IBM Mouse Adapter Helps Hand-Tremor Sufferers

Computer users who suffer from hand tremors often find it difficult tonegotiate a computer because shaking disturbs the smooth flow of the mouse.IBM today announced that its researchers had developed an Assistive MouseAdapter that compensates for the involuntary motion and allows normal mouseuse.

The company has licensed the technology to a small British firm, MontroseSecam, because it did not have a broad enough commercial application to justify Big Blue’s developing it.

Montrose Secam’s founder, JamesCosgrave, has hand tremors, which, he said, did not alter his ability todrive or pilot a plane, but did stop him from using a computer.

His Story

Tremors may be caused by as many as 20 different conditions. Essentialtremor is the most common among them. As many as 5 percent of people over 40and 20 percent of people over 65 may have the condition, bringing the total to as many as 10 million people in the United States, according to the IETF.

The adapter is a box into which both a computer and a mouse are plugged. The device filters out shakes using technology similar to that used in camera lenses to calm the effects of unsteady hands.It can be used with any operating system or computer type without additional software.

“For me, as an Essential Tremor sufferer, the Assistive Mouse Adapter isvery effective,” Cosgrave told TechNewsWorld in an e-mail. “Without it I amunable to use a PC — my tremor causes the cursor on the screen to be almostuncontrollable. When I switch on the AM Adapter its as though my tremorhas disappeared and I can operate my PC as well as the average person.”

The device, which is selling in the United States for US$99, has an addedbenefit. “There is also a relaxing feedback which reduces the tremor simply becauseyou know that you have control,” he said.

Cosgrace said he contacted IBM after hearing from the International Essential Tremor Foundation (IETF) that the company was working on the assistive technology.

Technology Test

Cathy Bodine, project director for Assistive Technology Partners, is conducting apilot study of the device at Colorado State University using members of theDenver IETF chapter.

“Our initial pilot findings indicated the mouse adapter was most useful forthose participants with mild to moderate essential tremor,” Bodine said.

“One individual was diagnosed as having a severe essential tremor, and heindicated the mouse adapter was somewhat helpful. Our preliminary findingssuggest this device can be supportive for persons with essential tremors atthe mild to moderate range and potentially or somewhat helpful forindividuals with more severe essential tremors.”

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