Quickly Mute And Unmute Yourself Using The Physical Mute Button

With many conferences moving to fully virtual this year, video conferencing will continue to be a mainstay in our lives for the foreseeable future. [Elliot] wanted to spice up his video conferencing experience just a bit and make his experience a bit more ergonomic. We’ve all had the problem of looking for our Zoom window buried behind any number of other applications, desperately searching for the mute button. Furthermore, when we get called on, we’re desperately trying to give the impression that we’ve been paying attention the entire time, even when we haven’t been.

To solve all these problems, he built a physical mute button to easily toggle the mute option on and off during Zoom calls. The device takes advantage of the native USB feature of his Digispark board, and a few built-in keyboard shortcuts in Zoom. With native USB, the Digispark board can act like a keyboard, making it really simple to emulate keyboard presses using the microcontroller. Throw in an arcade-style button and do a bit of handcrafting and you have yourself your own physical mute button.

We were really impressed by the simplicity of the design as well as the elegance of the mechanical assembly. [Elliot] even made a revamped version with a second button allowing him to control his video as well. Cool button(s) [Elliot]!

What’s your favorite work-from-home hack? Check out some of our favorites here on Hackaday.

52 thoughts on “Quickly Mute And Unmute Yourself Using The Physical Mute Button

      1. You could even add a small, geared-down motor to it so the button starts pushing back up as time goes on, increasing applied force the longer you hold it down! :P

      1. A while back I reused an old sewing machine pedal (the machine is long gone) to become part of a USB HID (keyboard) device. Basically a foot pedal for push to talk! Great for games where all of my mouse buttons are already in use… :D

  1. Copped out myself. Volume up + power for Android does this if you allow it.
    Keyboard shortcuts tied to a button will live forever though and I don’t think it will ever cease to be useful.. and I don’t think I will ever get tired of hearing it. No I’m not being facetious.
    Right up until Wayland happened I was even betting on this camp. :)

        1. But if you put it in a plane you then need a gauge for how on or off it is, and an hour meter to determine lifetime of the switch… and a test mode for preflight.

          1. Ugh – it’s not posting the links.
            It’s just a 24 mm arcade button I bought off Aliexpress or one of those sites, and then a digispark clone with micro usb from amazon.

  2. The Tiny85 has no native USB support. It’s all “fake”! 3 resistors, 2 zeners and a really well choreographed bit waggling. Cheating with perfection! I really love what all can be done with the Tiny85ers.

    π•Ήπ–”π–‡π–”π–‰π–ž π–Šπ–›π–Šπ–— π–Šπ–π–•π–Šπ–ˆπ–™π–˜ π–™π–π–Š π–˜π–•π–†π–“π–Žπ–˜π– π•―π–Žπ–Œπ–Žπ–˜π–•…

  3. Early in the pandemic stay-at-home period I had exactly this problem.

    I solved it with a mic that has a mute button on it. I don’t even mute the chat program anymore.

    I like this solution because it’s entirely physical and analog. Much like putting a lens cap on a camera, even if someone hacked my computer and had full control of it remotely they could not listen through my mic when it is muted this way.

    The down side is that the switch is across the terminals of the mic, not in series with it. It works by shorting them out. I think this is common and it is for a good reason. Leaving an open might result in picking up hum. But it also means that if the contacts on the switch get dirty it fails in the mic on position.

    Ok, that sounds paranoid to say I am that worried about someone listening in on me. But my microphone is very old, from the 1960s. I actually had to take it apart and sand the oxidation off of the contacts to get the mute function working again so I don’t know if this fix will last another 50 years or fail today. And what I am actually (only slightly) concerned about is the mic being on during a meeting when I don’t expect it to be.

    If I were designing a microphone myself I would use a dual throw switch. That way it can both short the wire AND disconnect one side of the element when it is muted. Also, so long as the element is being disconnected, would it maybe be better for the hardware on the other end to have a fixed resistance instead of a dead short?

    1. First I had a painful meeting where I could not get the mic to mute, because, well, Windows challenged me that way. While still in the meeting I ordered a thing called a “HyperX Amp” that worked with my old high quality analog headset, and it gave me a mute button with a red light.

      Next I rooted around in my junk box and found a “Shuttle Xpress Contour” USB controller and programmed it to control volume and sound output on/off. Lots of my projects are ruined by having the thing I want to build already in the junk box.

      The HyperX red light is valuable, can’t miss it when I am muted.

      I played around with a Pi Zero with a big button on it, it is very easy to get a Pi Zero to pretend to be an HID keyboard but ended up with the boring commercial solutions being the ones I continue to use.

    2. Shorting across the mic is the proper way to do it. Since the voltage across two parallel paths is equal, it essentially gives you no waveform when it’s shorted because the mic can’t source enough current to maintain the signal. I’ve built a few XLR mute switches built like guitar pedals, the simplest being just a switch between the hot and cold wires. They’re effective and don’t damage anything, as evidenced by companies having had them on the market for decades. If you physically break the connection, you will get a pop every time.

      In later versions, I included a few passives to guard against pops when using them with phantom power. Sometimes the power on the hot and cold won’t be perfectly matched and that can cause a pop when switching between muted and open.

    3. The only mic I use for streaming is a proper studio mic with XLR connector that needs phantom power. So it’s not on unless I press the little button on my Focusrite box, and that button has a light in it while it’s on. Unfortunately it takes 1-3 seconds for phantom power to kick in, so I can’t use it as a PTT, just a safety while not in use.

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