Mike Burton of Glasgow University told reporters at the British Association for the Advancement of Science annual festival the mouse vibrated every time it met a line on a graph, giving a blind operator a tactile tip-off.
“The technique is a very good way of presenting information to blind and sighted people,” he said. “The bottom line is that the cheapest and most flexible solution works.”
Likening the jumping mouse to electronic Braille, Burton said one of the most daunting tasks facing visually impaired people was trying to assimilate information giving an overview of data or events.
Reinforcing the tactile jolt of the mouse, fellow Glasgow University scientist Stephen Brewster said his team had developed sound graphs that could be combined with the mouse.
Lines on a graph were represented by tones that would vary in pitch according to whether the line was rising or falling.
Several such tones could be used to represent different lines of the same graph as the user entered a “soundscape.”
“You can get across quite complex information just using sound,” he said, adding that the technique could even be of use to sighted people such as share traders who could be alerted on their mobile phones by a tone representing a move up or down.
He declined to speculate on the sound of a stock market crash.