Headpointer Comparison

Boost Technology Tracer
Natural Point SmartNav 3
Prentke Romich HeadMaster
   Madentec    Tracker
2000
Origin
 Instruments  HeadMouse
Price
$795
$499
$995
$1,595
$1,795/
$1,6951
Does not use Problematic    IR2
Yes
No3
Yes.
No, if Wireless.
No
No
Accurate to Pixel-level
Yes
No 4
Yes
No 4
Yes
Plug & Play
Yes
No5
Yes
Yes
Yes
Can Use Switch Wirelessly6
Yes
$295-$895
extra7
Need
$495
HRA8
Need
$895
WISP2000
Need
$295
RSI8
PC & Mac Compatible
Yes
Yes.
Yes
Yes
Yes
Works with Any AAC Device9
Yes
No
Yes
Yes
Yes
Works w/ Any Mouse Port
Yes
No
Yes
Yes
Yes
     Serial
Yes
No
Yes
Yes
Yes
     PS/2
Yes
No
Yes
Yes
$95 extra
     USB
Yes
Yes
$50 extra
Yes
$95 extra
     ADB
Yes
No
Yes
Yes
$95 extra
Remote Equip. Not Needed10
Yes
Yes
Need
$495 HRA
& $95 LA8
Need
$195 BPB or
$495 VWBA8
Need
$395 EBD or
$49 WBA8
External Power Not Required
Yes
Yes
No. Mac
ADB,Yes.
No
No
User Not Attached To Computer
Yes
Yes
Need
$495
HRA8
Yes
Yes
Collaborate With No Conflict11
Yes
Yes
No
No
Yes
Line-of-Sight Not Required12
Yes
No
No
No
No


1 Origin Instruments makes two versions - one for the desktop for $1,795 and one for the laptop for $1,695.
2 The performance of devices that utilize Infrared (IR) may be hindered by external sources of IR, including: sunlight, certain types of artificial light, reflections, and other IR devices operating within a close proximity. The Tracer, however, uses Radio Frequency (RF), which may be used in practically any environment with no loss of performance. Additionally ,the Tracer uses seven different radio channels, so up to seven devices may be used in the same space.
3 SmartNav 3 used to be called trackIR. "Sunlight sometimes interferes with the trackIR's operation,… reduc[ing] the camera's ability to pick out motions of the reflective medium."*
4 The SmartNav 3 (256x256 pixel imagery) uses interpolation software to "guess" which pixel within a range is being selected. The Tracker (320x240 pixel imagery) uses more complex interpolation software; however, it is still not pixel-level accurate.
5 The trackIR Software requires 16 MB of RAM and "it's no piece of cake to make the trackIR work… I spent more than an hour getting the trackIR up and running, [and] getting the system to work to my satisfaction was a slow process that took hours... As a final test, I gave my software-guru son a chance to test drive trackIR. After four hours of trying, he, too, was exasperated... After using TrackIR for about 14 hours, over three days, I knew it wasn't for me."*
6 Some devices require that you purchase extra equipment to allow you to use Adaptive Switches (used for mouse "clicking") without being tethered to the computer.
7 None sold by NaturalPoint. Need to purchase equipment that allows remote switching from another company.
8 Abbreviations used: HRA = HeadMaster Remote Adapter; RSI = Remote Switch Interface; LA = Laptop Adapter; PBP = Portable Battery Pak; VWBA = Voltz Wheelchair Battery Adapter; EBP = External Battery Pack; WBA = Wheelchair Battery Adapter.
9 Augmentative Communication (AAC) devices are electronic devices that synthesize speech for people who have lost the ability to speak. The Tracer can be used for any such device that allows mouse input: for example, the DynaVox 3100, the Words+ Freedom 2000, and PRC's AlphaTalker.
10 To use some headpointers with a laptop away from a power outlet, you need to purchase additional equipment.
11 Collaborative Mode refers to the ability to work in collaboration with a second person using a different input device. Conflict means that if the one device moves up and the other moves left, the cursor moves up and left.
12 Line-of-site means that the head must be in direct sight of the device. For the SmartNav 3 - within 50º; HeadMaster - within 60º; for the Tracker - within 50º; for the HeadMouse - within 55º (50º for laptop version); however the Tracer will work anywhere - that is, within 360º, even if something is in between the radio transmitter and the receiver.

* from Business Week Online, May 9, 2001: "This 'trackIR' Sometimes Gets Lost" by John Williams
(Additional Sources: NaturalPoint, Prentke Romich, Madentec, and Origin Instuments websites.)