Foot Operated Computer Mouse





Introduction: Foot Operated Computer Mouse

I built the functions of a mouse into a footrest so I could compose and edit text without breaking my train of thought and taking my hands off the keyboard to fumble with a conventional mouse or trackball. Commercial foot operated mouses are available for up to $1500, but I do not care for the way they are implemented. My version can be built for under $30. Disclaimer: I am not actually a computer geek, I just play one on the Internet.

To see my related Instructables, click on "unclesam" just below the title above or in the INFO box to the right. On the new page that appears, repeatedly click "NEXT" to see all of them.

Step 1: Components and Tools

PVC architectural plastic sheet for foot board, 1/2 inch thick (actual 0.470), 17 inches by 22 inches, chosen because it is slick and because I had some scraps.
1 optical mouse; Targus model PAUM004U because it was on sale nearby for $10; reconditioned ones are available for that price via the internet.
2 roller lever switches, Radio Shack #275-017A, $4 each, order or find walk-in store that stocks them at
7 feet clear plastic tubing, 1/2-inch inside dia, 3/4-inch outside dia.
Screws for fastening tubing to foot board, 1-inch long #6 phillips pan head, and washers.

Woodworking tools. If motorized tools are used on plastic, they should be run at very slow speed.

Step 2: Background

I have long wanted to make a foot operated mouse, but a conventional ball mouse can send unwanted pointer commands if its body is jiggled, as would happen with foot movements. An optical mouse does not, and they have recently become cheap. I wanted the feet to perform mouse functions using gross foot movements that would not cause fatigue. Each foot has a defined rest position that allows for some fidgeting without sending mouse commands. Sliding the left foot forward from the rest position makes a left click, and rotating that foot and sliding it forward makes the less-used right click. Pointer motion is achieved by lifting the right foot slightly and moving it over the upturned mouse. I had no need to implement the scroll wheel.

The mouse is oriented the same as if used conventionally, with its wire tail aimed away from the user, but rolled over belly up. Sliding the foot left causes the pointer to move left across the screen, and sliding the foot forward causes the pointer to move down. This latter may be disorienting for some users, and the vertical movement can be reversed using the mouse control setting offered by some operating systems. You can also download Sakasamouse, which will allow you to change the direction of either or both mouse axes, and restore them, anytime you wish . I adjust the pointer speed to the lowest setting.

I operate my footmouse with slippers that slide easily because their plastic soles have become slick with use. The same effect could be achieved by pulling XXL size men's cotton socks over slippers or even street shoes (You know what they say about men who have big feet. That's right, it means they have big socks). Size of the foot board and locations of the elements depend on the size of the user's feet and their comfortable rest positions.

Step 3: Foot Board Layout

I outlined my dainty size 8 men's slippered feet on paper, at their rest positions and also where they would fall when operating the click buttons and pointer. I marked the openings for the left- and right- click switches and the spot for the pointer sensor. The left-click switch is actually a half inch to the left of the foot centerline, and the right-click switch is a half inch to the right of the foot centerline. One inch of foot travel would click a switch, and another inch and a half of travel would hit a bumper. Together these determined the shape and location of the plastic tubing rails that would confine my feet and guide their movements by feel. I replicated the curve at the left foot toe onto the right front corner of the foot board, for symmetry and stability then drew a half-inch edge outside the tubing. The blue object is a handy drawing aid that will hold a curve once bent, Alvin Curvex 1022-24. The paper pattern was cut around its perimeter and used to transfer positions of all the elements onto the foot board by poking through the paper with a sharp stylus.

Step 4: Foot Board Openings

Switch slots
photo 1: With switch located at correct depth in this material, tops of switches' mounting holes align with bottom surface of foot board.
photo 2: Location of a slot and its axes marked on tape
photo 3: Material is removed by drilling
photo 4: Slot is cleaned up using Dremel tool with spiral bit and router attachment. Wood blocks cut and sanded to length define the width of the slot as 0.25 inch, for a sliding fit with the switch, and the distance between them defines the slot's length at one inch. I filed down two small pips on the sides of the switches to make them even with the bosses that surround the switches' mounting holes.
photo 5: The upper edges of the slot are rounded over using small flat and round hand files.
Mouse cutout
photo 6: The opening is drilled and the plug sawn out then it is cleaned up using big-boy router having speed control, spiral bit and pattern-following collar. For aesthetic reasons I had hoped to install the mouse in a recess in the bottom surface of the foot board, with its magic navel peering up through a small opening. This did not work because the foot must be very close to the mouse's tummy to engage the optical pointer control. I did not make provision in the opening to accommodate the rubber plug that provides strain relief for the mouse's cord, I just stuffed the entire plug up the mouse's wire hole.

Step 5: Mouse Modifications

photo 1: Removing one screw allows that end of the cover to be lifted then snapped off the base. Note the green rectangular click switches and the switch under the scroll wheel axle. The circuit board easily lifts out, which allows the scroll wheel to be removed.
photo 2: The cord reel can be discarded if desired by removing a screw and prying it open.
photo 3: Excess plastic parts snap off of the cover.
photo 4: Two1/4-inch dia hex-head bolts, one-inch long, washers inside and outside, fit through existing openings, the square one drilled to size.
photo 5: Bottom of the circuit board shows the two outboard solder connections of each click switch. A length of stranded hookup wire is soldered to each. Switches may be left in place, but I unsoldered and removed both, plus the scroll wheel switch, for possible use in another project.
photo 6: Scraps of the foot board material aid bending two mounting brackets from sheet metal strip 1 inch wide, 0.080 inch thick. The brackets, shaped with the mouse assembled, will position the mouse's magic navel just below flush with the foot board's upper surface. Lock washers and nuts attach the brackets to the mouse's cover.

Step 6: Switch Mounting Clips

Switch mounting clips are heavy coat hanger wire, which exactly fits the switches' mounting holes, bent around two nails clamped vertically an inch and a half apart in a vise.

Step 7: Assembly

Mouse and switches are attached from beneath using sheet metal screws. The switches are mounted such that when the foot is slid forward, the toe will pass over the switch's body before hitting the roller. Wires from mouse switch solder pads are soldered to the common and normally-open terminals of the foot click switches. The two wires from the mouse's original left-click switch go to the foot left-click roller lever switch, right goes to right.

My foot board sits higher than it needs to, but I could not resist these white metal door stops for legs. Prying off the rubber tip reveals a screwdriver slot that aids in installation. I pre-drilled holes in the underside of the board, without going through, partially screwed a doorstop into each hole to create threads, then backed it out. I then ground the tip off the auger of each doorstop so they would not go through the foot board, then screwed them snugly into place.



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I am from germany and did not realy understand how the switches work (especially how they are linked with usb). could someone help me, please?

As I can not get the ones out of the description in germany, I found these ones. are they right`?

This would be fantastic for knitting (or any craft that can be done while reading/watching) and reading blogs/email/etc. It's on my list of projects to do!

I think this is a great invention. I read quite a few of the responses, but not all. This site is great for recognition before the as seen on TV doo dad hits the shelves & the one responsible for the brilliant idea gets to see them everywhere with the payment being a nice boost of self worth. If I happen to see this available at Walmart, My family will hear about Uncle Sam for sure. Thx.

o_O Who'd have ever thought of this?? Awesome work! :D

1 reply

popular science...

this was in the popular science book!!
i got it

I made something like this.
Take 2 PC mice, USB. Attach pedals of cardboard to the buttons of one, and stand the mouse at a ~65* angle.
Then take shoes that fit you but you don't use. Tape the second mouse to the front-bottom of your shoe, and make sure the heel is ultra slick. Make sure the left shoe is the mouse. More to come in my first Instructable.

Thanks a million! I have arthritis in my hands and arms and this foot mouse have helped me a lot! :o) Now I can browse the internet again. Thank you so much for sharing! :o)

This is just what I have been looking for as I have back problems, what about a foot operated keyboard ?

legomaster5000, thanks for the info, I had not heard that! It opens up all sorts of interesting logos and decorations for the platform. This project has received tens of thousands of hits, and you are the only one to offer the name for it.

Imagine this: Make this shaped as a rat, give it to you're family computer geek as a Christmas present, then videotape his reaction...

How would you click and hold the left button down? For example, so you can drag a selected file to the trash can or move windows on the screen.

3 replies

catawba, the way you click and hold the left button down is to click and hold the left button down. With your foot. With a conventional hand mouse, to perform the operations you mention, you slide, lift and slide your mouse until you position a cursor over the object you wish to move. Then you click and hold the mouse's left button down with your pointing finger while you slide, lift and slide the mouse to move the object on the screen. When the object gets to its destination, you lift your pointing finger off the left-click switch. With the foot mouse, you slide, lift and slide your right foot over the upturned mouse to position the cursor over the object you wish to move. You then click and hold down the left-click switch with your left foot, then slide, lift and slide your right foot over the upturned optical mouse to move the object, then slide your left foot off the left switch when the object gets to where you want to drop it. This operation is generally referred to drag-and-drop. You pick up and drop the object using the left click switch with your foot the same way as you would do with the pointing finger of your right hand on a conventional mouse. You see, your left foot takes the place of the pointing finger of your rght hand. That is why it is called a foot-mouse. Maybe I could show you a picture that would make it easier for you to understand. No wait, I already did that. The opening picture shows a left foot positioned near two switches, one on the left and one on the right. Imagine that these two switches, one on the left and one on the right, are analagous to the left-click switch on a conventional hand-mouse and the right switch in the picture is analagous to the right-click on a conventional hand-mouse. The two switches pictured operate exactly as the two click-switches on a conventional mouse. To perform some operations, you just click the switch. To perform other operations, you hold down the switch. In fact, if you examine the Instructable, you will note that the two foot-operated mouse switches are wired directly to the two connections on the upturned optical mouse that originally were connected to the mouse's left and right click switches. That is why the two click switches pictured on the foot-mouse work identically to the two click switches originally in the mouse. If you have any more technical questions concerning this project, I will be glad to try to clear them up for you.

I actually read over this Instructable multiple times before asking that question. I simply misunderstood how the switches work. I thought that as your foot glides over one it goes from open to closed back to open while your foot is still over it.

Anyway, I do really appreciate you clearing that up for me.

One alternative implementation to this instructable that I think would be cool is to replace those switches with light sensing ones (darkness sensing actually). So when it goes dark the switch is closed, otherwise the switch is open.  That way you can move your foot over the switch from the side (east or west) without having to lift it.

Again, thanks for the great Instructable and thanks for clearing up my misconception.

catawba, I hope you realized that I was just having some fun with my reply to your original question. I suspected that you had a misconception about how the click switches worked, because I had the same misconception when I was trying to figure out how to implement the foot mouse. I put off actually working on the project for months after I first thought of it. I thought I would have to research how the mouse worked, how it sent data to the computer and its format, and how the computer responded. Once the optical mouses became cheap, I just bought one and tore it open. Each click switch is soldered to a circuit board, so I just took them off. It dawned on me that I only had to know how the switch worked, and that the mouse and the computer would take care of the rest. I put an ohmmeter across the switch terminals, and when it is pushed, its contacts close, and when the finger is lifted, the contacts open. I just found the roller switch with the same contact arrangement. A good example for how a solution can be found by attacking a problem from different directions.
Light activation should be another way to implement the clck switches. I considered magnetic as well, since I have a bunch of tiny reed switches that activate when a magnet is held near them. That would require attaching a small magnet to the foot or slipper or shoe, but it would allow activation from any angle. There are also switches that have a ball as an activatior instead of a roller on a lever. The foot could be run over the ball from any angle and still activate the switch. The ball switches are costly, but someone could find a suitable plastic curved shape or ball and spring mount it so the foot could come from any direction and press the plastic down to activate a switch, even the switch removed from the mouse itself. Thanks for your interest.
Uncle Sam

This would be godly for mechwarrior.

hi unclesam, can you send to me the pdf of this design.i cant download it for i need to pay. but i do not have any credit card yet. i am a student and needs to make a design similar to this. can i have ur email? thanks you and take care.

You know people that dont have arms can work with your idea very nicely.
I think it the best instructable in a while that ive seen.