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Air-Mouse using ATmega32 microcontroller

I. Introduction

The Cornell University Airmouse Initiative is a motion sensing glove with buttons on it that plugs into your computer to function as a mouse.

Many tasks that are performed on the computer require the use of both a keyboard on the mouse, and many people find it frustrating and awkward to have to switch back and forth between them. So, we’ve created what we believe to be the solution to this dilemma, as you can wear the glove on your hand while you’re typing and then when you want to move the mouse cursor, simply push a button that is already on your hand and point your finger at the screen and move it around. The Airmouse is comfortable to wear, and does not significantly inhibit typing. It functions completely as a two button serial mouse, and even implements variable rate vertical scrolling.

Air mouse glove

II. High Level Design

Our project was inspired by two sources. Firstly, when Professor Land exclaimed, “I have free accelerometers, and they [can do cool things],” we felt as if we should explore the possibility of using them. We thought for a while about what kind of awe-inspiring device we could construct with acceleration sensors, and then we found our second fountain of inspiration – the mouse-glove that Tom Cruise used in Minority Report would not only be very neat were it real, and it was not impossible to make it real. Accelerometers seemed to be the ideal sensor for constructing a hand-mounted pointing device.

Our original plan used accelerometers to measure the acceleration of a user’s hand and integrate that acceleration into a change in position. The math behind this is very easy – using Verlet Integration, we would approximate the integral of the acceleration to the second degree. Verlet integration interpolates between to measured accelerations, using the average slope between them to derive velocity. This is sometimes called “trapezoidal integraton.” Here are the equations, courtesy of Professor Land’s CS417 webpage:

Verlet Equations

This approach, however, turned out to be a practical impossibility. While we successfully implemented the Verlet scheme and watched a mouse cursor controlled by the scheme move on the screen as we expected it to, the glove had to be held exactly at 0g (or 1g for earth-normal) in all three directions. If gravity were allowed to affect the accelerometers at all, this acceleration added into the integral, and with no negative acceleration to remove it, the change in position that we calculated grew boundlessly. We needed gyroscopes to measure gravity so that we could remove its effect from our calculations, but gyroscopes are not inexpensive, and the cheapest ones cannot be soldered by human hands.

Because of this, we decided to construct a tilt mouse instead. While not as impressive as a position tracking device, the tilt mouse is easy to use (after a bit of practice) and almost as neat as a position tracking mouse. The math behind this scheme is very easy – measure the acceleration due to gravity on the mouse, and multiply this by some constant to scale your output to a desirable level. The Microsoft serial mouse protocol uses an 8-bit twos complement number scheme to send data to the computer, and the numbers outputted by the Atmel Mega32’s analog-to-digital converter can be conveniently represented in the same number of bits. However, the numbers outputted by the accelerometer had to be altered to normalize voltage extremes to -128 and 127 and the accelerometer’s neutral output to 0. We will discuss in the next section, Program/Hardware Design, exactly how this was done. In addition to scaling the output, we also used a step filter on the data to make the mouse easier to use. Our accelerometer was so sensitive that the slightest motion of one’s hand would cause the device to output a nonzero acceleration. To give the user a more stable region around the zero point, we quantized all outputs below a certain level to 0, then normalized any outputs out of this cutoff range by the breadth of the cutoff range. For example, if the cutoff were abs(10), the intersection of all numbers > -10 and all numbers < 10 defined the cutoff region, and any outputs outside of this range would be normalized by +10 or -10, depending on whether the output were negative or positive, respectively.

In addition to position changes, mice detect button presses. We implemented 4 buttons in our mouse – output on/off, left click, right click, and scroll enable. Each pushbutton is connected to a port pin on our microcontroller. When the output on/off button is pressed, the serial mouse output to the computer is either [re]enabled or disabled. This allows the user to move his or her hand and not have the motion affect the mouse pointer. Left click functions as a mouse left click, right click functions as a mouse right click, and scroll enable disables all motion and other button outputs while it is held down, and the y-output of the accelerometer is translated into a scroll-wheel output to the computer.

The only hardware/software tradeoff with which we had to deal was the sensitivity of our analog to digital converter (ADC). The granularity per “click” of the ADC is approximately 19.5mV/click. When we used accelerometers with sensitivities of approximately 50mV/g for our position mouse the outputs of the devices had to be normalized to the full ADC range of 0-5V so that we would have good sensitivity on our device. We will explain in the next section exactly how this was done. For our tilt mouse, we used accelerometers that outputted 1000mV/g, so the sensitivity was much higher, but we decided to normalize the range to 2000mV/g to gain even higher sensitivity, especially since we already had the necessary circuits designed and constructed. Another hardware/software issue one must usually take into consideration is the “bouncing,” or inconsistent, state in which some pushbuttons can be after a transition, but our buttons were internally debounced, as can be seen in the below figure, so we did not have to worry about polling them at certain intervals.


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