Head Mouse

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Contact the ALS Augmentative Communication Program

  • 781-216-2209

Set up and use of the Head Mouse Extreme/Nano

The Head Mouse Extreme and Head Mouse Nano are made by Origin Instruments.  You can find more info on their website as well as get tech support from the company.

The way the Head Mouse works – the little box gets mounted onto the monitor.  The box sends out an infrared signal.  The user has a small sticker on their forehead (bridge of nose, tip of nose, on a biPap mask, etc) that reflects infrared signals.  The box reads the reflected signal, compares it to the signal it sent out, and figures out where you are pointing your head.  The box then positions the cursor to that spot. 

The sensitivity of the cursor movement will be affected by:
  • The position of the user relative to the box.  Experiment with distance to find a good spot.  Typically about three feet will give a comfortable responsiveness
  • The mouse speed setting in the computer.  Mouse speed is adjusted via the control panel.  Faster mouse speed means that small head movements will move the cursor greater distances.  If the mouse speed is too slow, you may not be able to generate enough head movement to get the cursor all the way across the screen.  On the other hand, if the mouse is set too fast, it will be difficult to hold the mouse still enough to click on targets.  Experiment with mouse speed to find the “sweet spot”.  This may change with practice and use.
  • Settings on the back of the Head Mouse.  On the back of the Head Mouse there are dip switches.  The first dip switch controls the gain.  If this switch is in the “down” position the Head Mouse will be twice as sensitive relative to the “up” position.  This setting is helpful for people who have limited head motion.  DO NOT touch any of the other dip switches.
The combination of distance from the box, computer mouse speed and gain setting will determine the sensitivity of the Head Mouse.

To use the Head Mouse:
  • Place the Head Mouse box on top of the monitor using the mounting bracket.
  • Plug the USB cord into the Head Mouse box and into the computer.
  • Put the dot sticker on the user.
There are two lights on the Head Mouse.  When it is plugged in, a red light will display if the Head Mouse is on but not getting a return signal.  A green dot will display when the device is getting a return signal and the cursor will move accordingly.  If you move your head too far you will see the dot change from green to red as the dot stops being able to reflect the signal (moves out of range).

To calibrate:
  • You want to let the Head Mouse know where  “the middle” is for you.  Set your head comfortably looking at the monitor screen, without paying attention to where the cursor is.  You will calibrate so that when you have your head in this position the cursor will be in the middle of the screen.
  • Notice where the cursor is (towards the top/bottom or right/left).  Whichever edge it is closest to – move your head in that direction (if it is closest to the top, move your head up).  The cursor will move in that direction and go off the screen.  Keep moving your head, even though the cursor is off the screen, until your head is at the position you want it to be when you are at the extreme of that motion (e.g. where you want your head to be when pointing to the top of the screen).  Then move your head in the opposite direction.  The cursor will follow.  Keep going until your head is at the position you want to be when the you are at the extreme of that motion (e.g. where you want your head to be when pointing to the bottom of the screen).  Essentially, you are telling the box “here is the top and bottom (or left and right) positions of my head.  Please adjust accordingly”
  • Repeat these steps for the other orientation – if you just did top/bottom now do left/right.
You should not have to recalibrate very often, but if you have a tendency to look away from the screen (say to a person in the room) you may throw it off and need to recalibrate.  The calibration/recalibration takes only seconds each time.

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