“Tranceforming” a CD into a mouse no one wants

I really love the Transformers. No, not the Michael Bay interpretation, where Megatron resembles a crumpled up piece of foil. I’m talking about the original Transformers, G1 (first generation). My favorite Transformer of all time has to be Soundwave. Why? Because Soundwave is a badass. He talks really cool. He knows he’s superior. He’s a Decepticon [come on, we all know Decepticons are cooler than Autobots]. I also like him because he’s one of the few Transformers that changes into something that we may have personally used at one point: a microcassette recorder.

Okay, well if you were alive in 1984, then maybe you used a microcassette recorder. It used a cassette tape that was about a quarter of the size of a normal audio cassette.

You may have run across microcassettes in old school phone answering machines…if you’re old enough to remember those. And if you are, and you remember microcassettes, you probably wished the ones in your answering machine turned into robot panthers, or robot birds, or robots…with pile driver arms. That would have been AWESOME. But you know, Soundwave wouldn’t be such a good Transformer today. What if you saw a microcassette recorder just hanging around? It’s not exactly something that’s inconspicuous, because no one uses them today. We use phones or iPods or a variety of solid-state recorders if we’re recording audio. Soundwave in today’s world would probably end up much like this skit from Robot Chicken:

The Flat CD Mouse is also a Transformer, of sorts. Designed by Taewon Hwang, the Flat CD Mouse allows a notebook/laptop computer user to have a full size mouse wherever they travel.

The clever design allows the mouse body to be flattened; it can then be stored in the CD/DVD drive of the notebook computer. When you need the mouse, you eject it from the drive, fold it into shape, insert the low profile USB receiver, and you’re good to go.

Oh, that’s a great typo: TRANCEFORMING. I think that’s a new thing where Transformers just start dancing.

The Flat CD Mouse is a lot like Soundwave: they both transform into things that are totally irrelevant in this day and age. The computer mouse is something most laptop owners don’t use. All modern laptops come with built-in trackpads for navigation. The trackpads in today’s laptops are much more responsive than those found in laptops from just a few years ago. And newer trackpads have much more functionality, registering pressure sensitivity, and allowing multiple-finger gestures. I don’t know what it is with designers creating mice for laptop users; maybe it’s because some of these designers still use a mouse. Yes, I do actually know some designers that use mice with their laptops. But, as I stated in this post, but it’s mainly when they are using a program that requires accuracy, like digital drawing, 3D modeling, or CAD. Plus, they’re usually using a mouse with greater precision than what a mouse like the Flat CD Mouse could offer. And like I said in the post, the only other people I know who use a mouse over the laptop’s trackpad are older people who don’t understand how the trackpad works or don’t have the dexterity to use it.

Due to the the availability of software, music, and video via digital download, there’s a trend in portable computers to totally eliminate optical drives. Many people are against the removal of optical drives, including me. Well, I wouldn’t say I’m against it, but when I use my laptop, I like it to be able to have the ability to do everything that my desktop computer can do, including reading/writing/burning CDs and DVDs. On the other hand, when was the last time I burned a DVD or CD on my Macbook Pro? Probably more than six months ago, and the only reason I burned that CD was because the stereo in my 1987 BMW only has a CD player, and has no auxiliary input for my iPod. Another trend in laptops, besides the elimination of optical drives, is creating computers that are light and have thin profiles. More often, you will find manufacturers using slot-load optical drives for their thin form factor, as opposed to typical tray-load drives. I question whether this Flat CD Mouse would be able to be inserted in a slot-load drive [or even a tray-load drive, as shown] without damaging the drive or the mouse.

The engineering of this product doesn’t stretch past the mechanics of the folding. And even that is questionable. I am guessing the mouse folds using living hinges. But how does the mouse stay in the folded position, especially when you rest your palm and/or fingers on the mouse when using it? There are also big issues with the structure of the mouse, as seen above. I know designers are not engineers. But designers are also NOT “stylists”, dealing only with aesthetics of a product. The most casual research regarding electronics will show that even the thinnest printed circuit boards have some thickness to them. Of course, a way to eliminate the thickness of a PCB in a product with a form this thin is to just leave it out…which this designer did. According to the exploded view above, there are tactile sensors, some magical super-thin battery, optical sensors, and even a plastic cover. I mean, if you need to eliminate something to make this as thin as possible, eliminate the plastic cover, not the PCB that is necessary to control everything.

Just with the Arc Mouse, a prototype could have been easily produced using existing computer mice, to explore the design concept. Mock-ups and prototypes are a great tool for industrial designers, because it lets you feel the product in your hand, gives insight on how one might manufacture the product, and may also reveal how the product will not work well at all. If the designer made a prototype, he/she would have realized that maybe this idea is not feasible, especially if one is to include the components that are needed for a wireless mouse to work in such a thin profile. I understand that this concept looks into the future, and that ‘in the future’, electronics will be smaller and thinner. But unless you can back up the future technologies in your product design concept with research showing that it will be possible, you can’t, with a clear mind, use them. Doing so is like saying “Oh, it will work, because in the future, we’ll have MAGIC.”

The Flat CD Mouse is a design that was born out of a need…but it was a poorly researched need. Or maybe too specific of a need: a portable mouse focused on laptop users who want to use a portable mouse, who don’t want/have room to carry a larger wireless mouse, who also have a laptop with an optical drive installed, that’s available for physical storage of the mouse. This hyperfocused need is executed poorly, and seems implausible.

Via Yanko Design