Rpen - a New 3D Pointing Device

Mohammad Alam, M.Sc. Thesis, Dept. of Computing and Software, McMaster University, Oct. 2009.


Most often the development of human-computer interfaces has been driven by the technology available at the time, and not by human factor issues. The popular 2D mouse is such a device. Through this effort we have developed an input pointing device which builds on tools and skills that humans have acquired through evolution and experience.

Major trends of graphical input apparatus have gone from indirect computer input (mouse or trackball) to direct input (tablet and touch screen). The current and future trends are more towards 3D interaction and ubiquitous input concepts. Our current effort with the rpen falls somewhere in between. While it is desirable to take advantage of a mouse’s device acquisition technique, we need the rpen to be a direct and more natural interactive input device. At the same time, the rpen is a 3D spatial input device, seeking to take advantage of the human knowledge and skills, naturally.

The rpen is implemented on a Linux platform with the help of a kernel level device driver. The device uses an alternating current, electromagnetic motion tracker to provide six degrees-of-freedom absolute data. It also uses filtering and smoothing techniques to reduce the effects of electromagnetic distortions in the sensed data.

With the rpen, a user can define a touch screen anywhere. The touch screen can be of any size and of any orientation, horizontal, vertical or tilted. A drafting board, drawing board or sketch board can be a touch sensitive surface. The basic concept of the rpen is implemented in software and is not dependent on the physical sensor used. So, multiple input modes can be implemented through the software interface and the rpen can switch between these modes seamlessly.

This thesis presents a new 3D pointing device, the rpen, capable of doing both 2D and 3D interaction. As a byproduct of the current study it has been determined that the electromagnetic tracker is not suited to function as a motion tracker for any rpen-like generic pointing device.


Shift+click to download: mAlamMSCthesis.pdf (3.6MB PDF).