Custom Mouse-Making: Clay Is The Way

For something that many of us handle all day long, it sure would be nice if mice came in more sizes and shapes, wouldn’t it? Until that day, we’ll just have to find something passable or else design and build a custom-shaped mouse from scratch like [Ben Makes Everything] did.

First, [Ben] played around with some modelling clay until he had a shape he was happy with, then took a bunch of pictures of it mounted on a piece of wood for easy manipulation and used photogrammetry to scan it in for printing after cleaning it up in Blender. About six versions later, he had the final one and was ready to move on to electronics.

That’s right, this isn’t just mouse guts in an ergonomic package. Inside is Arduino Pro Micro and a PMW 3389 optical sensor on a breakout board. [Ben] was going to use flexible 3D printed panels as mouse buttons, but then had an epiphany — why not use keyboard switches and keycaps instead? He also figured he could have two buttons per finger if he wanted, so he went with Kailh reds for the fingers and and whites in the thumb.

Speaking of the thumb, there was no room for a mouse wheel in between those comparatively huge switches, so he moved it to the the side to be thumb-operated. [Ben] got everything working, and after all this, decided to make it wireless. So he switched to an Adafruit Feather S3 and designed his first PCB for both versions. Ultimately, he found that the wireless version is kind of unreliable, so he is sticking with the wired one for now.

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A Mouse Becomes A Camera

If your pointing device is a mouse, turn it over. The chances are you’ll see a red LED light if you’re not seriously old-school and your mouse has a ball, this light serves as the illumination for a very simple camera sensor. The mouse electronics do their thing by looking for movement in the resulting image, but it should be possible to pull out the data and repurpose the sensor as a digital camera. [Doctor Volt] has a new video showing just that with the innards of a Logitech peripheral.

The mouse contains a microcontroller and the camera part, which fortunately has an SPI interface. The correct register to query the sensor information was deduced, and as if my magic, an image appeared. An M12 lens provided focus with a handy 3D printed mount, and the board went back into the mouse case as a housing. The pictures have something of the Game Boy camera about them, being low-res and monochrome, but it’s still a neat hack.

If you’d like to give it a go you can find the code in a GitHub repository. You might find it worth finding a gaming mouse though, for the much higher resolution sensor.

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Building A Mouse That’s Also A Computer

Once upon a time, a computer was a big metal brick of a thing that sat on or next to your desk. Now, it’s possible to fit decent computing power into a board the size of a stick of gum. [Electo] took advantage of this to build an entire computer into a mouse form factor.

[Electo] had tried this before years ago, and built something pretty sloppy. This time, he wanted to build a version that had an actually-legible screen and fit better in the hand. He whipped up a giant 3D-printed mouse housing, and fitted the sensor board from an optical mouse inside. That was hooked up to an Intel NUC PC that fits inside the housing. A small LCD screen was then installed on a rack system that lets it pop out the front of the mouse. Data entry is via a laser keyboard mounted in the side of the mouse.

Of course, being based on an Intel NUC means the thing was the size of a couple of phonebooks. That’s not really a mouse. Starting again, he reworked the build around a tiny palm-sized computer running Windows 11. It was stripped out of its case and wedged into a compact 3D-printed housing only slightly larger than a typical mouse. It has a keyboard of a sort – really it’s just an array of buttons covering W, A, S, D, and a couple others for playing simple games.¬†Amazingly, it’ll even run Minecraft or Fortnight if you really want to try and squint at that tiny screen.

Having a computer with a screen that moves every time you move the mouse isn’t ideal. At the same time, it’s fun to see someone explore a fun (and silly) form factor. It’s interesting to see how the project works compared to the original version from a few years ago. Video after the break.

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Salad Spinner Busts Some New Moves

Can you believe that [Tom Tilley]’s wife was just going to pawn off this perfectly good salad spinner on the thrift store when it’s so ripe for hacking? We couldn’t, either. Fortunately, he caught it just in time, right before dinner.

One of the coolest things a person can do that also tends to aid gameplay is to make a custom controller. [Tom] decided to make one for Bust-A-Move, a simple game where one shoots balls at bubbles in order to pop them. It looks like quite the fun little stress reducer. Anyway, a simple game deserves a simple controller, no? Yes.

As you’ll see in the build/demo video below, [Tom] started with a standard wireless mouse and hot-glued a cardboard origami creation to it. This goes upside-down inside the salad spinner and gets connected to the spinner part so that the entire origami moves in a circle. [Tom] then extended the left mouse button to a switch, which he affixed to the outside.

This controller re-uses a slightly modified mouse that [Tom] used in a previous Bust-A-Move controller. He is using a FreePIE script and vJoy in order to map mouse movements to the joystick inputs expected by the game. Watch [Tom] bust some moves after the break.

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Latency Meter For Accurate Gaming

The gaming world experienced a bit of a resurgence in 2020 that is still seen in the present day. Even putting aside the effects from the pandemic, the affordability and accessibility has arguably never been better. Building a gaming PC can have its downsides, though, and a challenging issue to troubleshoot is input lag or input latency. This is something that’s best measured with standalone hardware, and if this is an issue on your setup you may want to take a look at this latency meter.

Unlike other measurement devices that use the time between a mouse button input and the monitor’s display of a bullet or shooting event, this one looks at mouse movement and the change in the scene instead. This makes it much more versatile than other methods since it’s independent of specific actions, and can be used in any game without any specific events needed to perform the measurement. A camera phototransistor is placed on the monitor’s top edge and the Arduino-based device sends mouse commands to the computer while measuring the time between those commands and the shift in the image on the monitor.

The project is open source, so with the right hardware it’s possible to build one to troubleshoot latency issues or just to learn more about a particular hardware configuration’s behavior. Arduinos and other microcontrollers have been doing all kinds of things by pretending to be human interface devices like this for a while now. One of our favorites of late was this effects pedal that replicates musical effects on mice and keyboards.

An Effects Pedal For Keyboards (and Mice)

Effects pedals for musical instruments like electric guitars can really expand a musician’s range with the instrument. Adding things like distortion, echo, and reverb at the push of a button can really transform the sound of a guitar and add depth to a performance. But [Guy] wondered why these effects should be limited to analog signals such as those from musical instruments, and set about to apply a number of effects to the use of computer keyboards and mice with this HID effects pedal.

The mouse is perhaps the closer of the two to an analog device, so the translations from the effects pedal are somewhat intuitive. Reverb causes movements in the mouse to take a little bit of extra time before coming to a stop, which gives it the effect of “coasting”. Distortion can add randomness to the overall mouse movements, but it can also be turned down and even reversed, acting instead as a noise filter and smoothing out mouse movements. There’s also a looper, which can replay mouse movements indefinitely and a crossover, which allows the mouse to act as a keyboard.

For the keyboard, included effects are a tremolo, which modulates between upper- and lower-case at certain intervals; echo, which repeats keypresses; and a pitch-shift which outputs a “higher” character in the alphabet above whichever one has been pressed. Like the mouse, there’s also a crossover mode which allows the keyboard to be used as a mouse.

The device looks and feels like an effects pedal for a guitar would, with a RP2040 inside to intercept HID information, do the signal processing, and then output the result to the computer. And, while [Guy] admits this was a fun project with not many practical uses, there are a couple handy ones including potentially the distortion effect to smooth out mouse inputs for those with neuromuscular disorders or the mouse looper to act as a mouse jiggler for those with micromanaging employers. It’s also reprogrammable, and as we’ve seen since time immemorial having a programmable foot keyboard can be extremely handy for certain workflows.

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Transforming A Keyboard To A Mouse In Software

You’ve probably heard the old saying that if it looks like a duck, and it quacks like a duck… So when is a keyboard a mouse? When software makes it quack like a mouse — that is, if mice quacked. [Blackle Mori] took a cheap USB keypad and, using the libevdev Linux system, made it impersonate a mouse.

The code on GitHub isn’t complex, but the details can take some time to get right. The code takes over all input events from the device. [Blackle] dumped out events sent from the keypad, but the stock evtest program would probably have done just as well.

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