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Microsoft Continues Ergonomic Line with 'Manta Ray'

Microsoft Continues Ergonomic Line with 'Manta Ray'
By Barry Levine

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It's no surprise that this new Microsoft keyboard is optimized for Windows functionality, with hot keys at the top of the device, plus media playback and multitasking controls. The separate number pad is intended to reduce the possibility of shoulder rotation injuries. The taller-than-normal shape of the mouse is designed to lessen pressure on the carpal tunnel.

While we've not yet heard about the ergonomic dangers of too much reaching for touchscreens, we do know about carpal tunnel syndrome and other repetitive strain injuries caused by keyboard and mouse use. Toward the goal of ever-healthier computing, Microsoft has now unveiled its new Sculpt Ergonomic Desktop.

In a posting on the Windows Experience Blog on Tuesday, Senior Marketing Communications Manager Brandon LeBlanc described the Sculpt Ergonomic Desktop, with keyboard, mouse and numeric keypad, as "the next evolution of ergonomic products for Microsoft."

He noted that the set is the latest in the line of ergonomic products that Microsoft first began releasing in 1994 with its Natural Keyboard, which featured a split keyboard with each half of the keyboard separated and inclined upward on one side, toward the center of the keyboard. The Natural Keyboard was intended to promote good posture while sitting, and to help prevent carpal tunnel syndrome and other such injuries.

'Came from the Future'

The new Sculpt Ergonomic, LeBlanc wrote, "looked as though it came from the future with the way the keyboard was split." He added that the keyboard "naturally 'fit' my hands," and that the layout is designed to keep the wrists and forearms in natural, relaxed positions. The company noted that the keyboard layout is intended to follow the curve of a user's fingertips "for a more natural way of typing" that provides a straight and neutral wrist position.

Users of either the keyboard and mouse in the wireless Sculpt Ergonomic Desktop are expected to naturally adopt more natural positions. The keyboard features a U-shaped layout, a cushioned palm rest and a separate number pad. The Sculpt Ergonomic Mouse also has a sloping design.

The palm rest on the Keyboard is cushioned, and the keyboard shape is domed in order to reduce wrist pronation, which is rotation of the wrist. The internal codename for the keyboard at Microsoft was Manta Ray because of its resemblance to that aquatic denizen.

Windows Keys

It's no surprise that this new Microsoft keyboard is optimized for Windows functionality, with hot keys at the top of the device, plus media playback and multitasking controls. The separate number pad is intended to reduce the possibility of shoulder rotation injuries.

The mouse is also intended to be more than ordinary. Its taller-than-normal shape is designed to reduce contact between the physical desktop surface and a user's hand, which is supposed to lessen pressure on the carpal tunnel. The angle of the mouse keeps the forearm more relaxed over long periods of time. There is a button for the Start screen in Windows 8, a navigational back button, and a four-way scroll wheel for horizontal and vertical scrolling.

Microsoft is putting the desktop on sale this month for a list price of $129.95. The mouse can be bought separately for $59.95, and the keyboard for $80.

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