Capsule Impressions: The Stinky Footboardby Dustin Sklavos on April 25, 2013 4:38 AM EST
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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.