There's light at the end of the carpal tunnel, thanks to two professors of Iowa State University (ISU) who use computer-aided design (CAD) software extensively and suffer from some discomforts. They invented a gadget which is part mouse and part videogame joystick, made of a flexible material similar to the one used in stress-relief squeeze balls. In "Sponge Mouse May Revolutionize Point-Click," NewsFactor Network reports that the device fits in the palm of the hand. You use your thumb to use a button on the top to control the position and the speed of the cursor. Two push buttons on the side are the right- and left-click buttons. But if you suffer from back, hand or wrist pain induced by your current mouse, don't rush to your computer store to buy a 'sponge' mouse. ISU has filed a patent and is looking at licensing opportunities for future manufacturing.
Before going further, here is a photograph of this alternative mouse (Credit: ISU).
In his article, Mike Martin tells us about the genesis of the new device, which took two years of development to be ready.
The mother of all inventions -- necessity -- may have mothered this mouse as well.
Back, wrist, and hand pain plagued mouse co-inventor Abir Qamhiyah, an Iowa State mechanical engineering professor who uses computer-aided design (CAD) software nearly every day.
"We undertook the project to reduce or eliminate the discomfort a traditional computer mouse causes to the wrist, shoulder and neck," Qamhiyah told NewsFactor. "A traditional mouse requires the arm to be extended and the wrist bent. In the new mouse, functionality is completely uncoupled from the wrist and arm."
The ergonomically friendly mouse "fits completely in the palm of the hand," Qamhiyah added.
The inventors plan a wireless version to help presenters to be free to move in a room when giving a talk involving a computer presentation. They are thinking about new designs as well.
Qamhiyah and co-inventor Don Flugrad are modifying the design to include a strap that allows the device to rest in place on the hand, freeing up fingers to type on a computer keyboard.
"With a strap to hold the pointer in the palm of the hand, one could still use their fingers to type in numbers or words to augment mouse selections," Flugrad told NewsFactor. "This would be much more efficient than continually going back and forth between the keyboard and the mouse for applications that require both inputs."
Personally, this last trick leaves me puwwled. Having a mouse in the palm of my hand while using my fingers to type doesn't seem very practical. What do you think?
For more information, you also can read this ISU news release.
Sources: Mike Martin, NewsFactor Network, June 25, 2004; Iowa State University news release, May 3, 2004