There’s probably no one that will claim they’d prefer using a touchpad over a mouse for navigating a cursor on a screen. No matter how good a touchpad is, you just can’t get the fine control or ease of use a good ol’ mouse will give you. And forget about gaming using a touchpad. Since notebooks were introduced the touchpad has dominated, and so that’s what we’re stuck with. An inventor with an idea for a better way to use a mouse with a laptop while on the go has his eye on changing this though.
Paul Janson is an inventor that’s used a notebook for many years and always took along a mouse to use with it. Sometimes using a laser mouse on the knee was a preferred method of input over a finicky touchpad. So Paul set out to design a simple method to allow himself to more easily use a mouse with a laptop while on the go and away from a desk. What he came up with is strikingly simple, and at the same time effective. Wisely, he has a patent pending on what we’ll refer to as a notebook swivel mouse tray.
As you can see in the image above, the idea is that there will be a mouse tray that sticks out from the right side of the laptop (sorry left handers) allowing you to rest a mouse and move it around. Optimally the mouse would be wireless, but you could use a short corded mouse if you wanted.
And of course you wouldn’t want to haul around a laptop that’s twice its regular size because it has a tray sticking out, so the design idea incorporates a method for rotating, swiveling or sliding the tray away underneath. Janson says the pivot point method using a screw works best based on prototype designs he has made.
In an interview with Janson he indicated "At the single point of connection (screw) the screw connection can be adjusted to a certain tightness whereby the friction of the platform against the base of the connection (a point engineered on the bottom center edge of the laptop) is such the platform can be pushed into a closed or open position but the tightness of the connection will keep the platform from moving or swinging back and forth on its own [as you use a mouse]."
The tray could be made of either light weight aluminum, magnesium or a plastic with ribbing reinforcement underneath. Janson made a prototype that’s constructed of aluminum and weighs around 6 ounces, so the overall weight addition wouldn’t be too significant. If a small laser mouse were used a smaller tray could in turn be implemented.
The thinking is that a laptop manufacturer could incorporate this single swivel point method because it would not be mechanically complex (like a hinge or sliding tray might). It could be designed so that the screw-like hinge would hold the tray firmly to the bottom of the laptop when not in use and only be as thick as the support feet are on the laptop, thereby adding little to no overall thickness.
A Look at the Prototype Swivel Mouse Tray
Paul put together a crude rendition of his patent pending idea using a Toshiba laptop and thin piece of aluminum. The pictures and demo of how it is used is below. You’ll notice he’s using a fairly large sized mouse, and the tray is overall large. In a real design the tray would probably need to be smaller and a smaller sized notebook optical mouse would fit the bill better.
The swivel mouse tray housed away underneath the laptop, notice it’s only about as thick as the feet on the bottom of the laptop:
A look at the underneath of the laptop with the tray swiveled out:
Now looking at the top of the laptop with the tray swiveled underneath:
Here we see the tray swiveled out with a mouse on it:
And finally, the mouse tray at work on a lap:
Personally I think this idea might have some legs, the questioin is whether notebook makers themselves would pick up on this idea or if there would be some way to integrate it as an add on accessory. There’s some obvious drawbacks that would make this impossible to use all the time. For instance, if you’re on a plane where you’d be challenged by space in all directions, a touchpad or pointing stick still makes more sense. Some people might want the tray to be detachable so they can reduce the laptop weight when they want to.
What do you think of this patent pending idea though? Sound off with your thoughts in the forums.