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A touchy-feely mouse that goes bumpà

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aj + .column

OK, I am a sucker for this kind of stuff. The heavy-duty background is in a Scientific American article with the embarrassing title, 'Touchy feely computing'at www. scientificamerican. com/2001/0801 issue/0801technicality. html.

There are also nearly 7,000 Google references to it on the Web so I won't print them all. It, incidentally, is the Logitech touch-feedback iFeel mouse.

You will be able to buy one in the UK next month.

If your kids play games you may have come across the Microsoft forcefeedback joystick, which progressively stiffens up when things get tough - and there was, maybe still is, a spooky thing you strap on your back to simulate acceleration and sideways swerves in games. But the iFeel beats them all. It is an optical mouse which allows you to feel the virtual texture of the Web site across which you are running your mouse:

corduroy, sandpaper, unsanded floorboards, velvet, old cornflakes - you can even feel icons and presumably the edges of menus - and it gives a shudder when Windows crashes for the fourth time. No bad-taste remarks about whether you can iFeel evenly tanned flesh, thank you very much.

I guess they got the idea from those cinema rides where you sit in the dark behind padded crash bars and bump your way over virtual railway tracks before running out of control down the side of the mountain. Apparently, the iFeel creates its sensations using a tiny motor inside the mouse which does much the same thing, only scaled down. It generates bumps of varying intensity and frequency according to the way it's programmed - more accurately the way Web designers have programmed their sites - always provided that they have programmed their sites. It sounds just great and, just conceivably, the promoters'claims that it improves mouse accuracy might not be utter rubbish.

Priced $40 in the US, it will cost £40 (£50 for an ambidextrous model) - the usual pound-for-dollar swindle!

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