It feels really weird to be reviewing a pointing device; mouse-driven websites and programs have been the bane of my existence because I can’t use one. Not a mouse, not a joystick, not a touchpad, and not a headmouse. I usually either hurt or feel like a human Ouija board, depending on the device and the part of my disability it clashes with. But at the moment, I am trying the LightIO touchless touchpad with an onscreen keyboard. I’m not accustomed to using a pointing device, so it feels slower and more awkward to me than direct selection, but the touchpad itself is surprisingly graceful once you get set up and get some practice.
The touchpad really is touchless if you need it to be. (I say “if you need” because it has a normal friction mode as well. Bonus: the friction mode works with a pen or pencil too.) I can best describe it as not only dwell clicking, but dwell mousing as well.
NOTE: You need the use of at least 2 fingers to set up dwell mode unassisted. The pad has 7 sensors, all touchless: Left Button, Right Button, Middle Button, 2 Click, Lock, and Up and Down scroll arrows. To enter dwell movement mode, touch or hover over 2 Click and the Down scroll arrow simultaneously. To drag, you also need 2 fingers; you “hold down” a button by touching the Lock and the button sensors simultaneously. A “sticky keys” or “caps lock” like way to drag and switch modes would be nice.
In dwell mode, you can move the cursor two ways: by hovering your finger or pencil over the pad at the point matching the screen position you want the cursor to reach, or by touching that position. Movement direction and speed are based from the center of the pad. The farther away your finger is from the center, the faster the cursor moves, and vice versa. The scaling between the large screen and tiny pad does take some getting used to. I strongly suggest setting the Mouse speed in the Control Panel to the slowest possible (under Pointer Options). If you have the Mouse speed set too fast, you will not be able to reach close or small targets accurately. You will still get a decent speed using the relative speed setting of the touchpad itself. The Run shortcut is main.cpl, if for some reason you can’t get to the Control Panel (at work, for example).
Now for input and navigation. For me, because I have a hard time gauging the scale between the pad and the screen and often miss the mark, bigger is better. To click things in Firefox, I went to View – Zoom and unchecked Text Only. Then I clicked Increase Font Size as much as I could bear without hurting my eyes, which enlarged everything on the screen. And I also have to say: it’s good to be able to use the middle button autoscroll, even though I inevitably move my finger down too far and fly to the end of the page. One thing I have found indispensable for navigation is Edgeless (scroll down the site a bit), a freeware utility that causes your cursor to wrap around the screen. That is, if you move the cursor to one edge, it will come out the opposite, giving you shortcuts to your targets.
Input, though…I’ll do it if I have to, but I don’t think it was meant for that. NOTE: I recommend turning off the dwell click or auto click feature in your onscreen keyboard. Since the motions required for the touchpad are less agile or fluid than those used for a mouse, it takes me a long time to target keys and word prediction choices on an onscreen keyboard, even if I have everything sized as large as possible and use 4 fingers. Also, the keyboard takes up quite a lot of space on my screen, which makes it harder to see my document. I see that some people have used the click sensors for touchless switch scanning, but I haven’t gotten the hang of it. So, slow and steady it is.
In all, with some accessibility improvements to dragging and mode switching, this device could have some real potential. It hasn’t solved my lack of a good input device for when I can’t use speech, but it has made it bearable.