I’m easily the most relaxed Mac user anywhere.
Let me explain: My reclining chair is surrounded by my technology, made up of four or five remotes, cordless phones and cell phones, remote light switches, and of course a laptop table with my AirPort-enabled iBook. When friends come over it’s not uncommon to find me browsing the Web while listening to iTunes or my iPod, surfing for the latest Mac software, and watching CNN on television in the background, all at the same time. However, all that work on the iBook’s trackpad was starting to take its toll. My wrist and hand were becoming numb, and often my ring and pinkie fingers were cramped beyond use. On top of that, my forearm was always tired from being held at an unusual angle, because the laptop table was higher than the arm of the chair. Clearly this situation had to change.
The solution turned out to be the Gyration Ultra Cordless Mouse. Unlike other wireless mice, the Ultra uses radio waves to communicate with the computer, and to my knowledge is the first to employ small gyroscopes to determine its relative position. This means it can be used on a hard surface like a normal three-button optical mouse, or you can operate it in the air (on no surface). The device itself is shaped unlike any other mouse. You grab it like a fishing pole or a hand shake. An activation trigger, which you use when you want to use the Ultra off the table, falls right under your index finger, leaving your thumb free to use either the right or left button and the scroll wheel.
The Ultra uses non-replaceable, rechargeable, NiMH batteries, which are recharged using an included mouse cradle and charger. A separate receiver plugs into your Mac’s USB port.
To outfit my computer "loungestation," I used a piece of Velcro to secure the receiver to the bottom of my laptop table, conveniently hiding it and storing it out of harm’s way at the same time. The mouse sits in the included charger/cradle next to the iBook, taking up no more room than a normal mouse, which makes it easy to pick up when I need it.
Gyration claims that the mouse has a range of about 25 feet (7.6 m). Another model with 100-foot (30.5 m) range is also available, but only the largest of presentation halls would require it. The Ultra’s control of the Mac’s pointer is rock solid on the screen, and actually easier to position than with the trackpad. Once the pointer is placed over a spot, it remains there, letting you repeatedly click the same spot without worry that it has drifted.
As for taking mousing into the third dimension, it took all of 30 seconds to get used to using the Ultra without a tabletop. The gyroscopes in the device track the relative horizontal and vertical movements you make in the air (it does not track depth, as some 3-D controllers do; the Ultra mainly frees the mouse from gravity’s pull on a desktop). Very little wrist action is needed to move the Ultra, less than a conventional mouse, and it works with both the tracking speed and double-click speed settings in the Mouse preferences pane. You can easily hold the Ultra in your hand and, without moving your arm, emulate the actions of a conventional mouse without keeping it in the same plane, such as on a mouse pad. The movements needed to position the pointer actually seem to help my wrist, as opposed to hurting it as before. No more carpal tunnel or repetitive stress injuries for this guy! Weighing in at just over five ounces, the mouse is a little heavy, but I think that adds to my ability to stabilize the pointer.
Although the user guide warns that the right mouse button does not work on a Mac, I found that it works on everything you would expect it to, in both Mac OS X and Mac OS 9. You can add additional button-mapping functionality by using the shareware USB Overdrive X; the device includes only Windows software. Gyration’s promotional material says the mouse sends tracking data at 80 Hz, much faster than other cordless mice, and from my experience this feels true; for example, it makes scrolling with the wheel very smooth.
Using the Gyration mouse has been a pleasure. It was easy to set up, and with a price less than $80, it’s a good value. I highly recommend it for anyone who needs a wireless solution that will work both in the air or on the desktop, or if you just need relief from the stress on your hand, wrist, and arm.
[Keith Kaiser is a Senior Programmer Analyst for Worldspan in Kansas City, Missouri. On the side he operates HyperMac Software, a Mac support service, and spends most of his free time as a volunteer for the North Star District, Boy Scouts of America.]