Say goodbye to your mouse - and aching wrist. The future is in mindpower, says Jan Libbenga
In the classic TV comedy Bewitched, all Samantha had to do to make objects move was twitch her nose. Soon we may be able to go one better, simply by using our minds.

A technique previously used in lie detectors has been refined by The Other 90's Technologies Inc, of Sausalito, California, to enable anyone with a PC to move objects, control devices, run computer programs and even play video games using just their thoughts.

Brainwave patterns produce bioelectric signals that can be precisely measured in the skin. By isolating these signals, a small input device called MindDrive is able to interpret the brainwaves and move objects on a computer screen. There is no need for impractical electrodes or headgear; all you strap on is a "finger sensor" that transmits the bioelectric signals to a standard PC. The device will sell for less that $150 (pounds 100).

All kinds of games products based on "mind reading" are in the making: ski down three different mountains using your thoughts to turn left and right, in and out of slalom gates. Compose music or conduct an orchestra. Draw art on screen, then colour, rotate, enlarge and move your creations. Fly in and out of canyons, under bridges and around buildings without a helicopter. Or activate the flippers of a pinball machine with your mind. A six-year-old girl with cerebral palsy was even able to play her first computer game using MindDrive.

Using mind power to control computers is far more than a futuristic stunt. There is a serious need for alternatives to the familiar desktop mouse, which can cause severe injuries. According to the ergonomics laboratory of Berkeley University, near San Francisco, the average user may click or drag the mouse between 10,000 and 80,000 times a week, resulting in discomfort and injuries to the shoulder, elbow, wrist, thumb and fingers. An estimated 1 million people are diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome each year, a condition that causes inflammation of delicate muscles.

Many of these cases have been hand-mouse related. Some experts, in particular Robert Markison, believe that the epidemic of repetitive strain injury has not yet peaked. "The mouse is a sign of a terrific disrespect to the hand," Mr Markison says. Companies have already developed mice that reduce hand movements and eliminate many repetitive tasks.

But why not go further? At Comdex in Las Vegas, one of the biggest computer trade shows in the world, a small company called Hunter Digital demonstrated its No Hands Mouse - "The mouse made for your feet." The system has two interchangeable foot pedals: one features a 360-degree pressure-sensitive mechanism, letting the user control both cursor speed and direction with one foot, while the second is used as a clicking device.

Users can type and control the cursor, point and click, and drag and drop without taking their hands off the keyboard. "To operate it, you simply use the muscle memory you naturally developed when you learnt to walk," Aaron Sones, president of Hunter Digital, explains. "You are moving the stress points from the relatively delicate hand-wrist area to the much more durable ankle-foot joint." The company believes its mouse is a godsend to online subscribers who spend hours surfing the Internet, which is primarily a mouse-driven activity.

The mouse is dead; long live the feet - and the mind.

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