New mouse, less pain

There’s light at the end of the carpal tunnel, thanks to an alternative to the computer mouse that has been developed at Iowa State University.

There’s light at the end of the carpal tunnel, thanks to an alternative to the computer mouse that has been developed at Iowa State University.

Abir Qamhiyah and Don Flugrad, mechanical engineering assistant and associate professors, respectively, at Iowa State University, have invented a gadget that works as a pointer for computers, video games and eventually, wireless technology components.

Because its design eliminates many of the constraints that lead to wrist, arm, shoulder, neck and back ailments, the pointer is claimed to be more ergonomically friendly. And that’s a welcome relief to Qamhiyah and her colleagues, who use computer-aided design (CAD) software extensively themselves, and have experienced those discomforts.

When a departmental secretary began requiring surgeries for these ailments, and other staffers told family stories of computer-related health problems, Qamhiyah and Flugrad began pursuing mouse alternatives.

After two years, the duo has designed the technology for a pointer gadget small enough to fit into the palm of a hand.

Resembling a joystick, it’s made of a spongy, flexible material similar to that in a stress relief squeeze ball, making it conducive for hand exercises while in use. A pressure button at the top of the gadget is controlled by the thumb to move the cursor across the screen in any direction. The thumb pressure also controls the speed at which the cursor moves. Two push buttons on the side are the right- and left-click buttons.

Qamhiyah and Flugrad currently are modifying the design to include a strap that would allow the device to rest in place on the hand, freeing up the fingers to type on a computer keyboard and adding to the gadget’s convenience. And once a wireless prototype has been completed, it will allow lecturers or presenters to move freely around rooms during computer-based presentations.

Currently, a patent is pending on the pointer, and the university is pursuing licensing opportunities for its manufacture.