Every so often an oddball peripheral or product comes around and your attention is demanded, but with the Stinky Footboard I felt unusually torn. As a gamer I'm an incredibly simple creature: I may assign extra functions to my mice, but I usually don't use them. There are eighteen programmable keys on my Corsair Vengeance K90 keyboard, but of those keys I use...one, which is assigned to a script that toggles Aero on and off. Peripherals are funny things, though, and a feature that one person may have no use for could be extremely desirable to another. A good friend and I both really like the Logitech G500 (and now the G500s); he liked the adjustable weight and didn't care about the freewheel, I loved the freewheel and didn't care about the adjustable weight. So it goes.

And then, every so often, something really unusual comes around. Submitted for your approval, the Stinky Footboard:

Essentially the footboard is as it says; there are four switches in a cross formation, and the board is designed to be used longways, with your foot stretching between the two LED points. Tension can be adjusted on the underside of the board, and they even include different springs so you can manually change the tension within the board. From there you just plug in the board using a conventional mini-USB 2.0 cable and install the lightweight software. Each of the four actuators is assigned a different keystroke, and you're off.

Credit where credit is due, the designers of the Stinky Footboard at least did right on the software side. This is a simple peripheral that demands a simple interface, so there's no reason for the software to be bloated. As for how it works in a more practical sense? That's trickier.

As far as I can tell, the build quality is good, the software side is good, so the pieces of a good experience are at least in play. In practice, though?

Designing a good user experience is an insanely tricky prospect. In my estimation, when you're considering whether or not something is intuitive, you're actually looking at two different types of intuition. The first is intuition within a vacuum: assuming no prior experience with something, how easy is it to figure out, does it work the way you'd hope or expect it to. The second is intuition through experience: you have experience with a particular action, maybe a particular piece of software, so even if that action or software isn't intuitive in a vacuum, you learned how to use it. This second type is where Microsoft tripped up tremendously with Windows 8; there weren't any breadcrumbs leading to the new user experience, it simply came into being, and thus people who were used to the Windows desktop and used to certain things being in certain places are suddenly completely baffled. Confusion frustrates.

By the same token, the Stinky Footboard is a fantastic idea in a vacuum that takes some serious getting used to in practice. I can see some users making the jump, but as someone who can't rub his stomach and tap the top of his head at the same time, I found I used it as a glorified pedal. The idea that our feet, which ordinarily hang uselessly beneath us, could be used to hit additional keys as needed is a sound one in theory. I can't be the arbiter of whether or not this is a good peripheral for everyone due to the very subjective nature of peripherals, but I found the Footboard complicated my gaming experience more than it enhanced it.

As a sidenote, while I was enamored with the concept I did find myself pretty severely put off by the branding. I'm not a foot fetishist nor do I harbor any illusions about the kind of funk that seeks refuge in my nether digits, but the cheeky branding and the idea that I'm going to rub my filth-infested hooves all over a peripheral was incredibly unappealing. I don't have a problem stepping on a peripheral, I play Dance Dance Revolution (badly) in the comfort of my own home whenever my living room isn't overflowing with cases, I just don't like my hardware tacitly acknowledging that my feet are raunchy.

Undoubtedly part of the reason the Footboard came our way was because it's being Kickstarted with a few days to go. My experience with it hasn't been super positive, but the times where I've felt like I was shy keys for whatever I wanted to play have been rare enough that I can't really see myself training myself to use both hands plus my foot. If it seems like something that might work for you, though, no harm in helping out with the Kickstarter. Fair warning, though: minimum pledge to actually get a Footboard is a not insubstantial $89.

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  • Houdani - Thursday, April 25, 2013 - link

    I may not play with either, but pairing this with an Oculus Rift could make a decent use case. Reply
  • HisDivineOrder - Thursday, April 25, 2013 - link

    I had the same thought. It does seem like it would fit it well. Reply
  • HisDivineOrder - Thursday, April 25, 2013 - link

    The name is off-putting at first, but it does make the thing very easy to google and really stand out. I doubt I would even have clicked this review if it hadn't had the word, "Stinky" in it. It's just not a word I see on this site in a headline very often and so I just had to click it and see what the hell was up.

    That's why they used the word and that's what worked, so...
    Reply
  • Sleepingforest - Thursday, April 25, 2013 - link

    Dustin, are you a Kurt Vonnegut fan? Or just a Tralfamadorian fan? Reply
  • snajk138 - Friday, April 26, 2013 - link

    Reading this I remember that Dan (from Dans data) reviewed something similar a while back: http://www.dansdata.com/footswitch.htm

    He has some good ideas on how to use a footswitch, like mapping "W" to it and use it for walking forward in FPS-games or mapping the Windows-key to it to be able to use modern shortcuts while using an old keyboard.
    Reply
  • warezme - Friday, April 26, 2013 - link

    That was amusing. I wouldn't knock it because of its name, its kind of catchy really. It can't be worse than those Twix candy bar commercial with all those incredibly disgusting chewing noises. Instead of buying I want to barf. Reply
  • PaulDriver - Saturday, April 27, 2013 - link

    Back when I played Descent in the mid 90s, I remember it was the first true 3D environment I ever encountered, and I had great difficultly controlling things.

    I was using a joystick, with lots of switches (logitech?), but that and a keyboard was just confusing me.

    I ended up putting the keyboard on the floor with my big toes on the opposing CTRL-Keys (or was it shift?) for the z-axis controls, left foot down, right foot up, and using all the switches on the joystick for the weapons and such.

    That worked better for me then trying to use the hat switch or one hand on the stick and one on the keyboard.

    I drive manual transmission cars, and open doors with my toes when my hands are full, so I guess I'm accustomed to thinking with my hobbity feet.

    Oh, and I've used pedals that map to keyboard keys since, and $80 is too much for something that can be hacked from a $9 keyboard and a set of pedals.

    Or these days, hacked together with an Arduino and pedals.

    :)
    Reply
  • Old_Fogie_Late_Bloomer - Saturday, April 27, 2013 - link

    "its not all that different from a normal shooter, you just have two new strafe directions that are somewhat equivalent to crouch/jump"

    Unreal Tournament got me used to space for jumping and C for crouching (way back in the day), so I use those keys to strafe up and down, and W and S to move forward and back. Otherwise, yeah, A and D to strafe left and right, Q and E if you need to correct your roll, mouse for pitch and yaw.

    I made it through the first Descent on "I'm a wuss" mode and got distracted partway through the second, and while I'm certain I would get obliterated if I were to play competitive multiplayer, this configuration allows me to enjoy a really great classic game.
    Reply
  • Old_Fogie_Late_Bloomer - Saturday, April 27, 2013 - link

    Whoops, this wasn't supposed to end up here... Reply
  • MadAd - Sunday, May 19, 2013 - link

    Only switches? Thats boring.

    If there was a simple foot rocker for A/D yawing without all the fuss and anal construction of a flight sim pedal set, and a variably compressable pedal for an accellerator/throttle kind of input, and the switches, it would be an amazingly useful peripheral, but just switches?

    I could knock up a foot panel in about an hour from a radio shack/maplin kit box and some two dollar pedal switches and solder those in place of the switches on a cheap usb gamepad. $25 at most for half a dozen switches if all bought new.

    When ive figuring out what to use as a rocker assembly ill make my own yaw rocker in a similar way since it appears there is no commercially available solution.
    Reply

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