4.2010 – 6.2011
Microsoft Touch Mouse
Before 2009, novel input architectures, combining multi-touch interaction with basic mouse functionality were explored by Microsoft research. In 2009, I helped Microsoft Hardware turn this research into a real product, ensuring the touch interaction model carefully balanced gesture recognition against core mouse functionality, and later designing the product’s onboarding to ensure user adoption of the gesture set.
Microsoft released their Mouse 2.0 research paper for the 2009 UIST ACM Symposium just as Apple introduced its Magic Mouse to the world. The paper covered the pros and cons of five different hardware architectures, described the approach to low-level touch processing and highlighted new potential desktop interactions. Both companies saw exciting opportunities for multi-touch mice and Microsoft Hardware responded to Apple with something more impressive than Arc Touch Mouse. Out of the five research prototypes, the ‘Cap’ mouse architecture had the most potential and the least risk. I joined the product team shortly after it was kicked off.
Those wanting a premium multi-touch mouse which transforms Windows 7 into the ideal experience – one just as exciting for the PC as Magic Mouse was for the Mac.
…but more comfortable.
For advancing Microsoft’s research were to…
- Design a full size wireless mouse that’s truly comfortable even when gesturing.
- Deliver fun, useful, and easy to perform multi-touch gestures, creating the ideal Windows 7 experience without compromising any core mouse functionality.
- Ensure the multi-touch gestures are quickly learned, easily remembered and adopted into everyday use.
And for the launch of Windows 8, evolve Touch Mouse’s behavior to showcase what’s new in Windows.
Required developing a clear mental model for gestures and reinforcing it with the right associated actions. Prior research explored a large range of opportunities – mostly manipulations – some appropriate for a select group of apps and others implying a next generation operating system. Influencing Windows was out of scope and the relevance of gestures had to be broader. The mental model forming as I joined the team was one finger for controlling content, two fingers for controlling the window, and three fingers for controlling all windows. The familiar two finger pinch/rotate manipulations were also interesting, but awkward to perform on a mouse, would complicate this model and were ultimately discarded for simplicity.
The sheer complexity of this product with early engineering builds was tangible, more so than anything the group had previously shipped. High-level experience goals, typical user research methodologies and a monthly cadence of subjective user studies validating the design were not going to produce timely, actionable feedback. The team needed a framework that translated goals into action so I drove the definition of both objective and subjective target metric criteria (e.g. meet a specific average rating or meet a specific spec). It did not matter how cool the gestures were if you could not confidently use the mouse. Finding the right balance was key so I also established metrics to track and characterize the source of those frustrations.
Timely feedback was now critical to the acceptance of our experience measures and for driving iteration. More frequent, focused feedback and automated synthesis, I knew could accelerate our pace. With no existing solutions to meet our needs, I drove development of another tool with the help of a vendor which collected survey data in a custom SQL database and aggregated responses automatically to an Excel file which visualized results against our metrics in a meaningful way. With a historical view of our progress (e.g. over hardware and software builds), we could sort, filter and analyze response frequency, distribution, and easily summarize our findings for management or dive deep into the details for development. What once took three weeks for feedback, now took just a couple of days, enabling the team to more rapidly tune the experience.