Is there a way to get a 1/8" switch working via USB on a comp?
May 4, 2021 8:15 AM   Subscribe

Alternately, do you know of a grip switch that works on USB? Google failed me. Details within!

I'm interested in a switch like this:
If you know of one like this that works with USB, well, this will be a quick answer ;)

Otherwise, I'm wondering if there might be a way to get this working on a computer. I called customer support and they said no, but I think they just mean "not easily." This is originally intended (I think?) for use with certain types of toys and stuff, but I mean, it's just an analog signal on a 1/8" output...there are 1/8" output to USB adaptors...I'm a programmer, but know very little about hardware/driver stuff, but I imagine that, plausibly, there are drivers that at the least let you get an on/off or a level or something from a 1/8"->USB adaptor, or perhaps, there are specialized 1/8"->USB adaptors that let you do this? Once you have that, then there has gotta be a program that will let you map that to an action? I have a tiny bit of experience with Keyboard Maestro and it seems like the thing it'd be able to do.
posted by wooh to Technology (7 answers total)
I imagine that any 1/8" to USB adaptors are for audio, not switch signals. That switch (and the others on that website) are mainly intended for people who have limited mobility, and they're connected to various devices which utilize on/off switches (like nurse call systems in hospitals).

Tecla makes a device for people with limited mobility that allows them to use various switches to control a computer, phone, or tablet.

A cheaper, but more kludgy route could be to use a MIDI keyboard with a sustain pedal input. the pedal input will be 1/4", so you need an adaptor, but the switch will just send a MIDI sustain message thought the keyboard's USB connection to the computer. Then you'd need a utility to translate that signal into something useful.
posted by jonathanhughes at 8:26 AM on May 4

Response by poster: I'm interested in the grip switch for mobility reasons (RSI), but I guess the sorts of users using this website probably have a different class of mobility issues than I do, thus the choice of switch. Thanks for the context there! I wasn't sure what sorts of devices needed this sort of output.

I'd like to avoid going through a MIDI keyboard if possible, though I do have the space to set that up at home if I have to...

The tecla device sounds like it does exactly what I need, though it's a bit pricy :S if I was 100% sure the grip switch would do the trick for me, honestly, I would buy it (though it's on backorder!), but I'm wondering if there might be something like the tecla, but simpler? Since it is quite fancy and supports lots of devices etc, I'm wondering if there might be a precursor to the tecla that might be a bit cheaper... I'm currently exploring alternate forms of input to be able to do repetitive tasks and the grip switch seemed intriguing, but I'm hoping to be able to try it out without having to drop a bunch of money...
posted by wooh at 8:34 AM on May 4

Response by poster: And of course as soon as I post though, I finally was able to find this, which I think might be exactly what I want? I'd be open to a cheaper option, but this is exactly in my budget:

The trick was realizing that "adaptive switch" is, I think, the name for this class of switches...I thought it was just a descriptive name (eg this switch helps you adapt) but it seems like it's the official way to reference this class of mobility aids? (if anyone happens to know this domain would love to be filled in)
posted by wooh at 8:40 AM on May 4 [1 favorite]

The trick was realizing that "adaptive switch" is, I think, the name for this class of switches

Yep! "Adaptive" and "assistive" are the key words you'd want to use in searching for, well, what are broadly referred to as assistive/adaptive technology and devices.

Not sure if it would suit your purposes/budget, but there are also USB-enabled versions of sip and puff switches like the Sip Puff Breeze that can in turn be adapted to grip switches by using a squeezable bulb in place of using breath pressure.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 8:48 AM on May 4

There's a pretty good background on adaptive technology in this review of the Xbox adaptive controller.
posted by monotreme at 9:07 AM on May 4

I think you can plug them into the XBox Adaptive Controller.
posted by k3ninho at 3:23 PM on May 4

Hardcore, I'd get a cheap USB wireless mouse, crack the case off of it and solder some 1/8" jacks into the left/right/middle/up/down button spots. Bam! second mouse with 5 1/8" jacks suitable for switches (if this thing is a switch and not like a variable resistor thing). You just might need to finagle the OS a bit to support two mice (one real, one just switches) but that should be manageable.

The second option would be to get a cheap USB<->RS-232 serial adapter. Then you just wire the jack into a RS-232 plug and connect it to CarrierDetect or any other of the on/off handshake pins. You can probably find three or four pins that are really easy to handle.

There are USB<->GPIO interfaces like you'd find on a RaspberryPi, you could hook up dozens of switches to those. And that might even handle it if it was a variable resistance. Pretty sure those can do the analog thing.

Oh, hell, you could just get a USB mouse with a cable and solder a jack to a button and be done.

If you could find some local generic computer repair place or a ham radio place or a small appliance repair store. It's brain-dead simple to hack up a mouse like this.
posted by zengargoyle at 6:48 PM on May 4

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