Scripps Student Makes Underwater Mouse

Scripps Institution of Oceanography professor Jules Jaffe and graduate student David Zawada recently completed the development of an underwater computer mouse.

The mouse increases the convenience of underwater research. With the device, a diver does not need to surface to adjust settings on underwater cameras, which are often used in research.

According to Jaffe, Zawada spawned the idea in May 1999, when he was working on his graduate thesis studying coral reefs in the Bahamas. The scientific-grade digital camera that the scientists were using came with software provided by the manufacturer. This software required a mouse. Because a typical computer mouse would not work underwater, Zawada decided that an underwater mouse would make his research easier.

Jaffe headed the development of the device. In the spring of 2000, he purchased a typical optical mouse. The mouse was put into a waterproof box with an optically transparent port. A mouse pad was used underwater for movement.

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The optical mouse works in this situation because “”light can go through the water,”” Jaffe said.

The duo took the mouse back to the Bahamas in May of 2000 and discovered that it worked.

“”[The mouse] provided great convenience to us at minimal expense,”” Jaffe said.

Jaffe said that he found the invention interesting for three reasons.

“”One, it’s cute,”” he said.

Jaffe’s second reason was that the device was cost effective.

“”The most interesting thing was that it was cheap and it worked,”” he said.

Most of the devices he develops at Scripps are expensive and time consuming, as they are built from scratch. The main component of the underwater mouse, the optical mouse, was already made and only cost $17, he said.

Jaffe said the third thing he found interesting was “”the idea that people would want to interact with computers underwater, and now there’s a new way to do that.””

According to Jaffe, a company in Australia is making a “”wet computer”” to be used underwater. This computer does not, however, use a mouse. It has a few buttons to control movement onscreen.

Jaffe feels that the mouse is an easier way of using a computer.

“”A mouse gives you more control,”” he said.

The mouse is currently awaiting a potential patent.

“”We filed a patent disclosure with the university,”” Jaffe said. “”But [UC] doesn’t patent things anymore without an investor sitting around saying, ‘We’ll pay for it.’ Also, I don’t think there’s too much of a market for this.””

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