Add Scroll Wheels And Buttons To Smartphones With 3D-Printed Widgets Read By Accelerometer

The first LED digital wristwatches hit the market in the 1970s. They required a button push to turn the display on, prompting one comedian to quip that giving one to a one-armed man would be in poor taste. While the UIs of watches and other wearables have improved since then, smartphones still present some usability challenges. Some of the touch screen gestures needed to operate a phone, like pinching, are nigh impossible when one-handing the phone, and woe unto those with stubby thumbs when trying to take a selfie.

You’d think that the fleet of sensors and the raw computing power on board would afford better ways to control phones. And you’d be right, if the modular mechanical input widgets described in a paper from Columbia University catch on. Dubbed “Vidgets” by [Chang Xiao] et al, the haptic devices are designed to create characteristic acceleration profiles on a phone’s inertial measurement unit (IMU) when actuated. Vidgets take various forms, from push buttons to scroll wheels, each of a similar size and shape and designed to dock into one of eight positions on the back of a 3D-printed phone case. Once trained, the algorithm watches for the acceleration signature caused by actuating a Vidget, and sends commands to the phone to mimic the corresponding gestures. The video below demonstrates a couple of use cases, of which the virtual saxophone is our favorite.

This is really clever stuff, and ventures deep into “Why didn’t I think of that?” territory. Need to get ahead of the curve on IMUs to capitalize on what they can do? You could start with [Al Williams]’ primer on micro-electromechanical systems, or MEMS.

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Home-Brew CNC Router Mills A Wooden Mouse

First off, we’ll admit that there no real practical reason for wanting a wooden mouse – unless of course the cellulose rodent in question is the one that kicked it all off in “The Mother of All Demos” fifty years ago. Simply putting a shell around the guts of a standard wireless optical mouse is just flexing, but we’re OK with that.

That said, [Jim Krum]’s design shows some impressive skills, both in the design of the mouse and the build quality of his machine. Starting with what looks like a block of white oak, [Jim] hogs out the rough shape of the upper shell and then refines it with a small ball-end mill before flipping it over to carve the other side. His registration seems spot on, because everything matches up well and the shell comes out to be only a few millimeters thick. The bottom plate gets the same treatment to create the complex shape needed to support the mouse guts and a battery holder. He even milled a little battery compartment cover. He used a contrasting dark wood for the scroll wheel and a decorative band to hold the top and bottom together and finished it with a light coat of sealer.

It’s a great look, and functional too as the video below reveals. We’ve seen a few other fancy mice before, like this wood and aluminum model or even one that would look at home on [Charles Babbage]’s desk.

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Fixing A Complicated Scrollwheel

[Thomas] loves his Logitech MX Master mouse, which has a pretty elaborate scroll-wheel mechanism. Perhaps too elaborate; it broke on him after a week of use, just when he was getting used to the feature. So what did he do? Took it apart and fixed it, naturally. And as a bonus, we get a guided tour of the interesting mechanism. Check out his video below to watch it in action.

The weighted scroll wheel switches between two different modes, one with a detent like you’re probably used to, and one where the wheel is allowed to spin freely for long-distance travel. And to do this, it’s actually got a little motor inside that rotates a cam and throws a lever into the side of the scroll wheel for the detent mode, and pulls the lever out of the way for free spins. It must also have some logic inside that detects how quickly the scroller is spun because it re-engages as soon as the scroll wheel stops.

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Hackaday Links: September 21, 2012

And then Obi-wan said, “you were supposed to be the chosen one!”

Yesterday, a little bird told us Makerbot will be moving to a closed source model for their newest printer. This was confirmed, and now [Zach Smith] a.k.a. [Hoeken] – creator of the RepRap Research Foundation and co-founder of Makerboth Industries is weighing in with his take on the situation.

Hey! Free stuff!

Remember that DIP28 ARM chip with BASIC? Remember how I told you Coridium will be giving a few hundred away as samples? Yeah, that’s happening now.

Replacing a scroll wheel with titanium

[Rhett] has been using a Logitech mouse for a few years now. Recently the scroll wheel became corroded, so [Rhett] replaced it with a titanium version. The perfect match for the trusty battle axe, theIBM Model M keyboard.

Web-based IDE for the Raspi

[Phil Torrone] sent in a video of something he and [ladyada] are working on. It’s a web-based IDE for the Raspberry Pi. We’ll do a full review of this when it’s released.

Intro to software defined radio

So you have one of those TV tuner dongles and want to get in to software defined radio. Where do you start? [Al Williams] over at Dr. Dobbs has a great introduction to SDR, and gives a few pointers that should help you get that cool looking waterfall plot very quickly. Thanks for sending this in, [Chris].

Full Fabric Soft Switches

soft_switch

When we created our backpack strap WiFi detector for Engadget, we embedded soft switches to control the device. They used two sheets of aluminum foil separated by a layer of foam with holes punched in it. [Plusea] has taken a similar approach but has replaced the aluminum foil with conductive fabric. The end result is a set of three soft buttons that can be easily washed. Have a look at the video of it in action below. Check out the followup project that uses the buttons to replace a scroll wheel. Continue reading “Full Fabric Soft Switches”