Video-game interfaces have come a long way since the days of the joystick, and not all of them are ergonomically perfect. On a computer system, there is the keyboard / mouse combo. Sometimes the discomfort of moving back and forth between the two is a painful flick of the wrist.
“A lot of gamers were saying it dawned on them that their fingers started turning numb with a keyboard,” said Pete McAlindon, engineer and founder of Blue Orb Incorporated, to Physorg.com.
For the few that don’t complain, the problem may not seem as bad. But for others, carpal tunnel syndrome is damaging to the wrist muscles.
Switchblade, a piece of software developed by Blue Orb, takes away that pain by merging the mouse and keyboard together. All it took was some imagination by McAlindon and turning the mighty joystick, now generally called a controller, from an X-box or Playstation 3 into a device usable on a home computer.
The evolution to this style of controller came from the OrbiTouch keyboard. Websites like Livescience.com and Physorg.com are hailing this device as more than a gaming geek’s newest and most radical toy.
McAlindon came up with the idea when he was feeling the pain himself, hammering away at the keyboard, when he was a grad student.
“I was thinking how it wouldn’t be good to graduate and not be able to type. So as an engineer, I started thinking: how can you type without using your fingers?” said McAlindon.
Instead of a traditional keyboard, the device he invented and refined consists of two mouse shaped grips that can be moved left, right, up, down and diagonally to enter letters, numbers and commands to a computer.
“If you have a physical disability, what chance do you have of using a computer? The OrbiTouch is designed to keep people with physical or developmental disabilities connected,” said McAlindon to LiveScience.
He believes anyone with motion problems in their hand can benefit; it is less stressful to the hand muscles.
For people with autism, this device is already in use.
“Using his skills as a human factors engineer, McAlindon turned his concept into a very creative device to help people with disabilities. The result of his skill and persistence is the evolution of his technology into an ingenious device,” said Sara Nerlove, program director for the National Science Foundation’s Partnerships for Innovation program to Physcorg.com.
The NSF help funded McAlindon’s initial research and Nerlove’s praise is just a beginning for his firm. With success in two different communities, McAlindon continues to develop and refine both technologies, the orbiTouch and SwitchBlade, with new applications to come. It’s success with a game like World of Warcraft : Wrath of the Lich King is just a beginning.
Article from Gamersyndrome.com