Physical Switches, Knobs or Buttons for controlling Apps on my Mac?
March 28, 2014 8:10 AM   Subscribe

So, I run everything in my life through my mac computer. My television programming, my music, et cetera. I listen to a lot of online radio throughout the day. I would really like to "flip on" a program (or set of programs) with a single analog switch.

I saw a video about a year ago where a fascinating designer guy had built something similar for himself — had iTunes and volume controls on a little wooden box next to his desk and I loved it (can't find the video anymore, but...) Is there anything on the market, on Kickstarter, or elsewhere where you could purchase physical analog controls for your computer? I would also be interested in plans or instructables for building such a thing. Does anybody have any ideas on that?
posted by amoeba to Technology (7 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: The Griffin PowerMate does this, and can be fairly well-customized. You could probably make pressing it trigger an AppleScript that opens your set of programs.
posted by Maecenas at 8:20 AM on March 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

Sounds like a great use for a Teensy, an Arduino-alike board that can emulate a USB keyboard. I don't have an instruct able handy but the general concept of operations is to wire up some momentary toggles and then debounce them in software (google that, if it's an unfamiliar term). After you get a button press, send a keystroke combo -- set up a keystroke automation app to perform your intended action.

As a less DIY alternative, Griffin iMate.
posted by Alterscape at 8:24 AM on March 28, 2014

There is/was this:

But that's stuck at the concept stage, unfortunately.
posted by slater at 8:25 AM on March 28, 2014

Oh, oh, maybe this?

XK-24 USB Programmable Keypad for Windows or Mac
posted by slater at 8:31 AM on March 28, 2014

What you can do is combine MIDI hardware controllers with software such as Bome’s Midi Translator, and use that to control your PC. Then you can use anything from a MIDI Footswitch to something a bit fancier.
posted by Jairus at 8:48 AM on March 28, 2014

If you want something fully custom, there are various boards you can buy that which will act as an interface between a USB port (or bluetooth) and some pins to which you can connect whatever switches/pedals/sensors you like. When you press the switch, it will appear to the computer that you've pressed a (pre-configured) key or key combination on a keyboard. The EZ-Key Bluefruit is one example.

If you willing to learn how to program a microcontroller, you could use an Arduino, ProMicro, USB Bit Whacker etc.

On the software side, there are various programs that let you set triggers in response to particular hot-keys (eg. Quicksilver).
posted by James Scott-Brown at 9:59 AM on March 28, 2014

Best answer: Palette looks right up your alley.
posted by adamrice at 11:09 AM on March 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

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