The GyroTransport — a mouse for the air

Los Gatos engineer Tom Quinn has been working on this for nine years, and he has finally done it.

He has created a mouse for the air. It clicks, selects, scrolls, drags and drops just like a normal mouse. Except you can use this one from your couch — leaning back — just as you would use a remote control. It’s small enough to fit in your pocket.

So why would you want one of these critters? Internet television is bringing more and more sophistication to television sets — and Quinn’s bet is that you’ll want more than a traditional remote control to operate things.

His company is called Gyration and the device is called the GyroTransport, because it is built on a sophisticated dual-axis gyroscopic technology. It translates your wrist movements into linear movements on the screen — something that’s harder to do than you think. Quinn’s company has pumped $30 million into developing the product.

It hits Fry’s, Office Depot and Tiger Direct stores today (Monday) and will sell for between $99 and $199. It is shipping now with Dell home entertainment systems. Quinn has a patent on the product, and he assures us there’s nothing on the market that performs so well at this price range. (In fact, anything more accurate than the GyroTransport would be illegal, under U.S. security laws, which limit the accuracy of gyros because terrorists can use them for missile precision).

Quinn, a former president of Novell, let us play with the device at BJ’s Brewery in Cupertino Friday evening. It worked easily. We could use the mouse with our hand under the table, and it still controlled the cursor on the screen with pinpoint accuracy. The reason it can do this is because it uses radio frequency, not line-of-sight, and can operate up to 100ft away from the screen. The mouse has a removable USB radio transceiver, with a 1GB flash storage drive. Click on the image below to see a brief video (you’ll see a link to YouTube video).

In addition to the usual mouse technology, the GyroTransport has a button on top that lets you perform macro commands. Using an easy interface on the screen, you can program the mouse so that if you flick the mouse to the upper left, it say launches a movie on your Internet televison, via your set-top box; or if you flick it to the upper right, it launches an Internet browser and goes to YouTube. You can even store a command so that if you just shake the mouse, it turns on your music. It’ll also work with Sling Box, Yahoo Go TV, Media Center and PowerPoint presentations — so you can use it in business settings, say when you are on the road. You store a presentation in the USB drive, and you whip out your mouse and give the sales presentation on someone else’s screen. It’ll do everything your remote does too, controlling volume and channels, for example.

It took a few minutes to get the hang of it, and sometimes it took more than one try to select an icon (sometimes it took two or three tries), but that is a trivial thing to refine in later versions.

Here is a detailed listing of the GyroTransport’s features.

Quinn has gone through all sorts of transformations — his company was bought by Thomson, and now Quinn’s operation, which has about 25 employees, may be going independent again. Details to come.