The SoftStep Foot Controller claims to be a world’s first for PCs. Yes, users can open and close applications, browse through folders and files, enter text, or control the mouse – using only their feet.
Originally developed for musicians but now available for the masses, the interface Foot Controller and its KeyWorx software interface is targeted at disabled individuals, gamers wishing to access additional control options and even developers.
“We ended up getting requests from people who wanted to do additional things in collaboration with the SoftStep Foot Controller and the computer, so [we] implemented [the] KeyWorx [software interface] in conjunction with SoftStep Foot Controller, which allows you to control functions with your feet,” said Jon Short, a VP at Keith McMillen Instruments, the company that developed the software.
The controller integrates 10 sensitive keys, the navigation pad included. Users can carry SoftStep with them anywhere because it weighs only 1.3 pounds.
“It’s a way to transfer tasks to your feet while working alongside your keyboard and mouse,” Short explained.
The foot-controller could also help reduce Carpal tunnel syndrome risk, an injury quite common among people who work many hours in front of the computer. The primary symptoms of CTS are intermittent numbness of the thumb, index, long and radial half of the ring finger.
True, it is quite unlikely that computer users will replace their mouse or other interface tools with a foot controller anytime soon, but the new device could serve as a complement, at least according to Bill Buxton from Microsoft Research.
Then again, most people cannot use their feet with precision and developing such a skill could take hundreds of hours.
“[Still], human beings will invest the time to learn a new interface device, if the payback is substantial enough,” Buxton added.