A Levered Light Switch Even Fido Can Operate

Dog Light

We love hacks that make a difference in people’s lives. Service dogs can make a huge difference in a physically disabled person’s life, and while they can do a lot of things, dogs aren’t the greatest at flipping light switches. So a team of industrial design students from Ghent, Belgium decided to try finding a solution.

Their case study was for a young woman named [Heleen Bartsoen]. She has a very smart white golden retriever named [Gyproc] who is very good at picking up commands, and is a very careful and cautious service dog. She has an IKEA lamp with a foot switch that neither she or her dog can press.

The team quickly got to work and decided to design a lever to give the dog (or Heleen!) some mechanical advantage to actuate the switch. Having access to a laser cutter, they designed the lever to be cut out of plywood for easy assembly. It pivots around a wooden dowel, and they’ve filled a compartment of the base with cement to keep it stationary when being used.

It’s not a very complicated project, but it’s a great feel-good project and we hope it inspires you to make something to help someone!

Speaking of projects to help people — remember the Self-stabilizing Parkinsons spoon?

35 thoughts on “A Levered Light Switch Even Fido Can Operate

  1. Umm … why not simply replace the switch with something else? There are plenty of large rocker switches available and it could be fairly easily mounted higher up to be reachable by both her and her dog. This is a rather over-engineered contraption, IMO …

    1. If you put a thin book or board on the switch she could roll over it with the wheelchair to toggle, too. But this adds a bit more normalcy in that she can now use an off-the-shelf item with neither an unattractive hack requiring her to place it where she can get at it with her wheels nor does it require direct modification of the object in question. It’s an ability extender that is built for purpose.

        1. I had a friend in high school who kept his lava lamp on The Clapper. The thing had a bad tendency to turn on or off even when no clapping had taken place. One morning he was rudely awakened by his lava lamp exploding, as it had gotten turned on by The Clapper at some point during his sleep and had apparently been running for hours (and was probably using the wrong bulb thanks to that genius… somehow he’s still alive and even has kids now). Moral of the story: Unreliable clappers and cheap lava lamps don’t mix.

    2. The lever is a good idea, but I would have gone with a lever to control a power point on a bit of cord. Like an extension cord with a switch. That way you can plug anything into it.

      I’m guessing they used the lever because they aren’t licensed electricians and aren’t allowed to modify mains voltage equipment.

      1. My Understanding is that anyone can modify something that runs off mains voltage so long as it plugs into a socket. That way the circuit breakers/rcds protect the fixed wiring and the grid in general. An electrician isnt required to build every toaster and lamp in the house

    1. Pigs haven’t been selectively bred over the course of forty thousands years to instinctively look to humans for guidance and companionship.

      They also vary wildly in intelligence depending on breed and individual. Pigs are not in fact smarter than *all* dogs.

  2. I think this is actually one of the few situations where I think a fully-automated (or remote controllable) living environment has a very solid argument beyond the simple geek factor.

    1. Came here to post this. But it’s slightly off-white, therefore it must be a golden retriever! Just like if it looks a little stocky and has a short snout it must be a pit bull!

    2. It’s not a samoyed mix? They should have had a mind flex helmet for the dog feeding an arduino connected to a raspi, with the dogs thought patterns being read by wolfram in the cloud, verified by amazon mechanical turk, of course, so that the light isn’t being turned on and wasting energy when they dog simply wants to go out, then once the turks have verified the light should be turned on, they send an email to an android device that is running a python script to parse the email for the “on” or “off” command which is relayed to another arduino that controls an SCR switch for the light.

      But in all seriousness, service dogs are amazing. They will rule us all some day, and i’d be just fine with that.

  3. Why is it necessary to use a lasercutter for such a simple construction?
    These students are clever enough to design this lever but cannot use a saw and a file?
    Very strange.

    1. Why stop there? Since the point of this project is to put in effort, and not to produce a finished piece, they should be using rocks rather than lazily using pre-built tools at all!

      1. In what universe is sticking a board and the CAD file you were going to make anyway into a cutter and hitting “go” more work than a saw? If a tool makes it easier and you have one on hand, you goddamn use it. Who gives a shit?

  4. Why not just get a touch lamp – if the dog can be trained to move that huge lever, it can be trained to just touch the lamp. Don’t they teach about over-engineering, KISS, simpler is better, these days?

    1. Capacitive sensors don’t work well when they get damp or even slightly wet, and a dogs nose isn’t quite dry. However, I am a little surprised they couldn’t teach the dog to use a paw to press the button.

      1. We have two black labs and a end-table touch lamp that the dogs have taught themselves to turn on and off by themselves. The lamp (which activates with a touch anywhere on it’s base) doesn’t seem to have a problem with either a slightly damp nose or a paw. After two crushed lamp shades (from being nose’d off the table) we had to move the lamp to higher ground.

  5. They need to improve the feedback. You can clearly see that the light doesn’t toggle when the switch is pushed forward but only once the pushed-forward switch is released so that it can spring back a bit. Poor design. Fix it!

    1. I agree. I think maybe a microswitch and a latching relay might be a better solution here.

      It could definitely use improvement, but it’s still a neat (and useful) hack.

    2. That is the design of the switch, not the lever. A mechanical switch works with a spring and a latch, when pressed “on” it latches and when pressed back “off” it unlatches and returns to the higher/no contact position.

      Ergo, just awesome design. No flaw.

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