This mouse is shit. I’m sorry, but it is.

The Arc Mouse [no, not that Arc Mouse; that one is actually pretty nice] was designed so that it could be used on your thigh. Or, you know, on the arm of a chair…if that chair arm had a round profile. Designers Seunghoon Shin and Chang Seok Kim designed a mouse with a curved or arced underside, so that it could be easily used on curved surfaces, improving your mousing experience when you’re using your laptop without a desk.

Let’s think about this for a minute. Let’s say I’m commuting, and I’m taking my laptop on a train. I need to do some work, and for some unknown reason, I refuse to use the laptop’s built-in trackpad. I take out my laptop, and, with my legs together, place it on my lap. Then I take out my Arc Mouse and place it…shit. Where do I place it? My laptop is already on top of my legs. I guess I can hold the mouse next to the edge of the laptop, like on the side of my leg. Or I guess I can balance my laptop on only one leg, and use the other leg as my mousing surface. Or maybe…I CAN JUST USE THE BUILT-IN TRACKPAD.

Have you ever used a mouse on your leg? It’s not easy. You run out of room very quickly, and you usually have to reposition your mouse to continue using it. It also bends your arm & wrist in an awkward position. Have you ever used a mouse on the curved arm of a chair, like the one in the photo above? Probably not, because who the fuck would do that? Also, how many chairs have you come across with large, curved arms like that? Will the chair arm’s antimacassar get in the way? [You don’t know that word, do you? Another win for vocabulary class in sixth grade! Oh, and I’m talking about these things on the arms of the chair.] Did you know every laptop comes with a BUILT-IN TRACKPAD that you use to navigate?

I know I keep harping on the BUILT-IN TRACKPAD, but seriously, are people not using their trackpads? I can only name two instances off the top of my head where I’ve seen a mouse used instead of a laptop’s BUILT-IN TRACKPAD [sorry, I get carried away with the all-caps]:

1) I worked in a university with a lot of older, but incredibly smart, professors. A few of these professors hated using their trackpad on their laptops while using their computer during lectures. They would often connect a mouse, because they were more familiar with it. They would also tape big pieces of cardboard on their trackpad, so touching around there wouldn’t mess up their mousing. Older, but incredibly smart, professors can be kind of weird.

2) I know many designers who use a mouse instead of a trackpad when they are running programs that require accuracy, such as 3D modeling software, or Photoshop/Illustrator/InDesign. However, these designers only use a mouse when their laptop is sitting on a table or desk, and they have a surface where they can use their mouse. If they really need to get work done, are on the move, don’t have the luxury of a desk, and need to use place their computer on their lap, they are going to use the trackpad. A mouse is good for ideal situations, it may be their preferred method of input, but they can do the exact same things using the trackpad.

 

Physical Design Issues

Let’s get serious for a minute, and look at the design features of this mouse, as pointed out on these really good looking, photo-realistic computer renderings.

The idea of the Arc Mouse is that it’s underside is curved, so it can conform to curved surfaces, making it easier to use on those surfaces. The issue I find has to do with the curvature of the mouse’s underside. The picture above shows how the mouse’s underside can conform to the round surface below it. In that photo, the surface has a curvature similar to the mouse’s underside. What if the radius of curvature of your mousing surface was larger e.g. your thigh was larger in diameter? You would have a flatter surface, and the mouse would not rest evenly against your thigh. Conversely, if the radius of curvature of the mousing surface was smaller e.g. the rounded arm of a chair that has a smaller radius, only a small portion of the mouse’s curved underside would rest against the surface, which would allow the mouse to wobble side to side.

 

This shows the components of the Arc Mouse. The problems I covered above directly relate to the most important part of this product: the optical sensor. Optical sensors in mice are usually placed so that they are as close to the mousing surface as possible, to accurately track movement.

Zheng is right. A regular mouse can be used on any flat surface. And a curved surface actually looks flat to the mouse’s optical sensor, since it rests tangentially against the surface. The optical sensor of the Arc Mouse is placed within the curved underside of the mouse body. It can only be placed against the mousing surface if the mousing surface is also curved; place the Arc Mouse on a flat surface, and the optical sensor is too far away to track the mousing surface, possibly causing errors.

Oh, yeah, as we do with all products we think may be Flawesome, Zheng and I chatted about this mouse concept online.

And that’s it. There’s the issue of why this product concept is shit. The computer models look great, and incredibly realistic. But for something as simple as a wireless mouse, a physical model could have been easily made out of foam. And as Zheng suggested, a working prototype could also have been easily created using an altered/hacked existing wireless mouse. This was something we were always taught as students: create a model you can hold; don’t always rely on the computer. The Arc Mouse is a perfect scenario for this way of thinking. The computer models look great, and putting the models in real photographs makes it seem that the mouse would work really well in those situations. I think if the designers actually made a physical model, and tried it in the situations they portray in the pictures, they would discover some real design and usability issues. Hell, they might have even discovered that the idea of a mouse that works on curved surfaces was a need that no one currently has.