What would you do with this cool DIY haptic button?

Sometimes you come across a do-it-yourself project and immediately start figuring out how to use it in your life. That’s what happened to us here at The edge when someone dropped SmartKnob View, a proof-of-concept project by engineer Scott Bezek, in our Slack chat. While it does not seem to be the type of project most people could go out and build themselves in the moment (more on that later), it’s easy to imagine a future where it’s available as a set, or where someone makes it an actual product.

The smart button looks like a mini Nest thermostat, but Bezeks has programmed it to have plenty of modes. Of course, it can just act as a turntable, but you can also program its motor to provide haptic feedback and resistance, giving you the feeling of reaching an end point where the dial can no longer turn. Because this illusion is created through software instead of hardware, there is a lot you can do. It can act as an on-off button that can be turned back to the center after you turn and release it, and even simulate trashy steps.

When my colleagues and I heard about the button, one Rim the staff immediately suggested that it would be great to control the shower temperature; another said they would use it as a fancy scroll wheel or volume control. Personally, I thought it would be a good way to measure how much feed my cat feeder dispenses.

According to Bezek’s smart GitHub page, the device (which has a far from finished design) can be built for “certainly less than $ 200 in parts.” The page also contains the code for the project, as well as an absolute wealth of information about how the button is put together and what parts it uses. Bezek also said on Twitter that he would make a video describing the assembly and design process for his SmartKnob.

Unfortunately, we will probably have to put our dreams of bud-controlled home automation on hold for the time being. In the project’s FAQ, Bezek writes that he “has only implemented enough firmware for the demo shown in the video,” and that the button can actually not be used to control much of anything right now. It would also be a struggle to get parts – Bezek writes that “as a result of the popularity of this project, it seems that the recommended engines are unfortunately no longer available for purchase.”

Yes, the button has USB-C.
Photo: Scott Bezek

Even with just barebones firmware, though, and I still want to build one and use it as the ultimate fidget toy. Maybe once he has fixed a design and the parts are available, I will be able to build my skills to the point where I could tackle the advanced soldering techniques needed to actually make the smart knob.

Bezek admits the button “is not yet a mature plug-and-play project,” but he says he will continue to work on it, and even has some sort of roadmap on his GitHub page. I hope he succeeds in making this a real thing that is convenient to make myself – I want a future where I can build an army of buds to control everything in my house. Need to adjust the TV volume? Knob. Do you want to turn off my camera and end a Zoom call with a flick instead of a push of a button? Knob. Should You Stop Postponing An Article? I can not think of how to fix it with a button yet, but I assure you I will find out.

What would you use a smart button for?