Mice in Space

by Fred Thorlin

I was initially attracted to the Gyration.com booth at CES by a promotion of their 3-D mouse.

Whatís that? Gyrationís main product is the Ultra Cordless optical mouse. The device uses a gyroscope in the mouse to measure movement when it is not moving along a surface. Motion up and down and left and right is reflected by the screen position of the mouse pointer. Motion toward and away from the screen is ignored. Cool! Who needs it? Their target market is PowerPoint users making presentations in front of groups. The other users are those of us who would like to put our feet up on the computer table and sit back when we surf the web or play a game of solitaire. Sounds like me.

Before I go further I should mention that it also functions as a perfectly normal mouse; maybe better than normal. When sliding around a desktop it acts as an optical mouse, traversing mouse pads and hardwood with unfailing accuracy. It has two buttons and a wheel button. Emphasizing its normalness is the absence of any installation software. Just use what comes with your Windows system. The mouse comes with a recharging cradle. When I park the mouse there, even after a long day, I donít run out of power. If you do manage to run it all the way down, a two-minute charge is enough to get you going again.

The magic is activated by a trigger on the underside of the mouse. Hold it in and the Windows cursor will track the motions of the mouse, release it and the cursor stays in place. Alternatively, double clicking locks the mouse in tracking mode until you click again or put the mouse on a surface. The mouse buttons and wheel are always active.

After extensive testing with FreeCell, I can assert that using the flying mode works fine but you must have an armrest while using it. Surfing in the air works very well. The only difficulty I encountered was double-clicking on small buttons. It takes a little practice. More importantly I have a carpal tunnel-like problem; being able to place and use the mouse, and keyboard anywhere, does reduce my discomfort. The mouseís range is quoted as 25 feet. I used it to draw lines on my screen from over 30 feet away!

The quiet keyboard uses full-sized keys in a notebook layout. A row of buttons across the top provide access to setup and standard multimedia and Internet functions. A 10-key pad overlays the standard keyboard. To activate it, the Fn key must be held, negating much of its utility. The 12.5Ē x 6Ē size makes it easy to work with the keyboard on even a small TV dinner tray. It could almost get lost under a sheet of paper. There are two concealed stand-ups under the keyboard that rescue it from laying flat. The keyboard works smoothly beyond the quoted range of 25 feet. Gyration says their users generally get about 3 months of 40-hr. workweeks service from its four AAA batteries.

There is a fine set of installation instructions included with the product. I didnít find them until I had been using the Gyration for a day. The information on a three square inch decal on the bottom of the receiver was quite sufficient, i.e. it isnít hard. Plug the transmitter into a USB port. Put the mouse in the charger and plug it into the wall for a while. Push a few buttons. It works! When I found the User Manuals, they provided a clear discussion of setting up, but were short of operating information, e.g. reassigning function keys and operating techniques.

Where I usually write, my keyboard and mouse share a TV dinner table. Itís not a pretty site/sight. This spacious work area easily accommodates my mouse, keyboard, associated cabling, pens and notepaper. Not! Keyboards and mice contribute a lot of wires to my workspace. I am forever stretching my feet out and pulling out one of the cables. Wireless keyboards and mice are the obvious solution. Alas, I have tried, and returned, three of them. Their operation proved to be quirky and unreliable. At the same price the Gyration is different. I have been abusing it for over a week now and it is still going strong. Itís a keeper.

Fred Thorlin can be contacted at thorlin@swbell.net.

E-mail me at mfoster@hal-pc.org with any comments you have and tell me what you want to see here.

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Last modified: 2003:04:14