Valve engineer builds mouth-mouse and butt controller from other gadgets (w/ Video)

Dec 06, 2013 by Bob Yirka weblog

( —Valve engineer Ben Krasnow is clearly one of those guys that sees things differently than the rest of us. How many people would look at an optical trackball, for example, and think to themself, hey, maybe I could make that work with my tongue. But that's just what he's done, taken the guts from an optical trackball, add a cable, changed out the bulb and attached it all to an orthodontic type retainer which he puts in his mouth to use as a controller that can be run by his tongue. And that's just one device—he's also created another gadget that a person sits on to control some of the action on a computer screen.

Krasnow works for Valve, a virtual reality company, so he's not just fooling around for fun—he and presumably others at Valve are knocking around trying to find replacements for mice, trackballs and other gesture control devices that hopefully at some point, will blur the interface between human and machine. Take the posture-based game controller Krasnow has built. He made it by taking apart a digital scale and adding in an Xbox controller and a standard mouse. The end result is a flat device that he sits on. Twirling on it causes panning onscreen—leaning forward or backward results in speeding up moving forward or backwards onscreen. Both devices seem obvious—how is it we don't have both already?

Neither of his devices is ready for mass production and sale, and they never may be, but both show hints of what might be coming as he and other engineers like him set their minds to thinking very seriously outside of the metaphorical box. The tongue-mouse, as he calls it might not be of much use to most people who use Windows—it's accuracy is not up to standards, but for a paraplegic it might mean the difference between dependency on others and a whole new kind of freedom. In a similar vein, the posture-based looks like the beginnings of something new—perhaps future warplane pilots will sit on something similar, or more likely, gamers sitting in 360 degree pods, swiveling on their seats to gain an immersive experience unlike anything available today.

This video is not supported by your browser at this time.

We don't often get to see the results of tinkering by corporate engineers—not unless it winds up in a finished product—it's nice when it does happen—helping us enjoy some of the wonder that they experience first-hand when sudden inspiration strikes.

This video is not supported by your browser at this time.
Posture-based game controller

Explore further: Review: New GameStick console is small and cheap, but still needs work

Related Stories

A look inside a burning rocket engine

Sep 25, 2012

Here's a bit of pretty amazing hobby rocket porn. Ben Krasnow walks us through—in a rather matter-of-fact way—of how he built a hybrid rocket engine in his shop using a piece of acrylic so he could see inside and watch ...

Laptop clip-on is on a mission to outdo mouse

Aug 15, 2013

( —Haptix is a newly announced gesture-based controller that launched this week on Kickstarter. Haptix looks like a sleek ice cream bar with its anodized bead-blasted aluminum casing. The Haptix ...

Recommended for you

Samsung rejects claims of Galaxy Note defect

5 hours ago

Samsung on Wednesday rejected claims that its new oversized smartphone had a defect, after some customers posted pictures of a gap between the frame and display panel.

Slingbox lets you watch live TV at home or elsewhere

12 hours ago

Man's second-best friend, television, gets out of the house more than ever. On a smartphone app or laptop, people watch sports on WatchESPN, movies and original programming on HBO Go or Netflix, and weekly network TV series.

China clears way for Apple iPhone 6 sales

Sep 30, 2014

China has cleared the way for Apple to sell its latest iPhones in the key market by granting it a licence, the industry regulator said on Tuesday, after the US giant agreed to improve the security of users' ...

User comments : 2

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

4 / 5 (1) Dec 06, 2013
There should be quite a market for a butt controller, if they can make it work. I can think of more than a few butts I wouldn't mind controlling.
5 / 5 (1) Dec 06, 2013
as a quadriplegic the tongue thing is interesting, but does the guy writing the article know paraplegics can use their hand and arms just fine lol