Zoom Control Box Helps Keep Meetings On Track

For many people, the biggest change of 2020 has been adjusting to a glut of online teleconferences as a part of daily working life. [p_leriche] has had to adjust the way church services are conducted, and found managing a complicated streaming meeting setup to be complicated at best. To ease the workload on the presenter, he created a simple Zoom control box.

At its heart, the box is little more than a fancy keyboard. An Arduino Pro Micro is hooked up to a series of brightly colored pushbuttons, each labelled with regularly used Zoom functions. The Pro Micro is programmed to fire off the corresponding keyboard shortcuts when the buttons are pressed, activating the relevant function.

It might be a simple build, but it greatly reduces the hand gymnastics required mid-presentation, and we’re sure the users greatly appreciate the new hardware. While this is a quick-and-dirty build thrown together in a basic enclosure, macro keyboards can be both useful and attractive if you so desire. If you’ve built your own time-saving control console, be sure to let us know!

19 thoughts on “Zoom Control Box Helps Keep Meetings On Track

  1. Such thing might be extremely useful for elderly people. Remember there were “Skype phones” with buttons etc. and I can imagine some (maybe Raspberry based, running some custom linux) solution with display and such bright big buttons – possibly including some “quick call” buttons with labels….

  2. This is a cool idea. Even better would be if you could have a switch for Teams, WebEx, and Zoom, and it would send the appropriate strings for each. That’s the real thing – the mute keystrokes are different for each, and I wind up doing all three during the course of a day.

  3. So, do any of these keystroke-save boxen solve the problem where keyboard&mouse focus is not in the Zoom (or whatever) app, and so it never even gets the magic command?

    More often than not, I’m in a browser, word doc, or spreadsheet when I’m on a call, and those keystrokes do nothing, or just inject something weird in my document.

    1. Zoom has a global hotkey setting.

      I was all pumped to build one of these 2 months ago, then realized Knorvay presenter remotes are programmable and $10-15 apiece.

      Besides being wireless they have a laser pointer to distract the cat with.

      Love the hack, options are always good.

      1. Ah, so it does have globals. Most turned off and/or conflict with something else, but OK, they are reassignable.

        No audio mute or video-off hotkeys though. There are the Alt-A and Alt-V toggles, but I can find no hotkey that just mutes audio or cuts video. You end up second-guessing and double checking: Am I muted now? Did that keystroke just mute me or unmute me? Did I double tap and just end up undoing it? That’s a horrible UI choice. Much better would be separate commands to mute and unmute.

        The spacebar push-to-talk is perfect but sadly not global, and there does not appear to be a way to make a similar keystroke suchlike. My camera is on a separate USB power switch and my microphone has a dedicated mute button. Both have LEDs that light when active. That’s what works for me for now, but it would be nice not to need the dedicated hardware.

      2. Neat, I didn’t know programmable presenters were so cheap, I’m definitely going to look into those for easy mute/camera buttons for my daily Zoom/Teams meetings. Another turnkey option is HID Macros, a free utility that turns any USB number pad or similar device into a macro keypad.

    2. They need to have these opened up in an API that people can actually interact with rather than shortcut combos.

      I’ve found the APIs for video conferencing software tend to be basic or super high.level. I think in some ways this is to ensure they can sell their own video conferencing hardware, MS have it, Cisco and others, and they know the situation were in is temporary.

      That said I think I remember from my days poking around with USB HIDs there is an identifier for mute for headsets and teleconference mics. I might dig out my old stuff on it and see. Alternatively there has been one I’ve seen with MIDI that does exactly that but mutes the hardware mic. https://github.com/omriharel/deej

  4. I am actually just about to do the same only with a switch that changes between Teams, Starleaf and zoom. I’ve only a 3 way switch but it could easily be more (like WebEx) with a rotary encoder and a little LCD or LED indicator.
    At first I was actually looking at updating the presence in all of them once I was in a meeting/call on any single one of them but the API in Teams and Starleaf still don’t let you update the presence. I didn’t even try zoom.

  5. My office’s work-from-home setup (citrix) does not pass through microphone audio and we use teams.
    This means I always use teams on my private tablet or phone, both Android. I’ve hooked up a keyboard to both (both USB-to-go and BT, I was surprized my tablet doen’t have BT), and the teams app doesn’t support any of the hotkeys listed (ctrl-shift-M for mute, but I tried almost every combination). So it seems on Android I have to resort to using my finger to mute my audio. Which is extra annoying when I take my daily walk during teams meetings, because then I have to get my phone from my pocket to unmute when I have to reply.

    As a side note: Anyone know how I can disable incoming video data (on Teams for Android)? Even if I kill my own video and switch the screen off, a teams meeting easily racks up 3GB/h (which is nothing compared to discord, where I ate 2.7GB in a 17 minute chat – I have a 10GB/month plan).
    When everyone disables their video the data use is neglegible, in the order of a few tens of MB/h

    1. Teams uses ports like anything else. If you throw it into a search engine “ports required for teams video” or something along those lines, I’m sure you can find out. Then just block those ports on your device/router (if it’s a mobile data plan on the device I think you can get an app for that – netguard maybe).

  6. Why complicate simple things if it’s just a problem of different key combination in Zoom/Teams/WebEx.
    On GitHub there are several AutoHotkey scripts for controling those tools.
    Just combine the scripts, make some options in the tray bar to select the right tool, and (re)use media buttons and other shortcuts available on modern keyboards. Or if you’re using a control box like in the article, buttons F13-F24 are available in USB HID, and recognizable by AHK.

    I made an AHK script in half an hour for muting/unmuting myself in Teams when Media pause is pressed, as the button is available on my BT headphones and on my keyboard. Push the button, AHK will jump to the last active Teams and do the mute/unmute combination. It really isn’t hard…

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