The next idea in user interfaces – tracking velocity, not just position

So I had this crazy idea a little while ago. Rather than just tracking the position of a user’s mouse, why not track its velocity as well?

Despite large monitors (or multiple monitors), its always nice to have some extra screen space that isn’t being taken up by toolbars, task bars, and “docks” (for the Mac users 😉 ). Easy solution? Just hide them and have them pop up when the person mouses over. This is all great, but what happens when you go to access part of a window that is near the dock/toolbar? The dock/toolbar pops up and gets in the way, causing you to wait several seconds for it to slide back so you can access what you were going for.

This is when it occured to me – why not track the velocity of the mouse, and use that as indicator to see if the user does indeed want to bring up the toolbar/taskbar/dock?

Take the following example: A user wants to access a control on a window that is near the bottom of the screen, but doesn’t want to bring up the task bar (or dock) that normally sits along the bottom of the screen. If the taskbar/dock was set to auto-hide and to only appear on “impact”, the user could swing the mouse down towards the bottom of the screen without having to worry about having things pop up and getting in the way. When the user does want to bring up the toolbar/dock, he or she would just make a quick downward motion with the mouse, “crashing” the cursor into the bottom of the screen. If the mouse is moving fast enough (or, with enough velocity), the toolbar or dock pops up.

Yes, in the days of 24″ widescreen monitors, an extra 32 pixels of screen space isn’t a lot, but it does give you something to think about, especially in scenarios where screen space is limited or where current toolbars/taskbars/docks are an annoying.

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