    Calibration for each individual person's body type? Tech support that involves actual physical human contact? (shudder) Epileptics would lose all of their work with regularity.

    In my mind, this is one of those things where we've already made the intuitive leap to an input that makes sense and now people want to go back and think of something that takes more effort to replicate what we've already done in a more convoluted way.

  • Isn't the one where the put fine needles straight into your muscles.
    • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I had several EMG's in hospital this year, including the ones where they send electrical shocks through the nerves, to measure conducting velocity. These are very painful tests. With this patent, Microsoft extends its monopoly on torturing users, I suppose.
      I was diagnosed with a disease that makes the nerves slower, disconnecting them in the end. I guess that means that I will not be able to use the MUI of Windows 2013. Never mind, it will be a pleasure to use Linux or MacOS only.

      • Can you use any muscles? I imagine you must, because you can communicate here on slashdot which requires moving muscles in some way.

        Furthermore, what kind of an idiot would want to use this on a home computer? Other than a nerd with a 12 year old mindset about using new tech toys because "their frickin shweet man!"

        This is going to be used in things like prosthetics, in a plethora of military applications, to operate a cell phone, gps, or computer in your car without having to take your hands off the wheel

  • Wow, never thought I'd see MS releasing software for the Amiga []!
  • It has been done (Score:3, Insightful)

    by john.r.strohm ( 586791 ) on Friday January 01, 2010 @10:31AM (#30613948)

    Many years ago, at a RobotFest in Austin TX, I watched a dancer demonstrate triggering of multiple MIDI-controlled musical instruments from EMG sensors.

    He danced, and the instruments played NON-preprogrammed accompaniment to his dance. If you watched CAREFULLY, you could see which muscle movements were triggering which sounds.

    And he was GOOD. He'd obviously spent a LOT of years learning dance, and he'd obviously spent quite a bit of time mastering his new instruments.

    • Yes, I saw this at a CHI conference. I think it would've been '92 or '93. SF was there first, again; Spider Robinson had someone "dancing the drums" in Night of Power, 1985.

    • by rts008 ( 812749 )

      Any hope of a youtube link? Or more specific info to search?

      I'm serious, that sounds awesome.

      Hmmm...the possibilities now days....

  • One of the applications essentially claims a classifier to learn the signals corresponding to various movements, and then classifies unknown inputs to indicate what movements they correspond to. That one is extremely well-known, and it'll hinge on whether Microsoft managed to think of some specific signal feature not mentioned in the prior art. Personally, I would bet that one's dead in the water, but you can never be sure without doing a proper search.

    The other one essentially claims a wearable device wi

  • " and a person in a meeting may want to unobtrusively communicate with someone outside"
    This sounds like that sign/hand/body language the Bene Gesserit used in Dune

  • Well, I can think of something else I could use to query the navigation system while keeping my hands on the wheel. Granted, it's not usually used for communicating with a computer, but it does have a high bandwidth input and output interface, and it's way more fun than trying to flex my nonexistent muscles. And the collaborative mode really rocks.

  • Can anyone say... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by transami ( 202700 ) on Friday January 01, 2010 @11:04AM (#30614090) Homepage

    Prior Art? []

    • by Pedrito ( 94783 )
      Prior Art? []

      Precisely! They've been doing this in prosthetic limbs for quite some time. Obviously those types of prosthetic limbs have computers inside of them. So doesn't sound terribly original to me.
  • Bad Karma (Score:3, Insightful)

    by gmuslera ( 3436 ) on Friday January 01, 2010 @11:08AM (#30614106) Homepage Journal
    Microsoft had been hit by hardware bugs (faulty hardware, pentium bug, etc), software bugs (don't know from where to start) and they are ensuring now they will be hit by bugs by the old definition. A simple fly could force you to move a lot of muscles, and your corporate database will be gone.

    And could be far worse. You face some critical app, you know that you should not even think on moving that muscle and, of course, you will..

    And will be interesting to see what happens with people that can't move certain muscles or do some combos, like i.e. doing the vulcan greeting, or closing just one eye... the new generation of computer disabled people is in the making.
  • Because if there is anything they understand in Redmond, it's getting things done by flexing a little muscle.
  • With half a minute of google searching, I found half a dozen references to experiments already using Electromyography to drive computer behaviour.

    I remembered that most of the new work on prosthetic arms these days focuses on using EMG to drive the arm behaviour (including Dean Kamen's new bionic arm), and there's a bunch of stuff done (and papers released) with driving the mouse for people with disabilities.

    Surely this patent application has to be thrown out, and isn't Microsoft just wasting the Patent

  • by jmpeax ( 936370 ) *
    Sounds great. Hope they don't get the patent.
  • The current MS PR team could use Olivia Newton John's "Lets Get Physical" as a launch theme song, then hire on Arnold Schwarzenegger to host ads about the new user interface, which leads to the use of the term "No Pain, No Gain" for users having to do contortions for some operations.

    They could call the MUI OS "MS Fit" I guess (heh that really works to... Monkey dance, throwing chairs, etc. yeah!) :-D

  • by Kenshin ( 43036 ) <> on Friday January 01, 2010 @11:35AM (#30614248) Homepage

    Now I imagine a new movie, where Arnold Schwarzenegger defeats the BSOD by the might of his muscles alone. (Of course, it may not work as well now, since he's the flabby Governator.)

  • What use? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by webdog314 ( 960286 )
    Despite the examples given in the parent, I can't honestly think of a single practical use for an input device like this (as has been mentioned, Microsoft has a really warped idea of what qualifies as a "GUI"). I mean what would you use it for? A mouse may not be the perfect hardware for controlling your virtual world, but it's amazingly versatile. You can also let go of a mouse. I can just imagine a surgeon using this and then having to sneeze, or playing WoW with your new MUI device getting killed because
  • RCA and Polaroid achieved a great level of wealth through introduction of new technologies in media and film, and having done so, spent their energies at the peak of their wealth employing the very finest minds researching and perfecting that "next big thing", that unfortunately for them, nobody wanted. Microsoft seems to be going down the same exact path.

  • what kind of a computer response would you get by tightening your anal sphincter?

  • Microsoft is seeking patents for controlling a computer by simply flexing a muscle.

    Microsoft has been controlling computers for years by flexing its muscles.

  • Research into this has been going on for quite some time in the area of artificial limb control by amputees. DARPA has been doing quite a bit of research in this area, as described in the book "The Department of mad Scientists" [].
  • Seriously, why not just invest some time learning how to properly use the keyboard? People are always looking for something, like voice to text, that will allow them to be as proficient as their peers without having to learn to type. If muscle controls are anything like speech to text software the training sessions alone are going to take almost as much time as just learning to type. They should just pick up a copy of mavis beacon [] and have at it (which wouldn't have been necessary now had they actually paid
    • "Seriously, why not just invest some time learning how to properly use the keyboard? People are always looking for something, like voice to text, that will allow them to be as proficient as their peers without having to learn to type."

      One problem, how do I type the command that instructs my bionic arms to type commands.
  • Microsoft reaches new heights in their attempts to remain "important." They've tried to be the only ones who can build an operating system but those "smelly long-haired" guys have turned out a very good alternative. Microsoft's attempt to take over web browsing seems to have faltered and the open-source alternative is becoming more popular every day. The "office productivity" class has resulted in a very competent and free alternative to Microsoft's overpriced package.

    Maybe some day our Slashdot editors wi

  • What does this have to do with my rights online?

  • I don't wanna be Johnny Raincloud here but this sounds to me like it's a bit outside of Microsoft's reach.
    Perhaps in the future this is a feasible thing but I think for the foreseeable future computer-human interfaces will be limited to mice, keyboards, and touch screens.
    Voice control isn't even near up-to-par with manual input. Something tells me that a muscle controlled computers are a bit beyond that, not to mention the impracticality of having to hook yourself up to your computer every time you want t

Each new user of a new system uncovers a new class of bugs. -- Kernighan