Sometimes all you need is a button push. Whether it’s to eject a DVD, open a microwave door, start a dumb air purifier, or start an otherwise really smart television, there are some devices that require a button push.
There are even some smart devices, like the aforementioned televisions, which are really smart once they’re turned on but don’t have a good way to turn them on.
For those of us who really need or really want this, the solution is simple: a tiny actuator like a robot finger.
RIP Microbot Push
As mentioned elsewhere, sadly I can no longer recommend the Naran microbot push as the company seems to be going through a lot of problems, And they have now dropped their IFTTT channel all together. The push was a beautifully engineered little device with a lot of extra features, but I think just too complex to set up and operate for a mass market, whether here or in Asia. I got my own money’s worth out of them since it’s now three years since I bought mine, but I am still sad to see them go.
2019: the mildly improved Switchbot
The best replacement on the market now is the new generation Japanese SwitchBot. This is made to be cheap, and pretty cheaply made. No real features to speak of except a button push or a button hold. It has less force strength than the Microbot. The SwitchBot is rated at 1 kg, but I have found it to be closer to 0.8.
They have re-designed it so now instead of telling you to use a sticker and a bit of fishing line, they give you a nicer looking sticker with a loop and there is a little slot in the SwitchBot “finger“ so it’s easy to attach.
This is still a clunky little device, about 3 inches Square, And you may have to get creative with Sugru to get it to fit where you want it to be.
But it does do what it supposed to: push a button. I think the best use case is for smart TVs which are really smart once they’re turned on, but don’t have a good way to turn on except an IR device like harmony hub. Stick a SwitchBot on the back where the on button is and you solve that problem.
It’s OK for some of the other things that I use it for, like operating a blender button. It is not strong enough, for example, to flush a toilet even a button operated one. It’s not even strong enough to open some microwave doors.
Also, unlike the microbot, this will not work on capacitive touchscreens. It’s only good for pressing a button that requires a physical press.
Smartthings Integration is pretty good. You do need to have their hub or mini hub to make it work. And you will need to go into the switchbot app and individually approve each device for cloud services to get it to show up in smartthings.
An IR Bonus with the second generation “SwitchBot hub plus”
On the other hand, Speaking of IR, the hub that you need to get for it which will allow you to Integrate it with Google assistant, echo, IFTTT, or the new V3 SmartThings app, now has its own IR blaster, which can be useful for some things like some window air conditioners or other devices that have an IR remote. So that’s a plus if you happen to need that.
The price on the hub has also come down since it was first introduced, although “Cheap” for this device class still doesn’t mean really cheap. Typically the buttons sell for $29 each and the bridge sells for $49. It occasionally goes on sale for about 20% off, or sometimes in a kit from their own website.
Verdict: A solid B
I’m not unhappy with this device, I just don’t love it the way I did the microbot. But it does solve a use case, that can be hard to solve otherwise. in my house, two use cases: The blender and the eject button on the DVD player, which can’t easily be solved any other way without voiding the appliance warranty.
This one requires no wiring, no soldering, no damage to the dumb device. You’re just adding a tiny actuator to push the button.
I give it a solid “B,” especially if you get it on sale.
The following video review is great, and really shows you what it looks like around the house.
would it work for you?
Also, if you’re not sure how much force the buttons around your house would require, see the following FAQ: