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Input Devices Hardware Technology

USB Foot Controls 123

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the not-just-for-garage-band-any-more dept.
MojoKid writes "When it comes to controlling your favorite PC title, you've got a few options. There's a mouse. There's a keyboard. There's a control pad and the joystick. Now, there's one more option apparently. Keith McMillen Instruments (KMI) announced today the SoftStep KeyWorx multi-touch foot controller, the world's first foot controlled digital interface. Available for Mac and Windows, this controller sits on the floor. The company claims that it has multiple uses for gamers, video editors, programmers, data entry professionals, disabled people, repetitive stress syndrome sufferers, etc. It's both pressure and location sensitive, USB-powered, and contains ten fully customizable keys that remember up to 100 sets of commands for repetitive tasks."

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USB Foot Controls

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  • That wasn’t meant to be facetious I just assumed this already existed. Maybe not with pressure/location sensitive buttons in this exact incarnation... but I assumed the basic idea of “USB connected foot board” was already around.

    I currently use my computer as a guitar amplifier (not as bad as it sounds really, with a decent (or even shitty) guitar interface/DI, impendence matcher, guitarix/rakarrack/jack-rack and all the assorted jack DAW stuff.. it’s actually pretty good (or at leas

    • by chispito (1870390)
      No, USB foot pedals have been around for ages. I'm not sure what is unique about this one other than maybe having more switches?
      • by SEWilco (27983)
        I guess three foot switches [tomtop.com] is not enough to be called a controller, but obviously "the world’s first foot controlled digital interface" is not factually correct. For that matter, there have been foot mouse interfaces appearing for twenty years.
        • by Hadlock (143607)

          There are some people who have converted church organ pedeals into a digital interface:

          http://nearlydeaf.com/?p=827 [nearlydeaf.com]

        • What would be cooler would be a computer with a crank. Back in 1959 the Rice R1 had one for faster single-stepping through a program . A bicycle-type setup would be even more efficient. Used as a game controller, it might get a little much-needed exercise to heavy players.

          • What would be cooler would be a computer with a crank.

            MAME supports a "spinner", which amounts to a one-dimensional mouse with a dial. Unlike a "paddle", a spinner has no left or right rail. Attach the appropriate handle, and you have your crank.

            • by nschubach (922175)

              I'm still waiting for the human powered generator to keep the computer running. If you stop pedaling or not doing it fast enough a little alarm goes off to tell you you have limited time to shut down or speed up.

              • by Anrego (830717) *

                I've seen a few of these done as concept.. the one that looked the most viable used a treadmill.

                Personally I think it would be damn near impossible to work on a computer and keep up a good pace ... but I guess if you did something tedious (like data entry) it would be ok. Would probably make stress injuries a lot more likely though (dunno what the ergonomics guide says on the topic of "upright walking while typing" .. but it's probably not good).

              • by BitZtream (692029)

                So you somehow missed the hand crank laptops for 3rd world countries eh?

        • by mrmeval (662166)

          Why not use an Arduino and a USB shield or one of the myriad USB I/O devices?

          Well there is that robust , near indestructible quality of consumer grade products to consider and the lower price.

          >_

          • Arduino, no shields at all. The Arduino contains an FTDI chip allowing serial communication along it's own USB connection. Use the built in Serial controls, and basic switches.

            if (switchIsClosed) { Serial.print("a") };

            Then run aackeys*, a free accessibility app - win95 has SerialKeys, which does the same thing - which monitors a serial port and converts incoming serial characters to keyboard keypresses (actually, you can send mouse events too - move to arbitrary locations, save/restore pointer positions,

            • by mrmeval (662166)

              You may not be a code muncher or a silicon shitter but you are cool anyway. ;)

              I've used processing but just a few minutes fiddling and aackeys does what processing would take longer to write. I have several other uses for that helpful hint.

              Thanks for the info.

      • by Scutter (18425)

        No, USB foot pedals have been around for ages. I'm not sure what is unique about this one other than maybe having more switches?

        I remember using a foot mouse at Comdex maybe 15 years ago. It was way easier to use than I expected it to be. At least as easy as a standard desktop mouse. I always wondered why they never took off.

      • by grumbel (592662)

        The interesting part of this foot control device is that those things aren't just buttons, but that each "button" is essentially an analog stick with a pressure sensor and you have 10 of those things. So you have a lot more input data to play around with then on a regular foot pedal. So while it might not exactly be the worlds first, it looks like an interesting input device to play around with.

      • by Nick Ives (317)

        What's unique about this one is that they successfully spammed the /. submission queue.

    • There are plenty of midi foot controllers, and midi interfaces for computers are cheap. For guitar stuff, you'll definitely want something like that because it'll play better with DAW software than this device will.
    • That wasnâ(TM)t meant to be facetious I just assumed this already existed.

      Of course it does. Every computer comes with a foot pedal and cup holder.

    • by kent_eh (543303)
      FTFA:

      this controller is one of the first we've ever seen that sits on the floor

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        FTFA:

        this controller is one of the first we've ever seen that sits on the floor

        Which means that the people who wrote the article are idiots. Foot controllers have been used by transcriptionists for years to control the playback of the audio they are transcribing. Transcriptionists have been using foot controllers since at least 2000 (that is when I first had some interaction with that industry).

    • by BitZtream (692029)

      I've had USB rudder pedals for flight simulators since the late1990's.

      The only way this is new is if they mean this exact specific device.

      The actual idea, the implementation and everything that goes along with it have been around for far longer than USB.

      I had game port rudder peddles before they were USB. Nothing new here.

    • The first computer foot pedal I read about was a do-it-yourself job in a computer magazine back when eight-bit megahertz microprocessors without hardware multiply were the latest great thing, and shortly after the period when every home computer user needed an oscilloscope.

    • by Darinbob (1142669)

      Yes they have existed in the past. Maybe not exactly this style, but I have used USB foot pedals. Why don't slashdot editors take some time to stop and think before posting such stories? They don't need to do full research but they just end up looking too naive when they post such obviously incorrect summaries.

    • by skids (119237)

      When I wanted a speed control for transcription I just threw a old joystick with a throttle control on the floor, and hacked it to talk to a LADSPA filter. Other than racing game gas pedals, it would have to be a pretty sweet device to make me want to buy another plastic home obstacle. Especially one that collects cat hair.

    • by Rhaban (987410)

      I assumed the basic idea of “USB connected foot board” was already around.

      Dance Dance Revolution Mat: A foot controlled board with a dozen buttons, has been around for ages and exists with several connectors, from usb to most game consoles since the first playstation

  • No, not again!?! Leroy, you jerk!!!

  • I pretty sure PC sim rudder pedals and or steering wheel pedals can claim prior art on the "world's first foot controlled digital interface"
    • by ackthpt (218170)

      I pretty sure PC sim rudder pedals and or steering wheel pedals can claim prior art on the "world's first foot controlled digital interface"

      I'm pretty sure there are a number of effects pedals for guitars and keyboards, which incorporate processors and are highly programmable, which predate much of this by at least two decades.

      • And of course pianos and organs with not only a full keyboard controlled by feet, but analog volume and iirc vibrato pedals as well

  • One of the first ideas I had for a tablet for musicians was to display sheet music. The only trick is flipping the page. Granted, this is easier with a tap than a real page turn, but it could be even easier with a foot pedal.

    A bluetooth "keyboard" could do this nicely and connect to hardware like the ipad without any special driver support. USB not so much, but presumably one of the other tablets out there could be made to work. If you have lots of people, though, bluetooth might suffer from interferenc

    • One of the first ideas I had for a tablet for musicians was to display sheet music. The only trick is flipping the page.

      If the tablet has a microphone, it can detect what pitch the musician is playing, match recent pitches to the notes of the piece to find how far the musician is through the piece, and scroll the next line of measures into view.

  • I'd buy this if all it was was a 'boss button'.

    *Stomp* *YouTube window minimizes*

  • The pedal looks a lot like an effects pedal board. It could be useful for "home studio" type stuff.
  • by Lord Lode (1290856) on Wednesday June 22, 2011 @02:06PM (#36532078)

    And not for other OSes?

    • by ZPWeeks (990417)

      Because the other 2% of the market will have no problem creating its own support for a pretty straightforward USB I/O device?

    • by Anrego (830717) *

      You're seriously asking this ;p

      The answer is: the same reason everything else is for mac and windows.

      First off, assuming those "other OSes" is Linux, releasing a propriatary app for use on Linux is non-trivial. Every distro is a little different, so you either support one specific distro (used to be red-hat, now will probably be Ubuntu) or have to keep on top of 6+ distributions. And if you make it available, and sell it as "Linux compatible", you have to support it. All this to get a _very tiny_ chunk of m

  • yes there are a lot of midi pedals, but this looks nice, quite configurable, i wonder what is the latency for playing it in real time.
  • When you play a FPS you can actually use your feet to WASD.
  • Should you not have bought a brand new shiny pair of shoes for this demo? :)

  • The price seems, how do I say this politely... a bit steep. You could pick up a second hand MIDI foot controller and something like Bome's MIDI translator [bome.com], midiStroke [charlie-roberts.com] or bash something together in the programing language of your choosing. And I know at the very least the GIMP supports MIDI input devices, I wouldn't be surprised it there are other programs that do not as well.

  • by benjfowler (239527) on Wednesday June 22, 2011 @02:17PM (#36532280)

    Finally, I can have my Windows reboot pedal. That could be a real timesaver.

  • What about Power Pad [wikipedia.org]?

  • Looks extremely awkward to use. Was hopping it was more of a gesture based thing. Moving your foot around and hitting locations on a pad without looking just seems difficult.
    • As it so happens I played with one of these things for a few hours (friend got one for a music setup). When I first saw it, I was excited and was seriously considering buying one for myself, since I love having access to more ways to design shortcuts and streamline my computer work-flows. Alas, I was quite disappointed with it. The main problem are:
      1. The buttons are flat and small (compared to a foot, I mean), making it hard to know which button you're actually touching. If you're shoe-less, then you can
      • by AmiMoJo (196126)

        Maybe we just have to accept that not every part of our body can be used for input. Some parts don't have the dexterity or tactile feedback level required, e.g. the feel which after all are designed for walking on barefoot so tend not to be that sensitive. Other parts are already in use for other vital tasks, e.g. eye tracking. Some parts are just unhygienic, like the tongue. Tongue interfaces exist but only the disabled who have no other choice use them.

        There is one potential use I can see for this. Once s

  • I for one welcome our new computer rebooting overlords!
  • When a company says that they're the first to provide something to a consumer, it just makes me want to wait for the 2nd or 3rd iteration. The first always has bugs, is always more expensive, and is always improved upon. Thanks for letting me know not to consider your product, guys. In the meantime I can just use USB racing pedals, they seem to work pretty well at doing the same thing, and the buttons aren't as tiny as the one in the submitted article.
    • by BitZtream (692029)

      Fortunately, digital foot pedels are like 20 years old at this point, so this isn't exactly first generation hardware. This is definately a first generation implementation by a company that does marketing that is either clearly a lye, or indicates they have absolutely no experience in computers ... otherwise they'd be aware of all the other existing implementations of the same thing that came before them.

      Either way you look at it, no informed person would buy from this company at this point in time.

      • by yarnosh (2055818)
        I suspect they've never actually used it themselves either. I mean, the precision you'd need with your feet is incredible. THere's no way I could hit those tiny diamond cursor buttons without looking. Hell, even looking I would probably have a hard time with shoes on. This has to be a joke.
  • One of my EE professors in college drove a trackball with his feet while both hands typed away. Really impressive to watch.
  • ....like some welfare bum laughing as my fingers pound endlessly away at the keyboard. 10 Fingers plus 10 Toes = DOUBLE PRODUCTIVITY!!!!!
  • I considered getting something like this for my digital art setup. Right now i have an old tabletpc with a nostromo speedpad 51n. In my right hand holds a stylus and my left is on the speedpad. The idea is that I never have to touch the toolbar or the menu with the hand that i draw with. It's very liberating to switch from paintbrush to eraser and to zoom in and out without doing all kinds of keyboard combos. The only problem is that you can't modify color in Photoshop, but you can with GIMP.
    • by BitZtream (692029)

      Now if they'd just make a speedpad that didn't feel like ass, you'd have a winner.

      I love the idea, but got those are the cheapest feeling devices I've ever used. They look like the old built strong enough to throw against the wall video game controllers from years ago, but they feel so horrible to actually use. Every button on it requires too much force in just the direction in order for the button to move, and if you don't push it just right, you need so much force that you're completely distracted by it

      • I admit the speedpad is a bit janky, especially the thumbwheel, which I have mapped to zooming in and out. But for how I use it its not too bad. I can imagine if you are using it for an FPS or an RPG you would want it to deal with rapid and precise key presses. For me, as long I press a key and it works I'm good. With that said, I would don't mind a smother thumbwheel and a trackpad for panning images.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Has no one ever heard of midi foot controllers?

  • My restless leg syndrome might cause the controls to go haywire and open undesirable websites, though.
  • Next, power steering with cruise control. Browsing the internet will be like cruising the interstate.
  • After all, this is multi-touch with feet and not multi-touch with fingers....

  • by jdcope (932508) on Wednesday June 22, 2011 @03:04PM (#36533054)
    Secretaries and those who do medical transcription have been using them for years.
  • If you have a decent flat surface and take your shoe off you can use a normal mouse perfectly well with your foot. Decent control (gets better with practice, and it feels like having fine control over your leg should be useful for something), and leaves both hands free for the keyboard.
    • by benow (671946)
      I remember hearing of a Dell tech support request, where an old woman could not figure out why her computer was not working. She had it plugged in, the monitor was attached, but no matter how hard she pushed on the foot pedal, it wouldn't come on. She was expecting it to work like a sewing machine, and was stepping on the mouse to make it go.
  • I hacked together a 3 peddles deal that was wired directly into a PS-2 mouse. Saved my hands when I was doing hours of 3D modeling. Drove my neighboring cube buddies crazy with the endless clicking. This was 1998, and I got the idea from a guy who did it at least three years earlier. In 2008 I bought an off-the-shelf 3 paddle USB foot input from a place called Fentech. This new device mentioned here might have directional control that will slew the mouse using four arrow peddles. Similar devices have be
  • When do we get a breath controller like the Yamaha DX-7 had?

  • I've done this with MIDI foot controllers before. If you count the fact that many MIDI devices also have USB interfaces, then this has been done before.
  • ...when I was first mastering VI, a co-worker mentioned that he thought it needed a foot-pedal connected to the Escape key.
  • I think this might find applicability for amputees, and/or other disabled persons. Could be a boon for wounded vets, for example.
    ..though the tricky thing might be the initial setup, which seems to require a standard mouse at the very least.
    • by yarnosh (2055818)
      What cruel person would give something like this to a person who has had their feet amputated? You insensitive clod.
  • 1. Get a Comfy [comfyland.com] keyboard.
    2. Remove baby stickers.
    3. Attach to USB port.

    Voila, a foot keyboard for $80.
  • I saw foot controls (on one of the Lisp Machines) in 1980. (I doubt that was the first time someone did that, either.)

  • I can now have 8 additional new modifiers for my emacs configuration :)

  • Several years ago I was interested to see how feet could be used for coding. I got a ps2 DDR pad and ps2 to USB adaptor. It showed up as a joystick. With joy2mouse in X I could control the mouse with a foot... left, right, up, down, left stamp, right stamp, double stamp, etc. It worked, but wasn't too useful. The center of the pad was in the wrong place due to the chair, and moving the chair caused a misalignment with the buttons.

    It might have also been possible to map from joystick to keyboard event

  • I used to work in a Chemistry lab. It was often that my hands were busy AND I needed to press space bar so some dumb software can start it's analysis.

  • Back in the day, I had thrustmaster peddles, joystick, and throttle. They were the last of their kind to be made, even by thrustmaster, that would recognize more than one button push at a time. I wonder if this suffers the one button at a time limit.

  • You'd still need three legs to ctrl-alt-delete.
  • As an emacs user I'm looking forward to a new level of complicated chording commands. I won't have to use my nose to hit keys anymore!
  • I doubt it's the first. A quick google search shows that there are at least a dozen similar existing products. Also, I'm sort of disappointed by the "multi-touch" feature. When I read that, I was imagining two iPads -- one for each barefoot. As it stands in this case, multi-touch just means multi-buttons.

    So by that definition, all phones (with more than one button) are "multi-touch" as well.

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