Like so many people who use computers all day, Abir Qamhiyah and her colleagues in Iowa State University’s Mechanical Engineering Department found that the mouse-intensive software they used was giving them numb hands and painful wrists-the signs of carpal tunnel syndrome. But rather than submit to the traditional solutions-wrist splints, painkillers, or even surgery-Qamhiyah decided to develop a new kind of pointing device, one that would leave the wrists out of the equation. The result: a kind of joystick without a base, with a pressure plate at the thumb end that can be used to move an on-screen cursor in any direction. Says Qamhiyah, “We looked at how much force a thumb is capable of exerting, and we specified the sensitivity range to be on the very low end”-meaning the new pointer shouldn’t cause its own ergonomic nightmares. Two buttons on the side take care of left-clicking and right-clicking. Iowa State is looking for corporate licensees to bring the device to market.
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