Microsoft to enable multiple mouses on a PC RRS feed

  • General discussion

  • Joyojeet Pal, a PhD student from Berkeley Institute, US, visited a school run by Azim Premji Foundation in 2005. He found several students sharing one PC. One aggressive kid was handling the mouse, while the rest were mere spectators.

    When Joyojeet began his summer internship at Microsoft Research in Bangalore, he met assistant researcher Udai Singh Pawar and assistant MD of Microsoft Research India, Kentaro Toyama, who listened to his experiences at the Azim Premji Foundation.

    The duo from Microsoft sensed a big opportunity in it for the software giant. In order to improve the learning ability of these children, they thought they could develop a system wherein each student would have a mouse, and all could operate simultaneously on a single PC.

    Thus was born the concept of MultiPoint (formerly known as MultiMouse) where any device can be connected multiple times to a PC. Microsoft is now acting swiftly to convert this into a full-fledged software. The company is now planning to make an alpha version of the MultiPoint Software Development Kit (SDK) available for download in January 2007.

    According to Sherri Bealkowski, GM for Microsoft's emerging markets group at Redmond, US, the company is even committed to delivering monthly updates of the release till manufacturing starts — expected in May 2007. This unique idea to increase the student-to-PC ratio developed by Microsoft Research India is now undergoing a technology transfer to the company's market expansion group in Redmond, where it will be further developed and made available for the world's classrooms.

    "Normally, it is the oldest or the brightest child that takes charge of the mouse. Since there is no direct contact with the PC, the others automatically tend to lose interest. So we decided to give them all a mouse each. This made a huge difference to their receptiveness," said Toyama.

    In 18 rural primary schools studied by researchers, the student-to-PC ratio was as high as 10:1. This is typical for most rural schools in India. Often, one PC is used for the entire class. With MultiPoint, the situation changes dramatically.

    Technically, one can add 120 mice to a single PC. But 15 is seen to be a more feasible option. Built on the C programming language, Microsoft is already going about the task of developing some interactive content around this application. This effort will soon receive a major impetus through the Imagine Cup, Microsoft's annual event that encourages students to come up with innovative and business-driven experiments using Microsoft tools. Education will be the theme for the event next year in Korea.
    Thursday, March 22, 2007 4:22 AM