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Spicebox's Mauz tries to turn your iPhone into a 3D, gesture input device, but it isn't ready

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Gallery Photo: Spicebox Mauz hands-on photos
Gallery Photo: Spicebox Mauz hands-on photos

Another day, another company hoping to combine the magic of Kickstarter and CES to launch a product. This is the Mauz, which is a tiny dongle that plugs into an iPhone dock and tries to turn it into a pretty magical, multi-vector input device for your PC or Mac. The dongle actually doesn't do all that much itself — containing a laser sensor for your actual mousing operations and the bits to automatically launch the Mauz app when you plug it in. Right now, it connects via the iPhone's Wi-Fi to communicate with your computer, but the engineers at Spicebox say that a Bluetooth module is in the works. Unfortunately, the company is just kickstarting an iPhone 4/4S version, though an iPhone 5 version is apparently also in the works. An Android-compatible version is also in the "early stages of development," and by now we expect you're detecting the same theme we are.

Using the iPhone as a mouse isn't exactly a new concept

Focusing on the now, the current version of the Mauz lets you do usual mousing and scrolling, but the real magic happens when you start to take advantage of the app's other features. The first turns on the iPhone's front-facing camera for gesture controls. It didn't work especially well in our demo, but Wi-Fi at CES is notoriously difficult so we may be able to forgive them that. The other iPhone sensor it takes advantage of is the gyroscope, turning it into a 3D mouse.

Using the iPhone as a mouse isn't exactly a new concept, but this implementation is more ambitious than most — Spicebox is offering an SDK for developers to integrate the Mauz into their apps. "Ambitious" also describes the next version of the Mauz, which Spicebox says will have some mysterious sensors that will work with the iPhone's camera to better detect proximity for gesture controls. That's a typically sad story here at CES: the prototype is ok though a bit buggy, but the next version is supposedly going to be perfect. Spicebox says that it's still a few months away from having everything finalized, so hopefully it wil work out the bugs before it ships to Kickstarter backers — assuming it reaches its $150,000 goal.