Thursday, November 01, 2007

Touch and Go

Mobile device without need for mouse ...

"If you have a mouse problem, this Cat® could be your answer.

I am overly attached to my computer mouse--there, I've said it. I cup, grip, push, pull, and otherwise maneuver it merrily all day long, clicking left and right, deftly flinging the cursor, and scrolling with abandon. I keep its pad clean. Sometimes, deep in thought, I think I caress it. I make this confession--providing clearly way too much information--in order to admit at the outset that I have a bias, perhaps even an unhealthy one.

Not knowing this about me, marketers at Salt Lake City-based Cirque Corp. recently sent me a device called the Smart Cat Pro®, the latest in the company's line of touchpads for desktops, designed specifically as an alternative for the conventional mouse. It functions similarly to the touchpads built into laptops and myriad other devices in which you can control screen navigation simply by gliding your finger on the pad, tapping it when you'd otherwise be clicking a button on a standard mouse.

"All consumers are now becoming aware of touch products--from dishwashers to the iPhone," says Cirque Vice President Doug Moore. "The use of touch is a natural way of interacting with electronic devices, and the touchpad is the basis of this revolution to come."

There's no denying the ubiquity of touch products or the fact that ours is in many ways a pad-based society. My laptop, like most, came equipped with a built-in touchpad. I even tried using it. Before the end of the week, though, I went out of my way to purchase a laptop-ready mouse just to restore order to my world. I'm happy to report that, since then, the technology has progressed.

Danger Mouse?
Ken Tolman, Cirque's desktop products sales manager, says that ergonomic concerns account for about 80 percent of all desktop touchpads the company sells. Customers often are seeking to replace their conventional mouse out of necessity after suffering a mouse-induced repetitive stress injury such as carpal tunnel syndrome, he says.
"If you think about it, as you're using a mouse you tend to drift with it, and you have to pick it up and put it back down in the central area, repositioning it repeatedly," Tolman says. "With the touchpad, that never happens. Instead of moving your wrist, elbow, and shoulder as you do with the mouse, all you're moving around with the touchpad is your finger--maybe a little motion in your wrist is all that's required."

Merely gripping the standard mouse or holding it in a fixed, rigid way for extended times also can lead to problems, he says. So can the repetitive motion of just reaching the finger to click. Touchpad users, on the other hand, can more easily shift positions and the fingers used to accomplish tasks with no arm movement necessary. Tolman adds the caveat that for the mouse enamored like me, it likely will take practice and conscious habit breaking to achieve the finger agility needed to finesse the touchpad: "Just understand that there is a learning curve here that you have to allow for, because it's totally different than the mouse," he says."    (Continued via Occupational Health & Safety)    [Ergonomics Resources]

Smart Cat Pro - Ergonomics

Smart Cat Pro

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