Show Us Your Odd Inputs And Peculiar Peripherals!

Just as the Jedi youngling would have to build their light saber, so is it a rite of passage for a true geek to build their own computer interfaces. And nothing makes a personal computer more personal than a custom keyboard, a bespoke mouse, an omnipotent macropad, a snazzy jog wheel, or a fancy flight yoke.

In this contest, we encourage you to make your strangest, fanciest, flashiest, or most custom computer peripherals, and share that work with all the rest of us. Wired or wireless, weird or wonderful, we want to see it. And Digi-Key is sponsoring this contest to offer three winners an online shopping spree for $150 each at their warehouse! More parts, more projects.

Make It Yours

Anyone can just go out an buy a keyboard, but if you want a custom ergonomic keyboard that’s exactly fit to your own two hands, you probably have to make one with your own two hands. And if you an engraved brass mouse, well, you’ve got some engraving to do — Logitech ain’t gonna make one for you. Maybe you only type in binary, or maybe you need a keyboard for some alien language that has 450 individual letters. Or maybe the tiniest keyboard ever? You’ve got this.

But why stop with “normal” peripherals? We’ve seen a number of devices lately that blur the lines between macro pads and multi-axis joysticks — both in sensual organic shapes and in brutal no-nonsense rectangles. And [scottbez1]’s explorations with a haptic smart-knob with a screen are nothing short of inspirational. It doesn’t have to be an existing device to be awesome.

And is this even a peripheral? It’s a USB man-in-the-middle device that turns on or off sarcastic capitalization, for those of you who are just too sarcastic all the time, but simultaneously too lazy to type that way.

Special Categories

As always, we’ve got a handful of special categories to serve as jumping off points to enable your flights of fancy. Whether your project fits into one of these niches or not, you’re eligible to win the prize money, but at the end we’ll be featuring some of our favorite entries on Hackaday.

  • Strange Topographies: Tired of the normal old keyboard? Is a split, layered, staggered-row, orthogonal layout more your style? Prefer to type on spheres or in bowls? We’d like to see your craziest keyboard topography.
  • Building a Better Mouse(trap): The domestic computer rodent is a prime target for peripheral personalization. DIY mice, trackballs, touch pads, or anything else that can move a cursor around is fair game here.
  • Press the Any Key: Sometimes you just need a few more buttons to press or a knob to turn. Maybe it’s special functions for your video conferencing rig, or just a friendly volume control. Here’s a category for these single-purpose helpers that make your desk truly yours.
  • Cyborg: If you’ve got a wearable computer, you’ve certainly noticed the dearth of wearable input methods. What have you done about it? Voice control, gesture detection gloves, or one-handed chording keyboards are popular alternatives. Let’s see yours!
  • Virtual Reality: Let’s be honest. The normal ways of interacting with VR or AR scenarios are a little bit lame, and playing a driving game on a keyboard just doesn’t cut the mustard. A full-on cockpit for your flight simulator or physical sword for your virtual swordfight makes all the difference. Show us the peripherals that make virtual or game worlds more immersive.

You’ve Got Six Weeks

Many of you have already got a head start on this; you just have to document it up on and enter in the contest. The rest of you, hopefully this is the inspiration you need. Start small with a scroll wheel, or go all-in and invent your own category of device. Time to make your computer interaction yours.

Thanks again to Digi-Key for sponsoring the prizes.

17 thoughts on “Show Us Your Odd Inputs And Peculiar Peripherals!

  1. On several occasions I’ve programmed USB microcontroller boards with HID capabilities to just send extremely rapid mouse clicks. I mainly use these for idle clicker games, where each click provides some in-game resource. The first one I ever did, with a Teensy, was used with Terraria, to generate enormous amounts of water AFK. My most recent one is a NeoKey Trinkey, which I initially used with to speed up the early game a bit. It doesn’t just click 100 times a second, it has a touch input, and it only clicks when it is touched, unless you hold it for 10 seconds, in which case the LED turns blue and it is locked on until you release and then touch it again. Very simple, but incredibly handy.

    What I would really like though, is a USB kana keyboard, for typing Japanese. Maybe someday…

    1. The kana keyboards are extremely annoying and no one uses them in Japan. Most people don’t even use computers. They type on the old 10 key style keyboard on their iphone and swipe to the character they want when it pops up. It’s ridiculous when a Japanese person hands you a phone and expects you to type a url. Ugh. Anyway, everyone types in romaji on keyboards using the MS IME or whatever is available for your operating system. If you REALLY want one, you can buy them online I think, but they’re more trouble than they’re worth.

  2. Oh, hey, the Hackaday forum might be just the right place to ask if anyone remembers the Touchstream LP keyboard? I have 2 and regrettably fried the controller board on one of them when replacing the ribbon cable. I’m looking for anyone that might still have a non-working keyboard for parts that they’d be willing to part with. Alternatively, let’s assume I’m able to source replacements for the various chips that are on the board. I have zero experience with surface mount soldering, has anyone ever sent off a board to a place that can do hot air rework/reflow to swap chips?

    1. I don’t have experience sending things off for hot air reflow work, but I have experience learning to hot air reflow. It’s not so bad. A small hot air gun to focus the heat, some flux, and some tweezers get the job done. Practice on any old broken board and never send anything off again!

      1. And by that argument so is just about every other input method, true new ideas in the field are almost nil, but custom software/firmware or tweaks on the standard hardware in ergonomic proportions or mechanism are still worthy of consideration.

  3. I made a macro keyboard with QMK a few years back that could enter the “Press the Any Key” category, sadly I upcycled a salvaged fax panel for the buttons and 16×1 LCD and it feels I would waste my time documenting it since nobody would be able to source the panel to reproduce it.

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