A Swedish expert in the field of ergonomics has developed a new type of computer mouse which, he says, won't cause some types of repetitive strain injury (RSI).
Named after its inventor, Dr Johan Ullman, the Ullman Mouse looks like a joystick - but looks can be deceiving. The stick protruding from the top of the mouse is more like a pen used to push it around the desk. It is also held like a pen and that, says Ullman, is where its secret lies and why it won't cause injuries like normal mice.
By using it like a pen, muscles in the forearm and upper arm are at rest and the user's hand and forearm are in a more natural position, rather than being twisted around horizontally as they are when a normal mouse is used. It's this position which causes "mouse arm syndrome", a type of RSI that affects millions - half of the Swedish population among them, according to Ullman.
The mouse, which has an optical pick up, can be pushed effortlessly around the computer desktop without users needing to lift or move their arms. It also gives the user more control over the mouse, Ullman said, and even allows users to sign their names with the mouse.
"When you use a mouse you use these muscles," he said pointing to his upper arm. "These are made for chopping wood and hitting people in the face, not for precision work."
He set about inventing the new mouse two years ago. "I'm a medical doctor and I've had hundreds of patients with these problems," he said. "One day I suddenly realised that everybody has missed something here. This is high-precision, fine motor work that is being performed with large motor muscles and that can only lead to problems."
The new mouse isn't available yet. Ullman is currently in talks with several potential partners, one of which is a major global personal computer maker, and hopes to sign one or two partnerships that will lead to commercial production, possibly as early as this year.
The inventor has high hopes for the new mouse.
"I've made about 100 inventions and I
wouldn't trade this for the rest of them," he said. "I use it myself and everyone who has tried it says, when can I get it?'"
If Ullman had any doubts about the mouse, they were allayed when he first showed it to his wife. Usually she likes his inventions once she has used them, but she wanted one of the new mice before she even tried it, he said triumphantly.