Hacklet 42 – Mouse Projects

Ever since [Douglas Engelbart] and his team came up with the computer mouse, hackers, makers, and engineers have been creating ways to change and improve the design. Even the original mouse was something of a hack, built form a block of wood, a button, and two encoder wheels. The wire exited toward the user’s wrist, making the device look like it had a tail. Even after all these years, folks are still working to make the perfect pointing device. This week’s Hacklet highlights some of the best mouse projects on Hackaday.io!

mouseballzWe start with [s_sudhar] and ORB – A 3D gaming mouse. Orb uses accelerometers and gyros to track its location in 3D space. The popular MPU-6050 chip provides all the sensors to create an Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU). The controller is an Arduino Micro, which provides the USB interface to a PC with the help of Arduino’s MouseKeyboard library. Two micro switches handle button duties. The original Orb was built up in a cardboard box. [S_sudhar] created a more advanced version housed in a 3D printed sphere with two buttons. The translucent joint between the two halves of the sphere is just begging for some RGB LEDs. We can already see them flashing red when you’re getting shot in Team Fortress 2!

mouse-wheelAnyone who has used X-Windows with a three button mouse knows how maddening the modern clickable center scroll wheel can be. You can’t click the wheel without it rolling, and causing all sorts of mayhem. There are plenty of software solutions and window manager mods to work around this, but [mclien] wanted a real three button mouse with a side scroll wheel. He didn’t want just any mouse though – it had to be a Silicon Graphics International (SGI) 3 button unit. His project 3-buttonmouse with seperate wheel used a dremel, drill press, and glue to transplant the electronics of a 3 button scrolling mouse into the classic SGI plastics. The final wheel placement did work – but it didn’t quite fit [mclien’s] hand. It did fit one of his friends hands perfectly though. So well in fact that the friend borrowed [mclien’s] creation. Neither the mouse nor the friend have been seen since!

jimmy[Jay-t] decided that mice are for more than pointing, so he built Jimmy the mouse bot. Jimmy is a robot built from an old Commodore Amiga two button mouse. His brain is a Parallax Propeller processor. Two outrigger mounted gear motors help Jimmy drive around. Jimmy has plenty of sensors, including infrared object detectors, switches, and a GPS module from Adafruit. Jimmy may be the world’s first homing mousebot. [Jay-t] does all his interactive testing with Tachyon Forth on the Prop. The great thing about having an 8 core processor is that there is plenty of room for expansion. Even with all these sensors, Jimmy is still only using 3 cores!



Finally we at [Clovis Fritzen] and the Wireless Batteryless Mouse. This is our favorite type of project – the kind that has just been uploaded. [Clovis] plans to use a movement based system to charge up a supercapacitor – eliminating the need for batteries or wires. He’s also hoping to use an accelerometer to detect the mouse’s position rather than a power-hungry optical system. The details are still sparse, because he’s just started the project! These are exactly the type of projects that get us thinking. How will [Clovis] translate movement to energy? Will it be weights, like a self-winding watch? Maybe pizeo elements in the buttons. Will people mind having to jiggle their mouse to get it working once that capacitor is discharged? One thing we’re sure of, [Clovis] has a proven track record of implementing projects like his weather station. Get in there and help with your own ideas, or simply follow along with us and see how this one turns out.

Not satisfied? Want more mousy goodness? Check out our freshly minted mouse and pointer projects list!

That’s about all the time we have for this week’s Hacklet. As always, see you next week. Same hack time, same hack channel, bringing you the best of Hackaday.io! 

Ditch that boring mouse for a military-grade trackball


The bad thing about this type of hack is that now [Tomek Dubrownik] needs to cut a hole in his desk to house the thing. He got this military grade trackball working over USB. It’s old, and could be used as a blunt weapon. But as the video shows it still makes a great input device.

He found the hardware on Allegro — a Polish auction site similar to eBay — for just $20. The original circuitry didn’t make a lot of sense, but a bit of probing with the old oscilloscope let him establish connections to the encoders which are read by some TI 54xx parts. Apparently they use the same logic as 7400 parts but are military grade. He chose a ATmega32u4 development board for his replacement control board. That chip has native USB support so the rest is just a matter of passing data like an HID input device. His code even lets him use those pushbuttons to toggle between cursor movement and window scrolling.

[Tomek] translated his post into English after some prompting by friends at the Warsaw Hackerspace. Here’s the original in Polish if you’re interested.

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Building a controller for MMOs

It’s a simple fact of gaming that controllers are more suited for shooters, while the WASD + mouse control of the PC gaming master race is more suited for real-time strategy games and MMOs. [Gabriel] wanted to challenge this idea, so he put together a controller combining the best of a mouse and keyboard for some hand-held RTS and MMO action.

The Keyball Controller as [Gabe] calls it is an amazing amalgamation of a 3rd party XBox and PS3 controllers, an SNES controller, a trackball, two USB keyboards and a ton of Bondo. The front of the Keyball features a WASD D-pad, scroll wheel, trackball, tiny keyboard and a few other commonly used buttons. The rear of the controller is loaded down with tons of trigger buttons and a few meta buttons that alter the function of other buttons.

The fabrication of the controller is absolutely phenomenal and certainly something that deserves to be copied. We’ve seen some controllers duplicated with a silicone mold and resin, so we can only hope that [Gabe] is looking at RTV silicone at the moment.

Cockroach pimps a sweet ride

This giant Madagascar hissing cockroach rides proudly atop his three-wheeled robotic platform. This project from several years ago is new to us and our reaction to the video after the break is mixed. We find ourselves creeped out, delighted, amazed, and saddened.

The cockroach controlled robot uses a trackball type input. A ping-pong ball is spun by a cockroach perched on top. The lucky or tortured (depending on how you look at it) little bug has an array of lights in front of it that illuminate when obstacles are in front of the robot. The roach’s natural aversion to light should make it move its legs away from that part of the display, thereby moving the robot away from the obstruction.

We’ve seen some bio-hacking in the past. There were robots that run off of rat brain cells and remote controlled beetles. But none of these projects make us want to get into this type of experimentation. How about you?

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Super quick and cheap trackball

[Elgatoandaluz] has posted this guide on how to tear apart a standard optical mouse and build a custom trackball. He’s using a ping pong ball , mounted above the laser as the trackball itself, which seems like it would be a little lite, but functional. The case is scrap cardboard. We really like that you could toss this together relatively quickly and have a custom layout. He recommends using Sakasa Mouse for inverting the axes and X-control for mapping the buttons(direct download).

Wiimote trackball mod


Hot on the heels of their recent rapid-fire mod, the creative minds at AcidMods have turned out yet another useful hack for for the Wii controller. This time around, they’ve replaced the peripheral’s “A” button with a clickable trackball, allowing the player to quickly navigate menus without readjusting their hold on the Wiimote. With a flair akin to that displayed in their earlier projects, the team even took the time to add LEDs to the track ball internals. Check out the videos of the mod in action after the break.

[thanks mark]

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