Check out this new device called the push microbot. It’s still in crowdfunding land and it looks to be part of the bigger “prota” ecosystem, but it’s a novel way of being able to automate anything that’s button operated.
Hell if it actually takes off we might be able to stop banging out heads against the wall or cursing feverishly when we find out our homes don’t have neutrals wired out to our switches.
As someone who is quadriparetic, I have been following this closely, as it would meet a number of needs in my own home.
The company is Prota, and they’re for real. They have some good engineering credentials. They are working on developing a series of micro bots of which the first will be “push” which does nothing but push a physical button.
They’re getting ready to start their first indiegogo campaign, so who knows when the product will actually come to market or what it will cost. It has a control bridge device which uses Bluetooth to pair to the individual battery powered buttons.
The following is a shareable link they sent me that is supposed to have some kind of coupon associated with it, I don’t really know any of the details. So if you prefer you can just wait and look them up on indiegogo after the launch. Or just wait until it shows up on Amazon.
But it’s an interesting project and I will certainly be following it closely.
Two devices (very visible wall warts) to enable on/off on a single switch?
While I could see such a “push” device being useful in certain situations, the physical dimensions – specifically the width of the device and the width of the “finger” – of this version appear to make it unusable for most non-light switch analog buttons.
I also wonder how long the adhesive tape will last in light of the mechanical forces pushing in the opposing direction.
Agreed. I think very few people would be using this on a light switch. There are too many other alternatives.
But some people might. A lot will depend on the cost.
People like me who cannot physically work many switches (I’m quadriparetic, use a wheelchair with limited hand control) might take these along when traveling, family, or even in an office situation where there’s only one or two switches that need adapting. I’ve already mentioned that I plan to take my echo and my Hue bridge and a couple of bulbs when I visit family at the holidays, but to be honest the Prota would be a lot easier for some set ups.
For able-bodied people, the Prota might be a good solution to something like a pump switch in a garden shed when you were working nearby, wanted to be able to turn it on and off without going in and out of the shed, and didn’t want to rewire.
But those are edge cases. I’m pretty sure the most popular use will be for pushing buttons on existing equipment/appliances. This would solve the coffeemaker issue for a lot of people who already have a coffeemaker that they really like that doesn’t do a hard restart when you just plug it into the wall.
OK, these are now available to pre-order from Amazon with an expected ship date in the next three weeks. And the IFTTT channel is open.
You will need the $99 Prota if you want to do anything other than just control the microbot with your phone. The prota is also required if you want to use the IFTTT channel.
The $49 push is ordered separately. Or you can get a starter kit with the bridge and three microbots and an adhesive for $249.
So if you want just one of these and you want to integrate with anything else, it’s very expensive. If you want several, the cost of the prota gets divided over the number of microbots and it becomes an expensive option but not superexpensive compared to other alternatives for retrofitting button press devices. And it’s easy and looks nice.
Most people won’t want these. But if you have an existing coffee maker or DVD player or even a dishwasher where are all you want is a way to automate a button press, this might be a good choice.
I haven’t actually seen one, so I don’t know what the build quality is or how well the software works. The company has serious engineering credentials, though, and I really like the design options they put into it.
I do want to try one, because I do have some devices that I can’t physically manage and for whatever reason doesn’t work well for my service dog.
But I just recently put in some light switches and my home automation budget is empty until December, so I’m going to wait to order this for now.
If anybody else gets one and tries it, let us know how it works.
anyone tried these yet with the Pi as the hub? honestly the last thing i need is another hub, or really the PI either. I wish these things worked without another hub for our purposes. Or if there were a way to install their server software on Ubuntu that would be fine too.
Quick update: I got mine set up, it works really well with IFTTT, and I’m very happy with it. I put one microbot on that blender I mentioned, and another one on a really old DVD player that didn’t have the eject button on the remote.
I’m going to try the third one on the microwave door button, which is particularly difficult for me to push.
So looks like it’s engineered well, works well, and solves a problem that would otherwise require rewiring. At $49 for each microbot it’s expensive, but I can definitely recommend them as a retrofit solution if the price fits your budget.
If you have a button remote that works great but you don’t have anyway to hook the device to smartthings, these are also worth considering. Just build a stand/box that your existing remote sits in and have the Microbots attached to the stand in position to push the buttons that you want pushed. That way you can still use the original remote whenever you want just by sliding out of the stand, but you do get an IFTTT/voice integration as well.