Foot Mouse Advantages And Disadvantages: Here’s the 101
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A hands free computer mouse has been a popular concept that has been explored many times by designers many times in the 21st Century as a means to improve productivity and tech accessibility.
Nowadays there is more than one method of operating a cursor on screen (eye movement trackers, voice control etc.) but as you might expect these new technologies are either expensive to implement or still in the early stages of development to where bugs, glitches and poor user experience is to be expected.
For the foot mice that have hit the market the aim has been to allow our feet to replicate what our hands can achieve through units that sit
The advantages of using a foot mouse are clear cut if you have limited functionality of your hands and arms, however on top of this they also have potential to help increase productivity, improve ergonomics and even help produce an edge in the gaming niche.
Unfortunately however despite these claimed benefits, the foot mouse has never truly taken off.
Down sides to early prototypes such as the Xxx included a steep learning curve, slow operability and a clunky design. Added up these disadvantages meant that for the occasional user, using a foot mouse didn’t really make life any easier.
In a bullet point format here’s the main advantages and disadvantages of adopting a foot mouse into your office set-up:
Foot Mouse Advantages
- Improved accessibility
- Improved productivity
- Improved ergonomics
- Greater gaming capabilities
Foot Mouse Disadvantages
- Takes time to master
- Slower to operate vs a regular mouse
- Limited options of design and functionality
- Generally bulky and not easily transported
- Aches whilst training up foot muscles
Whilst this post explores how to overcome accessibility limitations using your feet, there are also proven benefits to swapping out your existing keyboard for one that is designed to reduce discomfort brought on by repetitive strain injury or carpal tunnel syndrome. Our guide into the latter can be found here.
What tasks can a foot mouse be used for?
A foot mouse is designed with the intention of offering the full functionality of a regular hand operated mouse. Namely to move a cursor on screen, scroll and the ability to select or click on an object.
Used in combination with an onscreen keyboard (although painfully slow), they do in theory offer the ability to type with your feet too.
Simple more straightforward benefits can be achieved though through using the buttons on a foot mouse as keyboard shortcuts. This instantly adds functionality to any setup however completely ignores the need to operate a cursor.
This ‘button only’ approach has proven so useful in fact that it has sprung a completely separate line of products in the form of foot pedals.
Foot pedal units create the ability to allow programmable keys (the pedals) to be set up to perform macro, multi-step commands at the press of a pedal.
This type of functionality is extremely popular for those who work as transcribers or translators who often need to listen to passages of audio multiple times before capturing all of the detail.
The foot pedals could be programmed as a ‘rewind/fast forward 10 seconds’ function to allow typing speed to be maintained without the need to stop/start.
Foot mouse advantages
The thought process behind the foot mice (SMASHmouse, Boomer Foot Mouse, FooTime) that have made it into production have all been to promote inclusivity and improve productivity.
Functional limitations in hands and arms can create huge obstacles when it comes to working on a computer or laptop.
However this does not mean to say that the foot mouse has been developed primarily as a mouse for the disabled.
Far from it in fact with video editors the primary target for SMASHmouse’s Kickstarter funding campaign.
Being able to use a computer at all might be seen as a success if RSI or carpal tunnel syndrome cause pain or discomfort when operating a regular mouse.
For this purpose the foot mouse, moreso 10 years ago or earlier, brings to the table accessibility gains that few other accessories can match.
Much like using a sewing machine, adding additional controls that are operated by your feet alone could make computer work quicker.
All that time that your hands are off the keyboard and navigating a mouse into position is time that could be saved.
Like G-keys on a keyboard some models of foot mouse (the Boomer for instance) allows the buttons to customised to make repetitive tasks easier to manage.
Especially useful if you work in a desk based job that involves frequent repetitive tasks.
Ergonomics is bound to dip into the conversation when discussing any element of office furniture or computer accessories.
When operating a foot mouse the movement of both feet prompts the legs to move more, the operator to attain a more upright sitting position and ultimately over the long term core strength to be improved.
Arguably this is closer to maintaining a natural form than awkwardly extending your shoulder to the side to grab and operate a regular mouse.
Greater gaming capabilities
Foot mice for gaming have been explored when the gameplay involves an element of motion control.
3drudder use a balance board approach to control movement in a number of Playstation and PC games that integrate VR.
Tailored towards achieving a more immersive experience as opposed to gaining an edge over your opponent in multiplayer games.
Foot mouse disadvantages
Takes a long time to fully master
Learning a new skill, even at a basic level can prove incredibly frustrating.
Progress is often far slower than originally anticipated and once the first wave of enthusiasm ebbs and wanes the once novel task becomes a bit of a grind.
There are no studies that have attempted to show how long it takes (if at all possible) to regain the speed lost when switching from a regular mouse to a foot mouse, but all anecdotal evidence suggests it’s a lot!
A study investigating human performance when operating a foot mouse found that honing in on a target, such as selecting a button, took longer and was generally found to be less efficient than a hand operated mouse.
If you’ve been searching for a foot mouse online the chances are that you will have quickly noticed that none of the tech giants are behind the idea.
This has meant that smaller companies with limited research and development budgets have attempted to develop a product that fills the gap in the market.
It’s been over a decade since Keytools first released their proprietary model of a slipper on one foot directed the cursor whilst a bank of buttons were operated by the other foot.
Since this time there have been only 3 or 4 other foot mouse styled products that have made a serious push to make a working prototype that’s fit for marketing.
Generally bulky and not easily transported
Buttons that are operated by feet are magnitudes larger than those clicked by a finger and so foot mouse units quickly take up floor space beneath your desk.
Moreover to cope with the weight of a human foot, all foot mice, pedals and track pads are made from heavy duty plastic.
This combination means that you better reserve a fair amount of space in your rucksack if a foot mouse device will be joining you as a travel companion to work or studies.
Aches whilst training
Unsurprisingly when underused muscles are suddenly asked to take on a heavy workload you’re likely to encounter some aches and pains. Initially at least.
Reaching out with your feet or twisting your lower leg to operate a button is not a series of movements is practiced by many other
In the case of the FooTime moving a cursor via a foot in the same drag and slide movement as a regular mouse will certainly put strain on your groin over long shifts at the desk.
For the foot mouse it seems that whilst the theory holds merit the practicalities associated with developing and operating such a device were a little too taxing for it to go mainstream.
Even amongst a key target market, those with lifelong physical limitations, it’s been demonstrated time and again that with practice and dedication it’s possible to develop motor skills and dexterity needed to type with your feet on a regular keyboard + navigate using a regular mouse.
Whilst easier said than done, this forgoes the need to accept a product which is certainly more than a gimmick, but doesn’t offer an overwhelming amount of pros over the cons it carries.
For those looking for tools that allow feet to contribute productivity gains, the use of foot pedals or trackpads offers far easier wins.