Scythe has just recently released a line of USB Foot Switches. Now the first question that went through my head when I first heard of this thing was "what in the world are USB Foot Switches?" That was pretty easy to figure out as they are exactly what the sound like. It is a switch that you push with your foot, connected to your computer via USB. Scythe's USB Foot Switch comes in three varieties. There are one pedal, two pedal, and three pedal versions, allowing you to choose how many pedals is the right number for you. This article mostly focuses on the single pedal version since that is the kind I was using.
Scythe seems to have done a good job on building these strange little things. The single pedal foot switch is very sturdy with strong metal components. It is very unlikely that you could do any serious damage it by accident. The combination of the weight and the feet that Scythe attached to the bottom, prevent the foot switch from sliding around while you are using it. The USB cable is 1.8m / 5' 10.8" long, which should be more than enough length for most people. There is a little rubber grip pad on the pedal itself which will prevent your foot from slipping off of the pedal. Using the pedal is easy enough and it makes a satisfying click when the switch is set off. It has enough resistance to it that it is possible to leave your foot on the pedal without always accidentally setting the switch off. This is nice as you don't have to awkwardly move your foot around until you find the pedal. Unfortunately, I found leaving my foot on the pedal somewhat uncomfortable. This is most likely due to the fact that I usually sit with my legs mostly straight out instead of sharply bent like most people.
The main purpose of these pedals is to move some of the tasks that you would normally accomplish with your hands to your feet. This is supposed to reduce some of the more stressful hand/wrist motions that can cause repetitive stress injuries. It does this by allowing you to make the pedal able to send a variety of signals. I think the most commonly function will be its ability to mimic keyboard commands. Making the pedal your shift key, or ctrl key could be extremely helpful in using some of the more complex shortcuts. It can also be set up to open a Windows Explorer window, log off the current user, or close the current window. Though useful, I would be afraid to put those last two functions onto a pedal that I might accidentally press.
Setting up the Scythe USB Foot Switch is fairly easy as it requires no software to be installed. The foot switch comes with a cd that has the software that you need to set up what key the pedal behaves as. The software runs directly from cd, so no computer resources are used up once the pedal is set. Since the key information is held within the pedal and not any software, the pedal can be used on any computer once it has been set. Using the software was a little annoying. It is a little bit sensitive about how you set the keys. When you don't do it the right way, you get error messages that aren't very informative. The software is simple enough though that with only a minute or so of trail and error, you will know everything you need to about how to set up your USB foot switch.
I think that the Scythe USB Foot Switch handles the task that it was created to do very well. If you feel like you would like to offload some of your keystrokes to your feet, then one of the Scythe USB Foot Switches might be for you. For me though, it feels like Scythe missed out on a good opportunity. Imagine if these pedals were analog input devices instead of digital. Suddenly there are a whole new myriad of programs where something like this would be extremely useful. Some obvious places where this could be used: driving games, flight simulators, art and music editing especially in Photoshop, volume control. Sadly that is not really the kind of stuff this product was designed to do. It might not do everything that I want it to do, but it certainly does everything Scythe made it to do without a heavy price tag.