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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  • marc1000 - Thursday, April 25, 2013 - link

    lol that was a mixed-feelings mini-review! I actually liked the concept, maybe in flight-simulators games this kind of periferal can find it's place. I remember mapping over 20 keys to be able to play Descent in the 90's. a Xbox controller is not enough to this game even today. but with 1 of these boards it could work.

    Well, I don't even know if the game works on current hardware, but it is nice to imagine it.

    PS: yes, the name is terrible indeed.
    Reply
  • Visual - Friday, April 26, 2013 - link

    asdf to strafe, qe to roll (not needed often), space forward ctrl back, mouse for turning and firing and wheel for changing weapons.
    its not all that different from a normal shooter, you just have two new strafe directions that are somewhat equivalent to crouch/jump, especially in games where you can occasionally swim underwater.
    Reply
  • marc1000 - Friday, April 26, 2013 - link

    wow, nice layout suggestion. i didn't use a mouse back then, but it makes sense. 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
  • marc1000 - Sunday, April 28, 2013 - link

    I don't remember if I finished the game or not, and with the help of the guys at DXX-rebirth I'm giving this great classic a second shot. Will try to configure a xbox 360 controller this time =D

    I could make use of this board if I had one...
    Reply
  • coconutboy - Thursday, April 25, 2013 - link

    I'm curious as to how well the Stinky footboard worked when doing non-gaming tasks. Particularly when compared to the Kinesis Ergo stuff (still waiting on your review of the Advantage keyboard, Dustin).

    As someone who dealt with early stage CTS, using foot switches (and good ergos in general) to offload ctrl/alt/del/etc helped significantly. I can even enjoy PC gaming more frequently than I used to (although most times I still look for PC titles with gamepad support).
    Reply
  • coconutboy - Thursday, April 25, 2013 - link

    oops! Looks like Jarred is the AT staffer working on the Kinesis Advantage review. Reply
  • HisDivineOrder - Thursday, April 25, 2013 - link

    You know, you made a lot of great points there, but the one that I think would impact most people is the idea that this kind of thing could make a great way to activate a modifier like Alt, Cntrl, or a Shift. I have some difficulty remember to hit ALT+another key in a game to activate another option, for example. I can do it in non-gaming, but in the heat of battle I just don't intuit that.

    This, however, I think I might could learn because I imagine if my fight or flight response is engaged, jamming my foot would seem obvious and second nature after a short learning period.
    Reply
  • bah12 - Thursday, April 25, 2013 - link

    One market you are forgetting is the disabled market. Traditionally foot pedal devices have been marketed to those whom have lost use of one or more arms. I'm not one of those, but unlike you I hotkey everything, and I'm a mouser so when I ran out of buttons on my mouse I was looking for a good way to activate my Ventrillo mic, thus the peddle fit in very well. If all you do is play with friends in a realaively quite room then just use the auto-on settings, but I don't my entire party hear me yelling at the kids in the other room :)

    A niche market no doubt but compared to some of the other products like this, I can say from experience this one is MILES ahead. This is the one I've used before, and by comparison is really pretty lame compared to this. http://www.pedalpax.com/Pedalpax_Foot_Pedal_Produc...
    Reply
  • Hrel - Thursday, April 25, 2013 - link

    I'm interested, but not for 90 bucks. Also, agreed on the name. I wonder if they're going kickstarter because corporate sponsors wanted them to change the name and they didn't want to... hmmmm... Reply

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