Web surfing as easy as a walk in the park

Brian Meyers, a researcher in Microsoft's Step User Interface Project Group, uses a  "dance-pad" device Tuesday, in Redmond, Wash.Ted S. Warren / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

Ever feel like you're not making good enough use of your feet when you're catching up on your e-mail or sorting through all those digital pictures you took on that last vacation?

Computer scientists in Microsoft Corp.'s research division have developed a color-coded "dance pad" with buttons you can tap with your feet — or jump on — to scroll through electronic files.

It may never make it to store shelves, but that's no concern to Microsoft, which spends billions of dollars a year researching far-out technologies without worrying about whether the gizmos will ever make it to store shelves.

Every year, the software giant holds an internal trade show where hundreds of researchers show off their work.

On Tuesday, Microsoft Research offered a sneak peek at its "Step User Interface" technology, one of more than 150 concepts that will be featured at its two-day TechFest beginning Wednesday.  (MSNBC is a Microsoft - NBC joint venture.)

"This is just one off-the-shelf piece of hardware we can use," A.J. Brush, the lead researcher on the project, said after demonstrating the technology.  "Now we're looking at broadening, thinking about accelerometers or other things you could strap onto your feet so you really could be just sitting at your desk and kicking your e-mail away under the desk."

Asked if he could envision any truly practical uses for such technology, Kevin Schofield, general manager of strategy at Microsoft Research, paused, then enthusiastically said: "I can envision a lot of things!"