There are many types of computer mice currently in the market, but very few adequately address the limitations of individuals with disabilities. Most accessible computer mice use a power wheelchair joystick, sip and puff devices, buttons and switches or a combination of the three to control the directional movement of a mouse. Others use head or eye tracking to do the same, However, these mice are difficult for disabled users with more severe movement limitations to use, are very expensive or simply don't provide enough control to use the mouse quickly and effectively.
Our solution was inspired by our case study of Nick, a 28 year old computer scientist with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD). DMD is a genetic condition that causes progressive muscle weakness. Currently, Nick uses the joystick on his power wheelchair to control the mouse on his computer and his smartphone. It is painfully slow and inaccurate. Nick averages under 10 words per minute typing. Making completing simple tasks difficult and slow. Since he has moved every aspect of his life to the computer. School, work, play, music, television, dating and communication. His ability to access the computer profoundly affects every aspect of his life. This led us to develop our own novel mouse design. Not just for the disabled, but everyone!
Nick can not move his wrist and arm to move a standard computer mouse. This eliminates most conventional mice. That led us to the trackball or touchpad as the next obvious solutions. Unfortunately, his hands sweat so mechanical trackballs are easily fouled yet provide superb control. So we thought what about a touchpad? Most traditional touchpads are not sensitive enough to register the light touch of his finger accurately or consistently. Then Nick suggested a trackball without a ball! Enter the uNick Mouse, a trackball without a ball.
Current trackballs rely on the mechanical movement of a ball and are easily fouled. Requiring frequent cleaning. Especially, if you have sweaty palms or oily fingers. Our design would have no moving parts and would only need to be cleaned as often as the typical touchpad. Emulation of trackball input was a key design goal of the Valve Steam Controller and is what inspired us to base our design around the Cirque sensor that it uses. We would use the Cirque sensor as a base for a wireless trackball disc that could be easily attached to any surface. It would also have several 3.5mm mono ports for accessibility switches that can be mapped to click or keyboard input.
Our design would be potentially marketable to any current trackball user, people who need an ergonomic mouse, disabled people who have difficulty using a traditional mouse and fans of the now defunct Valve Steam Controller. A product with a loyal following that was discontinued earlier this year. The touch sensor was used in Valve Steam Controller showing how it can be easily integrated into another device. Production cost would compare with products already in the marketplace.