The Mouse, Reinvented
Like the six-string guitar, the mouse has remained pretty consistent since its mainstream debut in the early 1980s. Even high-end mice in 2010 follow the same conventions perfected at Xerox PARC: a device that lets users move a pointer around, and buttons that you interact with whatever has your interest. While the technology has made the mouse more effective as a computing must-have, the same basic principles still apply.
But companies, researchers, and concept designers are always eager to reinvent the wheel, sometimes as a creative exercise, or out of a genuine desire for improvement. Many times the results are pretty surprising, and even better, really useful.
Some of the following mice are pretty conventional, and apply unorthodox design to the traditional setup. Others flip the notion of "mouse" on its trackwheeled head. A couple devices shown here aren't even "mice" in the traditional sense, but are still related to our well-established need to point. Here are ten mice you'd want to use.
Though it seems more like a boomering or an oversized dual-stabilizer dart, the eVouse is actually a two-in-one number. Move it around the desktop, and it acts like a mouse with touch-sensitive buttons and scroll wheel. Hold one side like a pen, and the eVouse becomes, well, a pen. By bunching two peripherals together, the eVouse at the very least promises less desktop clutter.
While mock-ups of this mouse are plastered with the Microsoft logo, the eVouse remains a figment of designer Marcial Ahsayane's imagination. No plans to turn this concept into a retail package are forthcoming.
It's more mouse pad than mouse, but we're including the Sensory Lamp here thanks to its nature-oriented approach to the desktop mouse. This particular setup features actual grass and a LED lamp that changes color to reflect the time of the day. Why? Apparently designer Sara Rossbach believes these reminders of nature boost creativity and productivity. The grass and faux sun serve as an oasis within the concrete and steel habitat of the office.
There are currently no plans to bring this concept design to the market. More information available through Rossbach's website.
We're pretty finicky when it comes to our peripherals, and that's apparently the rationale behind the Moldable Mouse. While the base remains constant to provide the consistency that internal electronics require, the rest of this mouse is made out of modeling clay contained within layers of polyurethane and nylon. This allows the prospective user to sculpt this mouse to his liking, to maximize ergonomics, or just for fun.
It's been three years since this concept debuted online. But, it seems that even winning the 2007 Red Dot design award for Productivity and Work isn't enough to make any sort of retail debut a reality.
Newbies to 3D production workflows learn immediately that mice are a pretty cumbersome way to manipulate objects along three axes. While some pros eventually tough it out with the classic pointing setup, 3Dconnexion promises a more intuitive alternative. The secret sauce? A control knob that doubles as a joystick of sorts, allowing accurate pans, tilts, or zooms.
The basic 3Dconnexion model costs $99, while the high-end SpacePilot Pro goes for $399.
Jelfin Spherical Mouse
Like the Moldable Mouse, the Jelfin Spherical Mouse is soft and squishy. But it manages to retain its ovoid shape despite constant abuse, just to provide the sort of tension that stressed out users like to feel. Jelfin's creation is designed for over-worked salarymen. Treating the mouse like a stress ball is a good alternative to going postal, apparently. The Spherical Mouse comes in many colors, and features tri-directional scroll. Unfortunately no wireless variant is available.
This mouse is available from Jelfin's website, retailing for $35.
Belkin Washable Mouse
An oldie but goodie, the Belkin Washable Mouse is perfect for obssessive-compulsive users. Sometimes all the wiping and scratching in the world can't get rid of grime (or even worse, stickiness), but this Belkin baby can take a trip under the faucet for the sake of genuine cleanliness. Couple this non-aversion to washing with, and a touch-sensitive touch pad that supports vertical and horizontal scrolling, and you've got the perfect peripheral for the neat types.
The Belkin Washable Mouse is currently available from Amazon for $8.
The Glove Mouse
Also not a mouse per se, the "Video-Acquisition Multi-Touch Controller" looks like the next step—straight out of Minority Report. Instead of the limited interaction of the typical mouse (point, click, scroll), the Glove Mouse allows gesture controls and literal pointing. The setup works well so long as users keep their gloved control hand within the motion sensor's range.
A bunch of students from MIT are working on The Glove Mouse as a class project. Perhaps they will push for a retail launch after they graduate.
The unimaginatively-named Alien Mouse nevertheless shows off a lot of creativity, barely sharing any similarities with the traditional mouse form factor. Soft gel and cellulose surfaces supposedly allow good support for the user's hand, with the palm resting on a central hub that constantly pulsates to provide stress relief.
Unfortunately, this concept is approaching its second birthday, with no retail debut in sight. In fact, the original website of the designer has long since gone offline.
Cambridge Consultants wants to bring a new, analog-driven functionality to pointing. The Suma prototype is mouse-shaped and connects to a computer via wire, but is held up away from the desk, promising true control in three dimensions. But its ability to sense and interpret squeeze pressure, coupled with the ironically greater precision of analog controls, is what makes Suma truly unique.
A company representative went on the record regarding retail availability, stating that Cambridge is pushing for a 2011 release. Let’s hope they come up with a reasonable price!
The Shark Mouse
Jaws made the shark a symbol of speed and deadly accuracy—two things designers Alireza Haji and Mahbod Ashraf want to highlight about their Shark Mouse concept. Featuring minimal surface contact and an asymmetrical construction, the Shark Mouse promises good ergonomics. The tail provides bracing for the wrist, while both mouse buttons and the scroll are up front for optimal finger reach.
Like the other concepts featured in this rundown, we can only wait for the Shark Mouse to make a retail debut—if it ever does.