A comparison of cursor control devices on target acquisition, text editing, and graphics tasks
Epps, Brian W.
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The current study compared the performance of six commonly used cursor devices (absolute touchpad, mouse, trackball, relative touchpad, force joystick, and displacement joystick) on three types of tasks (target acquisition, text editing, and graphics). Prior to these comparisons, each of the devices was optimized for display/control dynamics in independent experiments. A total of 30 subjects were used in the five optimization studies. For each device, the optimization experiment compared a range of control dynamics using a target acquisition task (i.e., positioning a cross-hair cursor over square targets of varying sizes and screen distances). An analysis of variance procedure was used to determine the best control dynamics, of the range studied, for each device. Performance was based on a time-to-target (TT) measure. A comparison of the six optimized devices was then performed on the three task environments. For the target acquisition, text editing, and graphics tasks, a total of 12, seven, and six subjects were required, respectively. For the target acquisition study, the six devices were compared on a task identical to the optimization task; that is, cursor positioning performance for various target sizes and distances. In addition to the TT dependent measure, bipolar scale and subjective rank data were also collected. The text editing task required subjects to perform document correction on the computer using each of the six devices, with cursor keys added as a baseline device. Task completion time (TCT), bipolar scale response, and subjective rank data were collected. For the graphics task, subjects were required to perform basic graphics editing tasks with the six devices. As with the text editing task, TCT, bipolar scale, and rank data were collected. Results indicated a wide variation in the cursor positioning performance of the devices on the three tasks. Without exception, the mouse and trackball performed the best of the six devices, across all tasks. In addition, these devices were most preferred. In general, the two joysticks performed worse on the target acquisition and graphics tasks than the two touchpads. On the text editing task, however, the rate—controlled joysticks performed better than the touchpads.
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