The Combimouse has been in development for nearly a decade and a half, but it is a relic of a different era or the future of human-machine interaction?
The concept of a combined mouse and keyboard device, cleverly dubbed the Combimouse, has hit crowd-funding site Indiegogo after 14 years of development.
The brainchild of Ari Zagnoev, the Combimouse was invented - and patented, just in case - in 1999, after which followed almost a decade and a half of investigation, revision and development - including a relatively promising report from the Software Usability Research Laboratory
of the Wichita State University in 2003. Since then, however, the device has failed to reach the market - something its inventor, after fourteen years of working on the project, is keen to correct with the help of $20,000 of crowd-sourced cash.
The basic concept of the Combimouse is at once simple and bizarre: rather than having a separate keyboard and mouse taking up room on the desk, the Combimouse splits the keyboard in two and uses the right-hand half as an optical mouse. A palm-rest, jutting out from the base of the right-hand section at an angle, forms the handle, and the user moves the entire unit across the desk to control the pointer.
The result, Zagnoev argues, is that the user need not remove his or her hand from the keyboard in order to use the mouse. The experience is the same as using a traditional mouse, claims Zagnoev, while his patented technology prevents the mouse portion from skidding around the desk while you're trying to type.
The Australian-based start-up looking to make Zagnoev his fortune has been working on research and development for the last ten years, developing ways of reducing the weight of the device and adjusting the centre of gravity in order to make it at least as comfortable as a traditional mouse - if not more so. Now, Zagnoev believes he has cracked it - and just needs that last bit of cash to create the first true prototype models.
'Technology is only now available to make it feasible - including thin wall plastics, plastic mould flow analysis software, light weight notebook keyboard technology and ultra low power electronics,
' Zagnoev offers by way of explanation for the length of time between his patent application and the product becoming ready for production. 'Overcoming design problems has taken time. Especially making it light and mobile as a mouse AND immobile as a keyboard and at the same time making it manufacturable.
Like many small start-ups, Zagnoev is turning to crowd-finding for the cash he needs to bring his dream to reality. The $20,000 sought won't go to create a full production run, however: instead, Zagnoev's company is seeking the cash to create final evaluation devices ahead of a full production run. While Indiegogo users can splash out on what appears to be a pre-order for the device, priced at $110, in reality it's no such thing: Zagnoev admits that the device is not quite ready for production yet, and should the evaluation phase throw up last-minute pre-production concerns it's likely that more money will be required before anybody gets their hands on the gadget.
There are other warning signs in the venture, too: images on the site are of an outdated, old-model prototype with only a virtual render provided to illustrate the design of the current prototype - something Kickstarter's rules forbids, explaining Zagnoev's use of the less-popular Indiegogo site. While Zagnoev explains the discrepency away - 'The latest prototype is handmade and crude. It doesn't photograph well. Significant funds are required to clean it up.
' - it remains the fact that investors are being asked to part with their cash sight-unseen on a vague promise of a possible future production run.
With the world moving seemingly inexorably towards touch-screen and motion-sensing user interfaces, it remains to be seen if Zagnoev will ever see his dream brought to fruition or whether it has been left too late for a concept dreamt up to improve the usability of pre-millennial computing devices.
More details are available on the project's Indiegogo page
, while a video demonstrating how to use the earlier prototype version is reproduced below.