There are a slew of PC peripheral devices on the market designed to increase productivity and efficiency, and most of them are hand-controlled devices. Through a successful Kickstarter campaign, Stelulu, based in Canada, has created a remarkable peripheral controlled by a user’s foot.
The Stinky Footboard isn’t just a simple pedal. Think of it instead as a directional pad for your foot. Under the large, rigid surface lies four buttons. Each of the buttons can be pressed rather easily, with a slight depression of your foot, or even a quick shift in the weight of your leg.
The board itself is large, about 14.5” long, and 11” wide. The size was likely designed to accommodate the average foot size, and to preserve a balance between leverage for button depression and easy access.
Stinky comes with extra springs of varying tension to increase or decrease the amount of effort needed to depress the pad’s Cherry MX switches (the buttons produce nice clicks, and they are just as responsive as the keys on a keyboard). The springs are easy to swap out (the footboard includes an Allen wrench to remove the screws that secure the springs) for individual customization.
The aluminum top plate is solid, as is the plastic base. At no point during my use did I feel like it was too delicate or fragile. Hilariously, Stelulu posted a video showing the footboard functioning even after being run over by a car (video linked at the end of this article).
Uses in Various Applications
Any button on your keyboard can be mapped to any of Stinky’s four buttons (via the USB connection), including macro keys that are on your keyboard. This means that although Stinky’s software does not permit the ability the program macros directly onto the footboard, any macros that have been programmed onto a user’s keyboard can be accessed by Stinky.
And importantly, Stinky’s software allows the board to automatically respond differently depending on the particular application that is being used. For example, you might have Stinky respond with different keys in Battlefield 3, and a different set of keys when playing Spec Ops: The Line. Stinky can be programmed to automatically switch profiles for each application that is currently active, whether a game is being played or productivity applications like Microsoft Office programs or internet browsers are being used.
After using Stinky for two weeks at my main desk, there is no doubt in my mind that it has become an absolute necessity for daily computer use. Simply pressing down on my heel or toe makes this particular Word document (which I am using to draft this review), scroll page up or page down. It may seem like a superfluous function, but being able to leave my hands at the “home row” keys and scan up and down my document makes editing slightly more efficient.
When browsing the internet, I have the right button on Stinky assigned to the home key, to jump straight to the top of any web page, and the left button refreshes the page. Up and down buttons are page up and page down, so navigating web pages takes less effort. Although it’s difficult to gauge, it almost seems like it takes less effort to slightly tilt my foot to hit the buttons on Stinky, than to scroll the mouse wheel.
Using Stinky in Photoshop and Premiere Pro allows me to cut and crop quickly without removing my hand from the mouse or going through a layer of menus with the mouse.
Of course, with gaming (specifically, shooters), I have used the top button to sprint and the bottom button to crouch or take cover. The left button is usually assigned to throw grenades, and right button is used to melee the enemy. In some minimal way, using my foot as a part of playing a shooter makes me feel more engaged and immersed in the game. Let me clarify that. The interaction with the footboard might be minimal, but the effects are rather profound. My lower extremities no longer lie idly by while my hands frantically click during a firefight.
The accompanying software is simple to use, and there are an unlimited number of application profiles that can be programmed onto Stinky.
Close Enough to Techno-Telepathy
It is natural to be skeptical about how Stinky could improve efficiency or increase the immersion into a game. When I first looked at the footboard, I imagined my leg would be overly fatigued and exhausted after a short time. Although it was a strange sensation to use my foot to manipulate a controller, it became easy, and oddly, almost like a form of techno-telepathy.
I am so accustomed to manipulating computers with only my hands and fingers that using my foot to do so honestly seems like I am controlling an application with my mind. Part of the reason why is because it takes so little effort to depress the buttons on the footboard. When I swapped out the default springs for the top and bottom buttons for the lighter springs, using Stinky became comfortable and near-effortless.
When simply resting your foot on top of the footboard, the top plate is in neutral position, so it's not as though you must strenuously hover over the board. However, there are times when I feel like stretching my legs and kicking up my feet on the subwoofer under my desk. Using Stinky is so convenient though that my foot always comes back to it in minutes.
Personal Preference Issues
No device is perfect however, since we all have our personal preferences and physical issues. Even with my small footprint (I wear an 8.5 shoe), it is easy to tilt my foot towards either the top or bottom buttons. However, rolling my foot to the left or right is not as effortless. I’ve become accustomed to lifting the ball of my foot to tap on the left or right buttons. Then again, I would suppose that this helps prevent accidental presses during the heat of a gaming session.
Furthermore, when I do remove my foot from the footboard, I cannot immediately find the precise spot on the board where I should place my foot for the easiest operation without first looking at it, or quickly making some test clicks. If I place my foot too far forward or back, the tilting isn’t as comfortable. I might tape a pipe cleaner or something similar to the board where my toes should line up to help with this issue (a flat piece of painter’s tape proved to be only marginally helpful). That all being said, it’s not a big deal to make a quick couple of tilts to ensure that my foot is positioned perfectly on the board’s sweet spot.
It may be difficult to truly appreciate what this device can do for your productivity and gaming uses without actually using it, because most of us have never actually used our feet for anything useful at our computer desk. Originally a skeptic myself, the Stinky Footboard has proven to be not only easy to use, but far more useful than I could have imagined. It has become as integral to my daily computing as my mouse and keyboard are. Even after only using the Stinky Footboard for a couple of weeks, I have come to rely on its ability to increase my efficiency.
Apparently, multiple Stinky units can be connected to a computer at the same time, for even more foot-based controlling, so for the more dexterous among us, or even for those who have certain physical disabilities might be able to benefit from the use of multiple footboards.
Stinky Footboard is available for purchase at Stelulu’s website for $119.99, and attendees at PAX Prime at the end of this month can demonstrate Stinky at Stelulu’s booth, which will be located at booth #6109.
This review is based on a review unit provided by the manufacturer.