Input Devices

@for Gamers & Developers
@author Kai Ruhl
@since 2003-04

Abstract

I have always been in search of the perfect input device, and I will not stop before the data jack and mental input are possible. In the meantime, I have to explore other options, which are described below.

Razer Orbweaver (2012)

Razer OrbweaverFor the first time since Razer bought Nostromo, a successor to the N52 has been released, the Orbweaver. But again, no luck for left-handed people.

Price: Around 120 EUR. I do not have this device.

Opinion: I am still happy with my N50. Having more keys seems not so appealing for me. And the no-lefty policy does not make me happy... again.

Additional reviews: [engadget]

Penclic Mouse (2011)

Penclic wireless mouseWireless mouse becomes pen again seems to be the concept of the Penclic, which provides an alternative hand holding posture for mouse input.

Price: Around 60 EUR. I do not have this device. Can be purchased from the german Amazon store.

Opinion: Seems like a good concept. You can rest your hand, and have a hand grip with better precision that that of a mouse grip. However, the button placement seems to be less than optimal according to the Amazon ratings. Also, the base always moves with the pen, making for a less-than-pen experience. I am pondering to try the device.

Additional reviews: [redferret]

Emotiv EPOC (2010)

Emotiv EPOCA second one from the EEG (elecro-encephalography) department like the OCZ Neural Impulse Activater, the EPOC by Emotiv allows some interpretation of brain signals.

Price: About 300 EUR. I do not have this device. As far as I know, you can only purchase them directly from the Emotiv store.

Opinion: I am still in awe of this concept. Unfortunately, it does not seem to have any desktop integration (though a lot of demo apps exist), and it requires saline greasing of the sensors before each use. So it is more for research at the moment.

Additional reviews: [joystiq]

RollerMouse Free (2009)

Rollermouse FreeThe Rollermouse Free by Countour Design is a mousing replacement and successor the RollerMouse Pro. Its "rolling bar of chalk" lies free, making cleaning easier; it is also more wide. Mouse buttons are unchanged below the bar. This time, I am really tempted to buy one.

Price: About 260 EUR. I do not have this mouse. In Germany, you can purchase them from ergotrip or ergoweb.

The good: I tried both a no-name BarMouse (2009-05) and the RollerMouse Free itself (2009-10), and am quite convinced by the concept. It is surprisingly accurate, and I even played a bit strategy games with it.

The bad: Even a rollermouse is not quite as precise as, say, my Razer Diamondback. And it sure is on the expensive side. But it still would be awesome. What breaks it for me is that it never integrates well with the keyboard; typing speed always degrades. I wish there was a good combo, I would instantly buy it.

Additional reviews: [oh gizmo]

Neural Impulse Actuator (2008)

Neural Impulse ActuatorFrom the brain input device department, the Neural Impulse Actuator (NIA) by OCZ is the only actual product on the market as of 2009-05 (unlike e.g. the Emotiv Epoch). It registers both brain waves and facial muscle movements, allowing you to press "mental buttons"; mouse movement is not possible.

Price: About 150 EUR. I do not have this item; they are sold by Amazon in Germany.

Opinion: Its a brain input device! It is not going to get much faster than this. However, calibration and usage seem to be hard or somewhat unreliable, as many users report. And you have to wear the headband the entire time (I even find a bluetooth headset cumbersome).

Additional reviews: [tech report] [game-tv] [engadget]

Novint Falcon (2007)

Noving FalconA novel 3D input device, the Novint Falcon features a ball for the user, which is held by 3 arms and can be moved up/down, left/right and in/out. Force feedback (provided by vibrating the arms) also conveys a sense of texture on the ball.

Price: Not available in Europe as of 2009-05 (international shipping via ebay store); should be around 200 EUR. I do not have this item.

Opinion: Certainly a more convincing 3D feeling than a space mouse. Also, a fully programmable API is open sourced, such that anybody can develop software that works with this device. On the bad side, it does not work out of the box with your software. And I estimate the hand-holding-in-air fatigue as high.

Additional reviews: [bit-tech] [engadget]

Celluon Laser Keyboard (2006)

Celluon Laser KeyboardThe Celluon Laser Keyboard is essentially a laser projected keyboard layout plus a infrared camera which is tracking where your fingers are. It has a builtin lithium battery and connects via bluetooth to PDA or computer.

Price: About 200 EUR. I do have this keyboard; the getdigital online shop is selling them in Germany.

The good: As expected, the device is very portable, and bluetooth connectivity is reasonably comfortable. Typing with all fingers of both hands is much faster than anything a PDA can offer.

The bad: You need to tap one by one and lift every finger at least 3 mm per keystroke. As there is no tactile feedback, targetting keys is sometimes difficult. Especially holding Shift pressed is prone to failure and sometimes triggers the "menu" button to the left of it. Furthermore, the device works only with PDAs and Windows.

As of 2007, the CL800BT model above has been superseded by the CL850 model.

RollerMouse Pro (2005)

Rollermouse ProA new type of mousing, the Rollermouse Pro sits in front of the keyboard and consists of some buttons, a scroll wheel, and the rollerbar. You can roll the bar and slide it to the left and right, which translates into mouse movement; the advantage is that you never need to take the hands away from the keyboard.

Price: About 300 EUR. I dont have this mouse. Can be bought at ergo2work or ergotrip in Germany.

Opinion: I can imagine myself using it in a useful way, and the idea of not having to reach for the mouse sounds very good. It is a bit expensive, though. Maybe I will buy one.

Additional reviews:[extremetech]

Frogpad (2004)

FrogpadThe Frogpad is, similar to the Half Keyboard, designed for one-hand input and changes its layout when a certain key is pressed.

Price: About 200 EUR. I dont have this keyboard.

Opinion: Luckily, the device is available for both hands. Personally I find the layout of the half keyboard more plausible, but this is worth a try. There is a also a bluetooth version available.

Matias Half Keyboard (2004)

Half keyboardThe Half Keyboard is one half of a keyboard; the other half is activated when you hold the space key down instead of just pressing and releasing it.

Price: About 100 EUR. I dont have this keyboard.

Opinion: I am a left-mouser. This thing is not available for the right hand, which kills it for me. Which is unfortunate, because I believe typing speed could be good when using the mouse at the same time, compared to switching between mouse and keyboard all the time.

P5 Glove (2004)

P5 gloveThe P5 glove from Essential Reality is a glove which records the actions your fingers perform by using a camera (the thing in the background (upper right corner) of the picture). I asked the thinkgeek store about offering them, but they told me they had tried it and think it sucks.

Price: About 100 EUR. I dont have this one.

Opinion: I think I will follow the thinkgeek guys. While the input method may be fast, I guess that fatigue from holding that thing must be high. At the given price, it is extremly unprobable that I would buy one.

As of 2007, Essential Reality seems to have renamed itself to Alliance Distributors.

Fingerworks Touchstream LP (2003)

Fingerworks
                  Touchstream LPThe Touchstream LP keyboard consists of two "touchpads" - with the crucial difference that the touchpad can track more than one finger; thus, it is possible to gesture. For instance, tapping thumb and middle thinger on the right board and then pulling them together is the Ctrl-X (cut) gesture.

Price: About 300 EUR. I do have this keyboard.

The good: Gesturing is extremely cool. The mouse (also thru gesturing, right hand) is usable; it is, however, more straining than a normal mouse since I have to hover the hand while using. Typing is, while error prone, faster than normal since I have only to tap lightly on the keys.

The bad: Since I  cannot feel the keys under my fingers, even after considerable time my error quota is higher than on normal keyboard. Plus, contrary to the opinion on the fingerworks website, it is not feasible to rest the hands on the touchpad; I need the hand again faster than the resting action permits.

Alternatives: Since 2003-08 I also have a iGesture Pad, which is basically the one-pad version, only the mouse plus gesture functions. With it, I am quite content; while the fatigue problem persists, everything else is splendid.

As of 2006, the fingerworks company does not exist anymore, so you cannot buy the TouchStream products.

Additional reviews: [extremetech]

Nostromo N50 Speedpad (2003)

Nostromo N50
                  SpeedpadThe N50 speedpad is simply 10 keys, a mousewheel (with stoppers, so it is not "unlimited" in the same sense as the mouse wheel), and a control pad for the thumb.

Price: About 30 EUR. I do have this one. Media Markt sold some 2003-09 in Germany.

The good: You cannot miss your keys anymore. The wheel is useful for acceleration. It can also be used with the right hand (I am left-mouser); the loss of the D-Pad is not too bad.

The bad: The D-Pad is useless. The limited wheel is useless for changing weapons - but hey, thats what your mouse wheel is for. It is slightly to big to be ultra comfortable.

As of 2007, the N50 has been superseded by the N52.

Additional reviews: [splattercube] [radiativenz]

The Claw (2003)

The ClawBasically 10 keys, the Claw is the speedpad in hand ergonomic. Notice that the middle finger has the "walk forward" and "walk backward" button intelligently aligned.

Price: About 70 EUR. I dont have this one.

Opinion: It cant be useful for me, as I am left-mouser. And I guess it will be much to big; ergonomic form has the disadvantage of "either your hand fits, or it is useless". I probably wont buy one.

Conclusion

Some specialised input devices make your life better, others not. I hope I have been able to give you a bit of orientation in that wonderful world. Thank you for leaving a part of your attention span here, and have a good day.

EOF (Jul:2012)