Using one's feet works quite well while driving, so why not use them to control computers, too? That's what Berkley-based company Keith McMillen Instruments wondered, and ended up designing SoftStep KeyWorx, a foot-operated computer interface device. It's Mac and PC compatible, and offers 10 touch-sensitive buttons and a navigation pad, along with up to 100 macros that allow for customized commands and shortcuts.
The SoftStep Foot Controller was initially designed for musicians and music studios. Upgrading it with the KeyWorx software, however, made the device fully computer-adapted. Media production applications, video games, software programming, or web browsing are among the applications listed as being best-suited to the device.
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What exactly can you do with the SoftStep under your feet? KMI points to such tasks as opening and closing apps, controlling the cursor, text input, changing toolsets within applications, zooming in and out, controlling volume or scrolling through programs.
"People with Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI), carpal tunnel, loss of use of upper body/paralysis, limited dexterity, hand/arm strength, or wrist pain, including veterans and the disabled," are among the target groups likely to be interested in SoftStep, according to KMI. However, the company would like to address the device to a wider audience, namely "anyone who wants a faster way to use their computer," including gamers.
SoftStep features pressure- and location-sensitive keys, and is made of elastomeric and graphite composites, thus making the design rugged yet lightweight (1.3 lb/590 g). The blue backlight makes it visible in darkened places, such as under desks. It has a four-character LED display, and the keys are lit by LEDs as well. It is priced at US$289.95, and is available now from online retailers.
SoftStep KeyWorx is not the first device to ever offer foot input. Similar products include Thanko's USB Foot Switch, the FootTime Foot Mouse and the No Hands Mouse, all of which are available for purchase.
The video below offers a brief presentation on the device: