Adaptive Macro-Pad Uses Tiny OLED Screens As Keycaps

When we first laid eyes on Keybon, the adaptive macro keyboard, we sort of wondered what the big deal was. It honestly looked like any other USB macro keyboard, with big icons for various common tasks on the chunky keys. But looks can be deceiving, and [Max.K] worked a couple of surprises into Keybon.

First of all, each one of Keybon’s buttons is actually a tiny OLED display, making the keycaps customizable through software. Each of the nine 0.66″ displays has a resolution of 64 x 48 pixels, which is plenty for all kinds of icons, and each is mounted over an SMD pushbutton switch. He had to deal with the problem of the keycaps just wobbling around atop the switch button without depressing it; this was solved with a 3D-printed cantilever frame that forced the keycaps to pivot only in one axis, resulting in clean, satisfyingly clicky keypresses.

The other trick that Keybon has is interactivity. By itself, it boots up with a standard set of icons and sends the corresponding keystrokes over USB. But when used with its companion Windows application, the entire macro set can be switched out to accommodate whatever application is being used. This gives the users access to custom macros for a web browser, EDA suite, CAD applications, or an IDE. The app supports up to eight macro sets and can be seen in action in the video below.

We love the look and the functionality [Max.K] has built into Keybon, but we wonder if e-ink displays would be a good choice for the keycaps too. They’re available for a song as decommissioned store shelf price tags now, and they might be nice since the icon would persist without power.

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Turning A Desk Drawer Into A Flight Yoke

[Christofer Hiitti] found himself with the latest Microsoft Flight Simulator on his PC, but the joystick he ordered was still a few weeks out. So he grabbed an Arduino, potentiometers and a button and hacked together what a joke-yoke.

The genius part of this hack is the way [Christopher] used his desk drawer for pitch control. One side of a plastic hinge is attached to a potentiometer inside a drawer, while the other side is taped to the top of the desk. The second pot is taped to the front of the drawer for pitch control and the third pot is the throttle. It works remarkably well, as shown in the demo video below.

The linearity of the drawer mechanism probably isn’t great, but it was good enough for a temporary solution. The Arduino Leonardo he used is based on the ATmega32u4 which has a built-in USB, and with libraries like ArduinoJoystickLibrary the computer interface very simple. When [Christopher]’s real joystick finally arrived he augmented it with a button box built using the joke-yoke components.

There’s no doubt that Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 will spawn a lot of great controller and cockpit builds over the next few years. We’ve already covered a new joystick build, and a 3D printed frame to turn an Xbox controller into a joystick.

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Digital Expression Via Harmonica

There is a good chance you clicked on this article with a mouse, trackball, trackpad, or tapped with your finger. Our hands are how most of us interact with the digital world, but that isn’t an option for everyone, and [Shu Takahashi] wants to give them a new outlet to express themselves. Some folks who cannot use their hands will be able to use the Magpie MIDI, which acts as a keyboard, mouse, MIDI device, and eventually, a game controller. This universal Human Interface Device (HID) differs from a mouth-operated joystick because it has air pressure sensors instead of buttons. The sensors can recognize the difference between exhalation and inhalation, so the thirteen ports can be neutral, positive, or negative, which is like having twenty-six discrete buttons.

The harmonica mounts on an analog X-Y joystick to move a mouse pointer or manipulate MIDI sound like a whammy bar. [Shu] knows that a standard harmonica has ten ports, but he picked thirteen because all twenty-six letters are accessible by a puff or sip in keyboard mode. The inputs outnumber the Arduino Leonardo’s analog inputs, so there is a multiplexor to read all of them. There was not enough time to get an Arduino with enough native ports, like a Teensy, with HID support baked in. Most of the structure is 3D printed, so parts will be replaceable and maybe even customizable.

Even with two working hands, we like to exercise different hardware, but the harmonica is a nifty tool to have attached to your computer.

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USB Bell Rings In Custom Terminal

Old TeleTypes and even typewriters had bells. Real bells. So that ASCII BEL character is supposed to make an honest to goodness ringing sound. While some modern terminals make a beep from the computer speakers, it isn’t the same. [Tenderlove] must agree, because the turned a Microchip USB to I2C bridge chip into a HID-controlled bell.

The only problem we see is that you have to have a patch to your terminal to ring the bell. We’d love to see some filter for TCP or serial that would catch BEL characters, but on the plus side, it is easy to ring the bell from any sort of application since it responds to normal HID commands.

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Peripheral Doesn’t Need Deskspace

Some of us are suckers for new hardware. There’s absolutely nothing shameful about a drawer overflowing with gamepads, roll-up keyboards, and those funny-shaped ergonomic mice. MyTeleTouch won’t sate your itch for new hardware because [Dimitar Danailov] didn’t design hardware you hold, because it uses your phone as a catch-all Human Interface Device, HID. A dongle plugs into a standard USB port, and your Android phone can emulate a USB keyboard, mouse, or gamepad over Bluetooth.

Chances are high that you already set up your primary computer with your favorite hardware, but we think we’ve found a practical slant for a minimalist accessory. Remember the last time you booted an obsolete Windows desktop and dug out an old mouse with a questionable USB plug? How long have you poked around the bottom of a moving box trying to find a proprietary wireless keyboard dongle, when you just wanted to type a password on your smart TV? What about RetroPi and a game controller? MyTeleTouch isn’t going to transform your daily experience, but it’ll be there when you don’t want to carry a full-size keyboard down three flights of stairs to press {ENTER} on a machine that spontaneously forgot it has a touch screen. If you don’t have opportunities to play the hero very often, you can choose to play the villain. Hide this in a coworker’s USB port, and while they think you’re sending a text message, you could be fiddling with their cursor.

We enjoy a good prank that everyone can laugh off, and we love little keyboards and this one raises the (space) bar.

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DIY HID, OMG!

William English, one of the creators of the mouse back in the 60s, passed away last week. And that got me thinking of how amazing it would have been to be in the place that was inventing what would become modern computing interfaces. What a special time! Of course, they probably had no idea.

From here, it looks like the mouse changed everything, but you have to realize that they were working in a world with light-pens, where you could actually draw on the screen. In contrast, the mouse seems positively non-futuristic. They must have known they’d come up with an improvement over the status quo, but did they know they’d created a revolution?

So where has the revolutionary spirit in DIY human interface devices gone? I’d claim it’s still alive and kicking. Indeed our own Kristina Panos has a series called “Inputs of Interest” and we’ve seen a ton of DIY keyboards of late. Then there are many varieties of dial inputs. I used to have a dedicated scroll wheel made out of a hard-drive platter, and when I was reading lots of PDFs on-screen, I have to say it earned its desk-space. Heck, we’ve even seen people make their own mouse.

But what I love about the story of the development of the mouse is that they asked the question “what is the best way to locate a point on a screen” and tried to answer it. Half of their success is probably in simply asking the right question, and the other half in prototyping something half-workable. My gut says that we don’t have inputs figured out 100% on mobile yet. This sounds like a job for Hackaday. What’s the next big human-interface design need? And have you got any crazy ideas to solve it?

Hackaday Remoticon

And this week, we announced the Hackaday Remoticon, our shelter-in-place version of the Supercon. It’s going to take place in November as usual, but online instead of IRL.

The good news? It’s going to be chock full of workshops, all streamed online and recorded for posterity. And for that we need your proposals. If you’d like to teach a group of distributed hackers learning your favorite techniques and tricks, this is your chance!

The bad news is of course that we won’t get to see you all in person. That’s going to make the 2021 Hackaday Supercon seem even more super.

Four On The Floor For Your Virtual Race Car

There was a time when building realistic simulations of vehicles was the stuff of NASA and big corporations. Today, many people have sophisticated virtual cockpits or race cars that they use with high-resolution screens or even virtual reality gear. If you think about it, a virtual car isn’t that hard to pull off. All you really need is a steering wheel, a few pedals, and a gear shifter. Sure, you can build fans to simulate the wind and put haptics in your seat, but really the input devices alone get you most of the way there. [Oli] decided he wanted a quick and easy USB gear shifter so he took a trip to the hardware store, picked up an arcade joystick, and tied it all together with an Arduino Leonardo. The finished product that you can see in the video below cost about $30 and took less than six hours to build.

The Leonardo, of course, has the ability to act like a USB human interface device (HID) so it can emulate a mouse or a keyboard or a joystick. That comes in handy for this project, as you would expect. The computer simply has to read the four joystick buttons and then decide which gear matches which buttons. For example up and to the left is first gear, while 4th gear is only the down button depressed. A custom-cut wooden shifter plate gives you the typical H pattern you expect from a stick shift.

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