A tiny Israeli innovation is stepping up to take the place of the ‘rocker mouse’ that is fast becoming a relic in cell phone and gaming technology.
By David Shamah
Why do cell phones, remote controls, gaming devices and other small electronics look like they do? It’s all about the mouse – that four-way rocker button that sits at the center of most such devices.
Thanks to his new "mini-mouse" invention, says Ailon Tamir of Israel’s MicroPointing device, designers will soon be free to let their imaginations run wild.
"The 35-millimeter-squared rocker mouse currently used on most cell phones and many other small devices is a relic of the past," says Tamir. "Devices today have many more functions, and as a result have many more buttons. There is a real competition for real estate on devices today. The old-fashioned rocker-style mouse used by most devices today just takes up too much room."
It’s not only smaller in size but also in cost. The one square millimeter MicroPointing mouse is as much as a third cheaper to produce and consumes less energy than its larger counterpart.
A more intuitive mouse
The MicroPointing solution uses advanced software algorithms and innovative design to create smaller, touch screen-style mice that are easier to manipulate and control, says Tamir.
"Imagine, for example, a ring with a one-millimeter mouse as a remote control for a TV, instead of the current design – a rectangle with the mouse at the center. By making the mouse smaller, we can allow designers to make devices smaller, as well," says Tamir. "And it would be a lot more intuitive to use than current devices."
Micropointer on a ring -The mini mouse gives device designers the freedom to let their imaginations run wild.
A mini-mouse would also presage a revolution in gaming. One of the biggest growth areas today, gaming devices are likewise centered on the 35-square-millimeter rocker, often making game play clumsy and difficult to master. A tiny button that controls the action would allow designers to make radical changes to gaming devices – and perhaps even inspire a whole new approach to games.
At a recent conference, Jeff Raynor, principal technologist of ST Microelectronics’ imaging division, and inventor of the optical mouse, said that manufacturers are concentrating on developing smaller mouse devices that would fit in with smooth touch screens – "exactly the kind of thing we have already developed," notes Tamir. "If the largest manufacturer of mouse devices had used MicroPointing’s solution last year, for example, the company would have saved many millions of dollars."
Rave reviews at trade shows
Tamir, who developed the MicroPointing device along with company CTO Vladimir Muzykovski, has been showing the prototype to several European companies, and received rave reviews at recent trade shows in Las Vegas (January’s Consumer Electronics Show) and Barcelona (February’s Mobile World Congress). "Our booth was crowded with industry people who were very interested in working with us, because of the design possibilities it opens up, as well as because of the lower production costs," Tamir says.
Currently, MicroPointing is a part of the Mofet B’Yehuda incubator, located south of Jerusalem, and has its offices there. It has three employees, but that may change soon, Tamir says, as the company could have its first deal within a year.
"We are almost ready to go, and are putting the final touches on our product," he says. "This is without question the mouse of the future. Others are working on similar ideas, but we are way ahead of them, and we have the patents to produce the most cost-effective and innovative mouse. I keep telling potential customers that now is the time to get on board with us."