This isn't the first time such a concept has been tried, but BT Innovation (yes, part of that BT) has shown off a working peripheral that enables laptops to be controlled by motion sensors.
Dubbed 'BT Balance' it connects to a USB port and comprises two elements: an accelerometer – which detects changes in acceleration and gravity by using the static gravity field of the earth as a reference point – and software to interpret these readings.
Consequently BT hopes these devices will be used to help not just the elderly or disabled (who may find traditional track points and touch pads difficult) but also by regular users. It gives examples such as tilting a tablet PC left or right to turn the pages of an eBook, or up and down to scroll around web pages as well as automatically flipping the screen layout from landscape to portrait (a feature already in some smartphones and digital cameras).
In the long run, BT Innovation says it wants to see if the technology can be fine tuned to mimic the precise movements needed for mouse pointer control. Obviously, gaming would also be a major beneficiary.
"This is still a research project," said BT researcher David Chatting. "We are able to discriminate between a tip to the left, or right or was the device knocked, nudged or shaken." He gave no indication however of when such a project might be released into the market.
Personally, I like this Etch-A-Sketch vision for the laptop and, to some extent, elements of it are already with us (IBM/Lenovo has long used motion sensors to protect its Thinkpad hard drives from falls).
Just as importantly, I suggest we would all take great satisfaction in knowing our laptops finally realise when we are slapping/kicking/throwing them out of windows in frustration. Now if only some kind of pain sensor can be integrated so we can start taking revenge for those millions of 'Illegal Operation' errors...