Wednesday, May 16, 2007

The Evolution of Input

A new kind of mouse replacement ...

"Who would believe that a little mouse could cause so much pain? Most computer users, that's who.

The ubiquitous computer mouse has long been hailed as a crucial tool that has helped humankind interact with technology. It has also developed a nasty reputation for causing injuries. The repetitive movements we perform as we move that cursor around the screen can cause aches, pains, strains and even bring on the much-dreaded carpal tunnel syndrome.

And like most technology problems, a cottage industry has emerged in search of a solution. The market for ergonomically friendly input devices is actually a pretty big cottage, worth somewhere between $35 million and $49 million, according to one of the major companies in the field, Kensington Computer Products Group, based in Redwood City. And because the problem with aching hands, arms or shoulders hasn't shown any signs of going away, it is likely that the market will continue to grow.

To match that demand, entrepreneurs are innovating as fast as they can.

Euro Office, originally founded in Sweden with U.S. headquarters in Napa, has developed the Trackbar Emotion, a new kind of ergonomic mouse that works to minimize the reaching movements at the root of most mouse muscle problems.

"Some 10 years ago computers broke down, said Mike Sjöblom, president of Euro Office. "Now we have fixed the computers, but people are breaking down instead."

The Swedish-designed and Chinese-made mouse is centered at the base of the keyboard. Without having to reach to the left or the right, you control the cursor with your fingertips on a scroll wheel.

Less force is needed to click than with a conventional mouse. The idea is to minimize the movements in front of the computer as much as possible so that strain on hands and arms are reduced.

Another mouse competitor

The Trackbar Emotion was introduced in Scandinavia last year and is just coming to America now. Its biggest direct competitor is another ergonomic pointing device that now has a large part of the U.S. market, the RollerMouse from Contour Design.

"One difference between us and them is that we have a system for both desktops and laptops," said Sjöblom. "Another difference is that we are approved by Microsoft."

Just like the RollerMouse, the Trackbar Emotion doesn't come cheap: The price tag is $199 -- about 10 times more than a conventional mouse."    (Continued via SFGate.com)    [Ergonomics Resources]

Trackbar Emotion - Ergonomics

Trackbar Emotion

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