BACKGROUND: Two hands are better than one when it comes to computer-aided design. A new family of intelligent motion controller computer interfaces (such as one's mouse or keyboard) can sense and adapt to the user's application and workflow. The result is a dramatic boost in productivity (as much as 30 percent), because of the worker needs to do fewer repetitive tasks.
THE PROBLEM: In most computers, the mouse controls all tasks except for typing words and numbers and issuing keyboard shortcuts. Panning, zooming, or selecting menu commands are all done through the mouse. This can be quite time-consuming for "extreme" computer users, such as gamers or computer-assisted designers, and can lead to repetitive stress injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome. Working in three dimensions as opposed to the usual two brings some very specific problems. For instance, computer aided design systems typically rely on a combination of a keyboard and conventional mouse to control what's on the screen, so the user must constantly shift between navigation and selection, slowing down the process and causing muscle strain.
THE SOLUTION: Several new interface devices seek to reduce repetitive strain and the time it takes to execute commands for extreme computer users. The SpaceMouse motion control system from 3Dconnexion enables design engineers to spin design models in 3D with one hand and carry out detailed work with the conventional mouse, so they can work more quickly and comfortably. The SpacePilot incorporates an LCD display that allows users to easily see how each key is labeled; they are also extendable, so there are an almost unlimited number of functions based on the user's current task. The SpaceNavigator keyboard has a trackball device built into its side that enables users to scroll through Web pages and zoom in on document details with the left hand, freeing the right hand for using the mouse to select and modify text or other elements of a model. The company also offers a SpaceTraveler for those with portable computers: it is bundled with a travel-size mouse as well as the left-hand navigator for panning, zooming and rotating.
WHAT IS CAD: A computer-aided design system combines hardware and software to allow the user to design everything from furniture to airplanes. The user can view a design from any angle and zoom in or out for close-up or long-distance views.
The Human Factors and Ergonomics Society contributed to the information contained in the TV portion of this report.