Millions of people have disabilities that prevent them from using their hands for tasks that many of us take for granted, such as interacting with a computer. The winning design in the MakerBot Thingiverse competition for the Assistive Technology Challenge addresses this problem with the creation of a Mouth Operated Mouse by Tobias Wirtl. Not only does this demonstrate the advantages of 3D printing technology, the entire device can be built for less than $20 in parts.
The mouth mouse consists of a hollow joystick that looks like a typical funnel. The user can move the mouse pointer around the screen by moving the joystick, and then “click” by either pushing on the joystick for a right click, or sucking in the the mouthpiece for a left click. The device connects to your computer using a USB port, and it’s powered by an inexpensive Arduino Pro Micro (which costs about $7.) The joystick functions are provided by a “Thumbstick” on a printed circuit board (available for about $2.) And the vacuum sensor is scavanged from an electronic cigarette (which costs about $5.) Aside from that, you need some simple soldering skills to assemble the components in the 3D-printed parts.
The project is open source and can be downloaded for free. Like the Enabling the Future project that helps people use 3D printers to create mechanical prosthetic hands for children, the Mouth Operated Mouse is another demonstration of how hobbyists can address real problems and come up with low-cost solutions that can improve the lives of people around the world.