When is a cube not a cube? When it's a Logitech Cube. That is, a mouse and presentation device which, though called a Cube is not a cube. You follow? Here's the thing: when you put it on a desk it behaves like a mouse, but when you pick it up it automatically goes into "Presenter Mode" for navigating PowerPoint presentations like a pro (because without one, PowerPoint is really, really hard). But it's the Cube's in-built gestures (all both of them) that separate it from the herd. Warning: this article contains unavoidable double entendres.
Logitech describes the Cube as tiny. That's a word which, applied to mice, tends to bring on a twitchy fit of the heebie-jeebies in me. You say tiny, I say RSI-inducing menace, let's call the whole thing a thoroughly bad idea. Of course, it's not fair to dismiss the Cube on grounds of size, designed as it is for flexibility on the road, not for extended, frenzied Warcraft clickathons. I'm even willing to bend to the suggestion that its rounded right angles and flat surfaces are strangely ergonomic - the latter lending themselves perfectly to the gestures which Logitech boasts.
About these gestures, then. The Cube features "smooth-as-smartphone" scrolling, as Logitech puts it. There are no prizes for guessing which smartphone they're getting at, here (not the Blackberry, thankfully), and sure enough, a single finger is all it takes to scroll documents and websites up and down, more smoothly than "traditional wheel movement," according to the fine print. That may be only one gesture, then (and hardly a gesture at that), but I'd take that over the baffling array of contortions Apple's Magic Mouse supports.
Though we haven't tried the Cube, our interpretation somewhat differs from Technabob's, who reckon "the wireless Cube controller lets you control your cursor much like you would your smartphone's touchscreen." That being the case, you'd run a finger over the Cube's surface to move the cursor. But since Logitech describes the Cube very plainly as a mouse, and since only one finger is used for scrolling, we think you slide this thing around the desk like the misshapen, high tech hockey puck it is.
In Presenter mode - activated by picking up the device - a single "click" (tap, surely - this thing doesn't appear to have buttons) will bring up the next slide. To go back one - get ready for gesture number two - "simply turn the cube over in your hand and click again." And here's where Logitech loses me. What does that mean, exactly? Can I simply flex my wrist and tap? Or do I have to physically turn it upside down before tapping again? If so, surely that requires either a dextrous one-handed semi-toss (apologies for the turn of phrase) or the use of both hands. Smooth.
What's wrong with buttons? A button for forward a slide, and a button for back would be ideal. My Kindle has lovely buttons for turning pages. My MacBook may support multi-touch gestures, but it hasn't done away with the keyboard. Even my iPhone has four buttons - all of which are useful. There's nothing wrong with bloody buttons. There. I said it. And I feel better for it. One wonders if a small wireless mouse with two buttons and a scroll wheel would be handier - you can use a mouse scroll wheel to rock back and forth through slides, or advance with a single left-click. I'm sure it is not beyond the ken of mortal persons to program the second mouse button to go back a slide if the scroll wheel proves too fiddly. When you think about it, all mice go into "presenter mode" when you pick them up - no matter how much you flap one about, the cursor isn't going to move.
Perhaps the idea is that no self-respecting sales rep would use a mouse as a presentation aid (there are many devices resembling TV remotes that already bank on this assumption) - and for all I know it's an idea with legs. I think , though, that Logitech's positioning of the device as a conversation starter is optimistic, to say the least. The only conversations I can envisage start with its owner saying "say, you haven't asked me about my Logitech Cube." They don't end well. Similarly, I'm not sure that it'll "fascinate your friends and family, colleagues and clients" - not unless you're willing to conduct your half of an embarrassing conversation with a bemused nurse down at the emergency room.
Still, there's something about this device. It has an on/off switch to avoid wasting battery life, and supports Logitech's proprietary Unifying receiver, potentially saving USB ports, but only if you're a Logitech fan. It comes with a USB charging cable, pouch and three-year warranty. Though I remain unconvinced, I feel strangely compelled to give one a go, if only to practice my one-handed semi-toss.
The Logitech Cube is priced at US$69.99 and is due for release in the very near future in both black and white finishes.