Build a better mousetrap, and the world will beat a path to your door. Build a
better mouse, though, and you could rake in some serious cash! As devices go
mobile and get smaller, manufacturers are searching out technologies that will
allow interaction between computers and humans using as small a footprint as
possible. And at least one Israeli start-up has developed a promising technology
that allows interaction with computers, tablets and smartphones using input
devices that take up very little space.
The mouse, developed in the 1950s
and ’60s, came into its own during the ’80s, as Apple computers, which sported
the input devices, became popular. It’s pretty clear that without the mouse, the
concept of “Microsoft Windows” as we know it would not exist.
needless to say, the whole history of personal computing, from PCs down to the
iPhone, would have been radically different.
Dependent only on the
keyboard, I’d be typing this story on a variant of Wordstar or WordPerfect,
instead of a nice MS Wordstyle page.
But the mouse is not the last word
in computer input. The traditional roller ball or optical mouse are fine for PCs
or Macs, but they’re not very laptop friendly.
Largely because there was
nothing else reasonably (i.e., inexpensively) available at the time, older
laptops sported trackball mice, although touchscreen technology has been around
since at least the early 1990s.
Joysticks have also been popular,
especially on gaming consoles and for use with computer games. Now, of course,
touch is all the rage, with small devices such as the iPad, iPhone and the
plethora of Android phones implementing it almost flawlessly, while touch
track pads are all the rage on laptops.
But touch technology isn’t the
be-all and end-all; sometimes it’s more convenient to use a joystick or
thumb pad, especially for games.
Although many games manufacturers have
figured out a way to port their best-selling titles for use on touchscreen
smartphones, many apparently haven’t figured out how to port the “feel” of the
game, which was of course played on older devices using mice or
Hence the market for a product like the ThinkGeek Joystick-It
Arcade Stick For iPhone, which retros the iPhone (and other smartphones) back to
an earlier era, allowing players to enjoy their games and still have the
opportunity to carry around a cool phone.
Another argument against the
touchscreen is its cost. The touchscreen and the chipset to control it are the
most expensive component in the iPhone and the Nokia N8, for example, and
touchscreens are notoriously sensitive to scratches, moisture and all sorts of
That’s why, even though everyone and his mother seems to
want a smartphone, there is still a huge market for “traditional” cellphones,
where the interface consists of buttons (to input numbers and letters for text
messages), and a mini-mouse or joystick, known as a “four-way rocker” in the
While still useful, the four-way rocker is quickly
becoming superannuated because it’s too big, says Ailon Tamir of Micropointing,
an Israeli start-up that is building a better mouse for the smaller devices that
manufacturers are constantly developing.
“There is a great deal of
competition for space on the device surface, which of course is very limited,”
he says. “And the old-fashioned rocker-style mouse used by most devices today,
which measures 35 millimeters squared, just takes up too much room.”
cellphone manufacturers are constantly innovating, they constantly come out with
new models that they encourage users to buy. For non-touch phones, size and
form-factor is one of the biggest selling points; the smaller the phone, the
more popular it usually is.
Micropointing’s solution is perfect for these
Using a combination of advanced software algorithms and
innovative design, Micropointing has managed to shrink the cellphone rocker
considerably – to as small as a square millimeter! “It could be used in hand held
devices such as smart phones, navigating systems and notebook PCs – anywhere
space is at a premium,” Tamir says.
Not only space – but cost, too, he
says: “Instead of costing more, our mouse device is cheaper than the standard
35-millimeter mice out there now – about a third cheaper, with far less power
That means more people in third-world countries where
device manufacturers are largely selling non-touch phones these days will have
access to them, while form factors for laptops that still require mouse input can
be further shrunk, making them more attractive – and cheaper.
Micropointing solution can even go beyond cellphones and laptops. How about, for
example, a TV remote-control ring that you can use to change channels and
volumes with a flick of your thumb? Thanks to Micropointing’s technology, lost
remotes will be a thing of the past – because you’ll be wearing the remote!
Tamir, who developed the Micropointing solution along with company CTO Vladimir
Muzykovski, showed off the mini-mouse at last January’s Consumer Electronics
Show in Las Vegas, where, he says, they were inundated with interest from
potential partners, both manufacturers and service providers.
company, currently a member of the Trendlines Group’s Mofet B’Yehuda Venture
Accelerator, is set for explosive growth, Tamir believes.
“We have the
only patented one-millimeter mini-mouse in the world, and we are far ahead of
anyone else in development of this kind of device,” he
“Manufacturers need a solution now. It’s like a match made in