Panic Button Is An Audio-Visual Parachute Out Of Zoom Calls

Everyone has been learning how to stream this year whether they want to or not. This has given rise to the embarrassment paradox, which states that the more urgently you need to kill your camera and microphone feeds in a videoconference call, the more difficult and time-consuming it will be. Zoom in particular will toggle the mic and camera with keyboard shortcuts, but when your toddler waddles into the room swinging a used diaper around in the air, keyboard shortcuts will seem woefully under-powered.

What you need is a single sturdy button that sends both of these toggle commands as quickly as possible. [Simon Prickett]’s panic switch does exactly that. It’s a delightfully tactile arcade button connected to a Trinket M0, which can emulate a keyboard quite easily as an Arduino or CircuitPython device.

This little keyboard doesn’t send these macros directly, because that would be way too risky. What if you were reading Hackaday instead of staring into the tiled faces of your coworkers? Then it wouldn’t work, because Zoom is out of focus.

Instead, it sends an obscure four-key macro to the computer that triggers an AppleScript. [Simon]’s AppleScript checks to see if Zoom is running. If not, it has the system announce the fact. If it is running, then the script sends cmd+shift+a and cmd+shift+v to Zoom directly to toggle the audio and video. Check out the demo after the break.

As you might expect, we’ve seen a couple of videoconference survival hacks over the past few months. Need to show something or work with your hands, but only have one camera? All you need is a mirror, a clothespin, and a length of wire for a simple split-screen setup.

19 thoughts on “Panic Button Is An Audio-Visual Parachute Out Of Zoom Calls

        1. Yeah… those never get annoying when you rotate your chair slightly and the arm rest touches and wobbles your desk… nope… never. Dunno what you’re talking about… no YOU broke your Ethernet cable!

    1. All those “environmentally friendly” re-usable mugs for fake coffee are now looking like landfill bait in the covid era as many chains don’t want to have to touch them. So re-purposing them is a worthy endeavor.

  1. My (external) webcam/microphone is wired through a real physical power switch. No software, no ambiguity, no delay, no doubt.
    (And the biggest bonus is I don’t need to use a machine that can run AppleScript!)

  2. This approach still has the fundamental, insane problem that the mute/unmute control is a toggle. Double-tap it in your panic and you’re still on display… Why, oh why, did Zoom decide that was a sensible way to do it?

    (and, btw, why bother with the system script? does the Apple-land version of Zoom not offer global hotkeys?)

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