Machine pushes cellphone buttons from anywhere in the world

[Mok Young Bacq] works on the weekends for mobile game monitoring service. He has three cellphones that he uses for work, and although you would think this means he could work from anywhere in the world, the roaming charges are a killer. His solution was to build an incredibly intricate machine that can use three different cellphones (PDF) on his behalf.

Above you can see it perched underneath the apex of the ladder, but you’re definitely going to want to watch the video after the break. This interface method uses a camera to look at each phone. It’s hung pointing downward and moves like a pendulum to look at one of the three screens at a time. Each phone has one servo motor for each button, which uses a flexible cable as an actuator. Now he can take trips abroad, just checking in over the Internet for his two 17-hour weekend shifts (10am to 3am the next morning) working the phones.

This reminds us of the cellphone endurance tests. What happens when a button stops working?


  1. mosheen says:


  2. earl says:

    this is insane.

  3. M says:

    That is fantastic. Belongs on a Terry Gilliam movie set.

  4. MrX says:

    WTF, how hard was it to simply use a GSM chipset? This is just overkill!!

  5. Booker T. Worthington says:

    Sounds like a pretty terrible job, nice work.

  6. CutThroughStuffGuy says:

    “What happens when a button stops working?”

    Clone the SIM cards, redundant backup phones. That and / or solid state buttons.

  7. Gravis says:

    i can make ransom calls like in the movies!

  8. j_at_chaperon says:

    Because you can !

  9. Dave says:

    Other than the wow factor, why on earth would you build this with moving parts? It would be simple to remove the buttons from the phones and tap wires into them directly. And while we’re at it, get one decent resolution camera that can record all three screens at the same time, no pendulum needed.

    Even better idea: get phones where you can disable the data radio and operate over wifi when roaming.

  10. Bill says:

    All this to avoid sending keystrokes via bluetooth or the system connector?

  11. Davorak says:

    Can any one post the jog description for mobile game monitoring service?

  12. concino says:

    It works as an art piece. Same result can be achieved w/o using actual phones.

  13. jim says:

    Yeah, but Bluetooth isn’t art.

  14. jim says:

    Jinx, my good sir, concino. Jinx.

  15. I’ll buy the art piece comment. As an art piece it is quite impressive. I am very impressed that the builder was able to do this. Great job!

    On a practical level though… Was it really done to be practical? The article certainly seems to indicate so. Couldn’t this be achieved much easier with a GSM module or bluetooth plus an old laptop? For that matter, those look like some sort of smartphone, perhaps the author could have written downloaded, bought or written a remote control app and not needed any new hardware at all?

    Besides being quicker and easier I would think that any of those methods would be more reliable.

    Still, great job at implementing this solution!

  16. MS3FGX says:

    Yeah, this is an incredible technical achievement, but I really hope the creator didn’t actually think this was the only way to do it.

  17. carter says:

    one of my fave parts of this build is the a-frame ladder used to mount it all ;) very nice build :D

  18. Mike says:

    I don’t think this was to defeat roaming charges. It states in the PDF that he has to check them on his home country network.

    Now, if you didn’t want your employer knowing you did this, and they are employer-provided phones, this is probably one of the better ways to do it. If you have to leave the phone itself untouched, that pretty much rules out solid-state, GSM modules, and “wired to the buttons.” In addition, each phone can be swapped with any other phone with a similar form factor in the future.

    As other commentors have noted, what a sucky job.

  19. Joel Rebello says:

    uh how about just setting up an asterisk based pbx box at home :\

  20. DecX says:

    Is that a playstation controller? :O

  21. bsmulders says:

    Mike, if you have to leave the phone itself untouched, why not send the keystrokes using Bluetooth? It’s as easy as pairing the phone, opening a serial connection and using the right AT commands.

  22. bunedoggle says:

    Add image recognition and this guy just put himself out of a job.

  23. Alex says:

    The movement of that camera is absoloutely brilliant. This is, somewhat, heath robinson.
    3x GSM modems or at least 3 of the same phone?

  24. steve eh says:

    i use a program called mymoblier when away, brings up on screen exactly whats on my mobile phone…allowing me to press buttons etc…hell i use it when i’m home to type long text msgs…cus im lazy and don’t like typing with my thumbs

    amazing build.. but wow overkill

  25. KevintheCellman says:

    Cool Design. kudos. but i know of a better way.

    the perfect question, What happens when a button stops working? well using a different method you don’t even need buttons. 8)

    if your using a cell with a Qualcomm Chipset,
    you can simply send a Serial command to press a button. ie. “20 00 33 EF C6 7E” when sent to the phone with press the number “3”.

    the whole keyboard can be accessed this way.


  26. Whatnot says:

    Now to assemble it without leaving fingerprints or DNA traces ;)

  27. therian says:

    using servos (15$ part) where solenoids(0.25$ part) or no hardware at all(0$ patr) make better solution. Thats you brain on arduino

  28. i bet this job sucks big times.
    i think he somehow need to actually “see” the displays of the phones, what is somehow explaining parts of his complicted setup..

    his notes are partly german…
    German overengineering in the house ? :D :D

  29. Paul says:


    at least he isn’t at home when de the neibours start complaining.

    This should set an example for others. Quit you boring engineering jobs and enlighten the world with over enigneered creativity.

  30. Daveee says:

    It’s definitely an art piece. If you open up the pdf you would see it’s displayed in a gallery in South Korea. Also it’s pretty clear that the contraction is supposed to resemble the one from Kafka’s “In the Penal Colony” which really explains the swinging and all the cables.

  31. Danoz says:

    Phones in Korea aren’t GSM based, have no SIM cards. Hence his concern about roaming charges.

  32. Dr Nick says:

    I like this machine, and it sounds a lot like an angiography system on steroids!

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