Why Are You Buying that Air Mouse? Seriously, Don’t Do It.

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I love gadgets and typically I favor praise over pessimism. Still, I recently found a whole genre of devices that I just don’t understand. I’m talking about the air mouse. I think it’s a dumb idea. These gizmos are built to replace the traditional wired mouse you use to navigate on your desktop computer. Most have laser tracking to allow you to wave the mouse through the air rather than keep you pinned down to a table top. Many have built in accelerometers to eliminate the need for any flat surface whatsoever. They’ll usually cost you between $50 and $150. Why buy a magical floating mouse? Two major selling points: you can take it anywhere around your room and it helps you avoid repetitive strain injury. Let’s ignore the first point for a minute and focus on the second.

Apparently waving your hand through the air is much better for you than having the mouse rub against the table. Or so say the companies that make these little gadgets. Maybe an air mouse will help you avoid RSI…but won’t it just give you Gorilla Arm? I mean, how long can you hold your hand out in front of you before it gets tired. How long before you develop bursitis or some other upper arm joint injury? I guess you could just hold it in your lap and sort of shake it around instead of holding it out in front of you. But that would look really weird.

Most companies make very light weight air mice to avoid tiring you out. Heck, I’ve even seen an ultra light weight air mouse glove (creatively named AirMouse). That glove comes in four snazzy colors, looks bad ass, and even knows whether your hand is curled or not so that you can alternatively type or mouse-maneuver without taking the thing off. It’s the coolest air mouse I’ve seen. And I still don’t want the damn thing. I mean, if you want to wear a glove while working on your computer, get a Peregrine, or an Accelaglove, something with a little extra functionality beyond two mouse buttons.

We like resting our hands on flat surfaces for a reason. It’s comfortable. RSI is a serious issue for many computer junkies like myself, but ergonomic keyboards and mice don’t have to be flying through the air to work right. It just doesn’t make sense to me.

And I don’t think it makes sense to the major label companies selling air mouse controllers either. Exhibit A in this little kangaroo court of opinion: Logitech. They’ll sell you a top of the line air mouse with all the trimmings for $150. It can control your computer from across the room. You can hold it close or far away from you. It’s not a cool glove, but it looks pretty sleek nonetheless.

But you know what else Logitech offers? An air mouse iPhone application. Does most of the same stuff. Even has a built in touchpad using the iPhone screen. And you know how much this App costs? Nothing. It’s FREE.

And it’s not the only air mouse App out there. Mobile Air Mouse has even more features than the Logitech one. It costs around $2. Check out all the crazy things it can do in the following video (the first few demos are enough, don’t sit through the whole 10 minutes).

Watching someone wave their phone through the air, I’m reminded of the controllers for the Nintendo Wii. Those wii-motes are pretty innovative gadgets. They let you translate body motion into a game experience. That’s cool. I get that. But what if you just used a wii-mote as an air mouse? Would it be as cool? Not at all. Air controllers like the wii-mote push you to do more, experience more in a new way. Air mice take a useful technology (a mouse) and suspend it in the air (ugh). There’s a big difference.

To recap: I don’t think that an air mouse is the right solution to avoid RSI. It might be cool for presentations or as an across-the-room remote control. However, if you want to use it for that purpose, just download an App for your smart phone. Either way, I can’t imagine shelling out a hundred bucks for one of these things.

But that’s just my opinion. Maybe you love your air mouse. Maybe it cured your RSI. Maybe an air mouse saved your child from a burning building. In any case, feel free to explain why I’m an idiot, because I really feel like I must be one for not understanding why people are wasting their money on these things.