9.2007 – 3.2008

Microsoft Explorer Mouse


As Microsoft and Logitech chased the better mouse, ball mice were replaced by optical, then by laser and then by BlueTrack technology. I designed the ‘ground effect’ lighting and logo interaction for Microsoft’s Explorer Mouse to highlight the superior technology.

With the shift from desktops to mobile computing, mice were expected to track well on more surfaces. The holy grail was to track on everything including glass, enabling you to work where you want, not just where you can. Ball mice, were up to the challenge, but as we remember, more difficult to control and often required cleaning …you know, like a Jeep. While optical and laser mice could corner like a supercar, when on unfamiliar surfaces, they struggled to even track. A Land Rover was needed and BlueTrack was the promise. When buying mice though, the purchase experience ususally did not include a test drive. Mice were either in the box or nonfunctional on the shelf. Unless you did research ahead of time, it was hard to know what promise was better.

Anyone willing to pay premium price for a mouse which promises to track on more of the surfaces they often encounter (except for glass).

Besides delivering the best mouse tracking technology, it was important that both the Explorer Mouse and Explorer Mini Mouse…

  1. Feel sophisticated and premium in their design.
  2. Are perceived as “alive” and ready (unlike laser mice which appear “dead” until used).
  3. Have an element of “wow” without sacrificing battery life for the mobile user.

Articulate an experience which helps make BlueTrack technology more tangible.

Often creating short videos are more effective than words and renderings. This 10 second video I created with After Effects using an early cosmetic model, fostered productive conversations with engineering. It depicts a ring of blue light cast from the bottom of the mouse, creating a jewel like “ground effect” on any surface. It also suggests a BlueTrack logo at the back of the mouse be revealed in the same blue light. Fading on this effects with mouse movement and fading it off when movement stops reinforced the promise that BlueTrack was the reason this mouse was better. Pulsing the effects like a heartbeat before entering a dormant power state, also humanized the object.

10 second vision for lighting effect interaction

This vision kicked off light pipe engineering as well as efforts to understand battery life impact. For mobile mice, research showed battery life less than 3 months was unacceptable while over 6 months was preferred. For rechargeable mice, expectations were closer to that of phones, ideally lasting a week between charges. With mouse usage varying widely, a supportable battery life claim was difficult for marketing to make. Changing the interaction was necessary. To retain as much of the original vision, I recommended the lighting effect fade on when you begin using the mouse and fade off after a few seconds. I defined all of the timing and suggested the effect be triggered only when transitioning between specific power states. As a result, the effect would not be too frequent or annoying. Instead the effect affirmed the mouse was powered and ready to use whenever you took off the charging dock or grabbed it after a period of inactivity. While the solution was different than the original vision it still accomplished the goals.