Developed On Hackaday: The Designs

We know that many of our readers have been impatiently waiting to discover what the Hackaday community-developed offline password keeper project will look like. Today we present you several designs that our mechanical contributors came up with and we will ask you to give your opinion about them. Obviously these are just preliminary cases that may evolve along the way, but we will only produce the electronics for the designs you prefer.

All the designs are embedded after the break, with a multiple-choices poll to express your interest. You may also want to join the Mooltipass Google Group in case you’d want to talk about the designs in more depth or meet their creators. On the firmware side, I just finished soldering many mooltipass prototypes that will be shipped in the coming days to our firmware developers. As you may have noticed, this project is gaining speed!


[Louis]’ design 1 :

This design revolves around an injection molded bottom part and a tinted acrylic top that would be laser cut. The two parts would be held together using large bolts on top of the acrylic top plate going into (or through) the bottom part. The large hardware could also protrude a little and might help in protecting the acrylic top part from scratches. [Louis] feels like the large hardware makes it look sturdy and secure. The acrylic top plate would allow users to see inside the device and would also protect the screen. Due to the acrylic on top of the screen we would have to rely on something other than the touchscreen for user input, in this case a rotary encoder. This design would mimic the feel of a safe. Using a metal extrusion as the body of the device would have been nice but would have required machining in order to fit the card slot and USB cable, leading to a higher case cost. And here is a 3D render:


[Louis]’s design 2:

Similar design to his previous one, still using an injection molded base with a translucent top. Only this time, it’s a bit smaller overall but a bit larger to accommodate a capacitive sensor strip below the screen. There’s also a bit of a tilt angle on this one like a desktop keyboard making it easier to view the screen and interact with the device. As with the previous design, the USB cable and smart card would be inserted in the back.


[Louis]’s design 3 :

Here’s a bit of a weirder one. If the device is heavily reliant on a browser extension, it might be possible to operate it without the use of a screen on the device. In this case, the body would be injection molded plastic and the bottom would be translucent laser cut acrylic. This would allow you to faintly see inside the device to make sure nothing has been tampered with. It could also allow a bright RGB led to make the base of the device glow. [Louis] could imagine that the browser extension could make a request for a password then the base would light up red and you have 3 seconds to press the button to authenticate and it would fade out in green to let you know it worked. [Louis] is really not sure how feasible this would be but he is throwing it out there anyways…


[Joe]’s design 1 :

The idea was that a hinged USB plug could also serve to secure this design to a bag or keychain. But [Joe] concedes this may be well out of budget.


[Joe]’s design 2 :

[Joe]’s impression was that we were struggling to implement the touch screen within budget, so buttons and/or capacitive sensors could be a cheaper alternative. Having buttons or capacitive sensing near the screen would allow the UI to display the function of the button at the edge of the screen. Hence the buttons could have different functions depending on context. Crucially, if the buttons are this large the user would be able to touch different parts of the capacitive strip to enter a code made up of numeric digits 0-9. If the capacitive touch sensors could form part of the PCB [Joe] thought this would be quite a cheap way to implement user input.


[Joe]’s design 3 : 

As you may have guessed, this design would have capacitive touch slider on the top/bottom and capacitive buttons on the left/right. Several concerns were expressed that having a USB connector may not be safe for the device when plugged into a laptop.


[Andy]’s design :

This design is intended to be a touchscreen only device, but could be modified to capacitive input with sliders on either side (top/bottom) of the display. The thing that [Andy] likes about this design is the horizontal axis of symmetry. For a laptop user, the device could be used on either side with a short usb cable straight to the port. The display would be flipped in software.


[Josh]’s design :

The two things [Josh] didn’t get a chance to sketch are: the USB port along one of the short sides, and the cap-touch regions. A pair of auxiliary PCBs could provide 4 cap-touch buttons along the left side of the screen, and a “slider” region along the right side.


[Olivier]’s design :

This is a touch-only design composed of two elements: one base and one credit card sized case. Magnets would be included within the base to keep the Mooltipass from moving.

So what do our dear Hackaday readers think? Please vote for your favorites designs below! And if you subscribe to the Mooltipass Google Group, you may want to enable email notifications to stay updated… there’s a great discussion happening, in which we’re trying to settle on the license we should use for the final firmware.

34 thoughts on “Developed On Hackaday: The Designs

    1. Andy’s and Olivier’s designs fit a consumer product very well. But in my opinion, the best one for the beta version or the minimum viable product (MVP) we talked about in the group would be Louis’ design 1.
      Because it is simple,cheap and easy to tinker with.

  1. I DO NOT like the fold-out USB designs. They’re fine for laptops on desks, but as soon as you get into cramped spaces (non-trivial space taken up by hard-attachment) or permanent workstations (Having to reach down for a button).

    Keep in mind that if you’re using this with multiple computers (eg laptop, home, work), you’re going to have to unplug it and plug it in, frequently.

    As for interfaces, I would expect a host-driven interface (manager app, browser extension, etc) would be much richer than anything local to the device. Look at classic iPods: They have about the same richness of input as many of these designs. I would never want to manage my passwords with such an interface. To me, that sounds like a recipe for frustration and annoyance and just bad UX.

    1. I always find it annoying when half the features of my “portable” devices are only availabe if im connected to a PC and running some software suite (even worse if it only runs on one OS, but that would likely not be an issue here). But that is maybe just me. And i do not have much interrest in this particular project so no need to accomodate me. You might not ever _want_ to manage it with the device, but you may end up in a situation where it wil be required.

      But I am 100% with you on the fold-out design. its a movable part that might break, the design shows it as snapped/screwed together and i can just imagine the screw/snap coming loose an USB breaking off). Ontop of that im with the lefthanded and “lack of space” crowd. Though USB extension cords solve this somewhat. again – portable device, dont wanna carry around a cable too.

      My opinionated 0.02 USD after currency exchange and related fees.

  2. While I like Louis’ design as well, my only concern there would be the bolts though the acrylic top… acrylic likes to crack and fracture easily and I fear we might eventually see cracks radiating out from the holes around the bolts.

    1. That’s easily fixed with rubber grommets or “O” rings between the acrylic and the bolt so it will always have some wiggle room to flex/compress/decompress yet stay closed tightly… Hell, even some good ol’ Sugru would work, put a little Sugru in the countersunk hole (maybe 2mm or so thick), let it dry, and then screw in the bolt…

    2. I think this sort of problem occurs if you allow the acrylic to bend or have too much stress around the hole (over tightening).

      I think it could be solved by having the plastic holed part into which the screws bolt into be flush with the top acrylic part. That way, the screw head presses against the acrylic which then presses against a strong plastic part coming from the base. The screen and pcb are also directly under the acrylic which would help stop the bending in the event of something hitting the top part.

      As m1ndtri1p mentioned, a soft washer should also help by diminishing the stress concentration around the hole.

  3. I very much like Oliver’s design, though I would hope that the ‘base’ is just a piece of plastic or a docking station with USB-passthrough, rather than part of the electronics.

  4. I also am not a fan of the protruding USB ports, foldable or not. The device will likely be heavy enough and certainly stick out enough to easily damage USB ports on any computer that doesn’t have a table or something to support it.

    Oliver’s design looks to me to be the sleekest design, but I agree with Jamie Bliss that a host-centric UI would be best. With that said, I think you’ll run into security concerns without _some_ sort of device UI.

    Andy’s design looks like the most portable (aside from “the box,” maybe). So I think my final overall vote is for Andy’s design, although Oliver’s is very close behind.

    1. It wouldn’t be as portable, in several senses, if it needs host software. Having it emulate a keyboard is much better, works on any OS and no security or driver or anything else issues to worry about. Doesn’t mean you can’t have host software, but it shouldn’t require it.

      1. Oliver’s is my favorite, I don’t think it’s really all that bulky. I’ve got a laptop-sized solid-state drive that has about the same proportions (minus the angled base of course) and while it wouldn’t quite fit in happily in my pocket, it could easy find a home in my laptop bag. :-)

  5. Louis’s design 3 would be nice and compact (aka portable), would orient well regardless of which side the USB port is on the laptop, and would look badass with a soft glow emitting from the bottom of the device.

    1. Don’t forget about the card that has to stick into this thing. Half of it will hang out in one direction or another. The short dimension of the card will also dictate the size of this device. Look at a credit card when you imagine these devices that do not include a card in the render.

    2. If you stick a big red button next to your computer, with no indication what it is, passers-by are going to press it. Especially if it glows and changes colour. Would be very annoying and a possible point of going-wrong.

  6. If Oliver’s design had something like a mag safe connector or pogo pins or some easy way dock it that would make it perfect but a usb type b will do fine. taking a device like this to many computers with easy docking stations would be quite convenient. anyway +1 Oliver

  7. My first thoughts are for Andy’s design. Being left handed, I have fought right handed “things” all my life. I like the idea of Mooltipass working on either side of a laptop. Second choice would be Oliver’s design.

  8. As long as Oliver’s base design was cheap, I could see putting them at each computer. But you’d DEFINITELY want a “direct” method of connecting without the base for “on the go”.

    I like the idea of Joe’s first design’s movable USB. Ideally it’d be flexible in any direction so you can plug it in different orientations, however, that is a major failure point.

    Touchscreen may not be feasible, but buttons aren’t ideal either. Capacitive touch buttons are indeed cheap, usually cheaper than mechanical buttons.

    I love the “lift” of Oliver’s, Joe’s second and Louis’s second design. Easy to interact with while it’s sitting.

    Overall I voted for Louis’s second design as it was “prettier” than Joe’s second though both are about equal.

  9. Keep in mind that you don’t actually need to do much on the hardware side of the interface — frequently, just one button would be enough. No need for several touch sliders and buttons, though they would be nice — a single slider or scroll wheel would be enough.

    1. It might be better to design the software user interface first, or at least preliminarily, and then add the buttons that it requires. They shouldn’t decide the physical layout and controls without even thinking about what they’ll do.

  10. Olivier’s in the lead, it’s what I expected. Very professional looking, if perhaps not as portable. Joe’s 1st design, I think the USB hinge would be a weak point, flexing connectors or their leads is never a good idea, it’ll wear out soon enough, and this device doesn’t look too cheap. A separate cable is a much better idea.

  11. I generally want to have it as small as possible as most important feature (remember it’s one of the things you carry around with you all time…). So for me a device that holds nearly the whole smart cart is just too big. And from the pictures it’s hard to judge, which one that is…
    Second is durability, which most likely everything with USB connectors “sticking out of the device” is kind of nogo… (maybe a solution like the sandisk cruzer usbsticks would be fine Basically the case is “too big” and moves the whole PCB inside (no bending cables and such).
    My 2cents

    1. Hm, something like a USB memory stick, that sticks out of the PC, and can accept a smart card sideways. And has a cap on the end to protect the connector. Sounds about right.

      I have a Cruzer, from a friend, I don’t think much of it’s sliding mechanism. It’s annoying because when you try plug it in, the plug keeps getting pushed back in. You have to hold it by it’s “switch” thing.

      1. Strange. The one I have sort of “snaps in” in both end-positions.
        What I like about that design is: you can’t loose the cap (which happens quite inevitable with those that have/had caps).
        If a cap, than it has to be:
        1. permanently connected to the rest (not some silly cord)
        2. cap should mechanically somehow “reinforce” the usb plug to protect it from breaking

Leave a Reply

Please be kind and respectful to help make the comments section excellent. (Comment Policy)

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.