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Reinventing the Clapper With a Knock-Based Home Automation Controller

timothy posted more than 2 years ago | from the scratch-friend-and-enter dept.

Input Devices 92

An anonymous reader writes with a snippet from Hack a Day: "Clap On! Clap Off! was super awesome when The Clapper came out in the mid-eighties. Now [Mathieu Stephan] is trying to make the concept much more functional. He put together a controller that lets you knock on walls to control things around the house. It's called the Toktoktok project and uses small boxes to receive user input and control items like lamps and computers." As the project website points out, Stephan is keeping the project intentionally open.

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Just because you CAN do something (1, Insightful)

NotQuiteReal (608241) | more than 2 years ago | (#39314851)

Just because you CAN do something, doesn't mean you SHOULD.

Re:Just because you CAN do something (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39314973)

Agreed. This is stupid.

But then again... Stupid sells.

Re:Just because you CAN do something (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39315007)

People used the clapping stuff. It was senseless, but sold.

What I'm waiting for is the phone control stuff. Didn't Google invest in this last year?

Re:Just because you CAN do something (4, Funny)

rwa2 (4391) | more than 2 years ago | (#39315023)

I'm just thinking of all the dopeslap moments I'll have when sneaking home late at night and having the lights come on just AFTER I smack my head into a wall.

Sounds like good times.

Re:Just because you CAN do something (1)

tftp (111690) | more than 2 years ago | (#39315815)

I'm just thinking of all the dopeslap moments I'll have when sneaking home late at night and having the lights come on just AFTER I smack my head into a wall.

When that happens please keep your eyes tightly closed; otherwise the sparks may fall onto the carpet and cause fire.

Re:Just because you CAN do something (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39315229)

It's an awesome idea for turning all your noisy appliances into a lesson on concurrency and the way it can lead to indeterminate outcomes.

Re:Just because you CAN do something (2)

LowlyWorm (966676) | more than 2 years ago | (#39315915)

Indeterminate is right. I bought a clapper not long ago and connected it to several lamps. The stereo, TV, bumps, dropping things, etc. made the place like a strobe light. The concept is not such a bad idea but the activation should much better controlled to be practical.

Re:Just because you CAN do something (1)

SrLnclt (870345) | more than 2 years ago | (#39318611)

Glad I'm not the only one. A number of years ago I was using an ancient TV with a screwed up power supply. When you hit the power button to turn it off it would stay on - just turn the tuner off and show snow on the screen. I found an old clapper and used that to turn it on/off. It worked OK... but was really obnoxious if I was yelling at the TV during sporting events.

Re:Just because you CAN do something (3, Interesting)

Ihmhi (1206036) | more than 2 years ago | (#39316045)

How about a secret knock detector [youtube.com] ?

Re:Just because you CAN do something (3, Funny)

Ukab the Great (87152) | more than 2 years ago | (#39316099)

Don't knock it till you tried it.

Great idea until... (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39314859)

Great idea! Well, great until you've a lady friend over and the bed scoots just a little too close to the wall.

Re:Great idea until... (2, Funny)

billcopc (196330) | more than 2 years ago | (#39314911)

Sexual lightswitch rave!

Re:Great idea until... (1)

p0p0 (1841106) | more than 2 years ago | (#39315447)

Fairly obscure reference. Good. Good.

Re:Great idea until... (2)

NoNonAlphaCharsHere (2201864) | more than 2 years ago | (#39314985)

Or until you start working on some particularly bad legacy code and *headdesk* *headdesk* *headdesk* ensues.

Re:Great idea until... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39316121)

Yes, the more likely scenario for /.ers

Re:Great idea until... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39315079)

Remember, you're on Slashdot. Basement walls wouldn't transmit the knocks anyway.

Re:Great idea until... (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39315147)

Yes, I hate that when the lights go out during sex. Ruins the show.

Re:Great idea until... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39316669)

If you have the clap involved in sex, sucks to be you.

Re:Great idea until... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39317055)

Yes, I hate that when the lights go out during sex. Ruins the show.

Maybe you should stop watching the neighbours and get some yourself.

Re:Great idea until... (2)

broknstrngz (1616893) | more than 2 years ago | (#39315161)

Slashdotters aren't likely to run into that particular problem.

Re:Great idea until... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39315327)

Let's hope she's not epileptic...

Re:Great idea until... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39315625)

Not the "clap" he had in mind???

Re:Great idea until... (1)

theshowmecanuck (703852) | more than 2 years ago | (#39316125)

Excuse me but I believe that is called the snapper, not the clapper. Now if the snapper gives you the clapper that is another matter altogether.

Re:Great idea until... (1)

sco08y (615665) | more than 2 years ago | (#39316653)

Great idea! Well, great until you've a lady friend over and the bed scoots just a little too close to the wall.

That just means you need to learn how to tie knots properly.

Re:Great idea until... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39318931)

Like that is going to occur to someone who would invent something like this.

Are Americans really this lazy? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39314869)

I can understand the handicapped finding a device like this useful. But are the rest of Americans really so lazy that they can't be arsed to walk a couple of metres to a light switch?

Re:Are Americans really this lazy? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39314909)

I can understand the handicapped finding a device like this useful. But are the rest of Americans really so lazy that they can't be arsed to walk a couple of metres to a light switch?

Have you SEEN how fat they are? They don't even try to control their eating. It's the real hardcore embodiment of lazy.

Re:Are Americans really this lazy? (3, Interesting)

Vectronic (1221470) | more than 2 years ago | (#39314957)

It's not necessarily, or only about laziness, but aesthetics too. Also handy if you have a room with 3 entrances, but only one has a light switch, etc.

Re:Are Americans really this lazy? (-1, Flamebait)

Stormthirst (66538) | more than 2 years ago | (#39315005)

Who wires a room with three entrances, but only one light switch? Oh sorry - we're talking about Americans again aren't we.

Re:Are Americans really this lazy? (1)

tomhath (637240) | more than 2 years ago | (#39315253)

My kitchen is like that, whoever wired it 75 years ago should have known better.

Re:Are Americans really this lazy? (1)

Stormthirst (66538) | more than 2 years ago | (#39315339)

You have 75 year old wiring? And the place hasn't burnt down yet? Or do your lights flicker every time your freezer compressor comes on?

Re:Are Americans really this lazy? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39315403)

I have a pretty old house, and in one of the rooms, whenever you use something (like a vacuum) the lights will fade out and then back in every five minutes or so. And using things in the kitchen makes the television have lines on the screen. Odd.

Re:Are Americans really this lazy? (1)

Stormthirst (66538) | more than 2 years ago | (#39317423)

There's a reason why old wiring should be replaced. The older wiring just isn't designed for modern day loads. And no earth wire? Really?

Re:Are Americans really this lazy? (3, Insightful)

subreality (157447) | more than 2 years ago | (#39315535)

75 year old wiring tends to be pretty good. Back then they were doing K&T https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Knob_and_tube_wiring [wikipedia.org] style. It looks scary as hell but it tends to be pretty safe - since your hot and neutral are separated by a considerable air gap and the wires are thermally insulated from the structure, an insulation failure (abrasion or overheating) usually doesn't burn the house down. It doesn't have modern safety features like a safety ground, but the actual wiring is fine.

The switch away from it has more to do with cost than safety. The guys installing it usually knew what they were doing and paid much better attention to detail than the average contractor dragging romex these days. It took a lot of time, but it was a reliable and safe system, and if it's installed, there's no reason to rip it out and replace it just because it's old.

Re:Are Americans really this lazy? (1)

Stormthirst (66538) | more than 2 years ago | (#39317421)

Several points about K&T:

1) Good luck with insurance on it. Certainly where I am, they won't insure you unless you promise you're re-wiring.
2) No ground wire? Seriously? I don't even know where to begin with this one!
3) The really early insulators consisted of tar and cotton. So let me get this straight - it's a good idea to use two accelerants in wooden buildings, where modern day loads could cause the wires to get hot.

That's real smart!

As for your comments about the installers "usually" knowing what they were doing? I wouldn't trust your average contractor to install cabling - there's a reason why electrical contractors have certification.

Re:Are Americans really this lazy? (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 2 years ago | (#39326911)

2) No ground wire? Seriously? I don't even know where to begin with this one!

Grounded house wiring (pos, neg, ground) is fairly recent. Until a couple of decades ago it was rare to find it in homes. Before then it was almost always "hot" and ground.

Re:Are Americans really this lazy? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39371279)

You have DC wiring for the main runs?!

Re:Are Americans really this lazy? (1)

KozmoStevnNaut (630146) | more than 2 years ago | (#39317847)

I live in an apartment building constructed in the mid-1930s and it looks like most of the wiring dates from back then, too.

Apart from the kitchen, which was remodeled 10 years ago by the previous owner, all of the wiring consists of cloth-insulated individual conductors inside copper tubing. I had to replace a light switch last year and the insulation literally crumbled to dust wherever I wasn't extremely gentle with it.

Ground wires? Well, the oven and the washing machine have safety grounds. Everything else has had the ground plugs removed to fit in the old-style two-prong sockets, the only ones that will fit. Besides, only the kitchen has an actual safety ground anyway.

The way my apartment is wired up to the mains, I have a theoretical 3-phase 400V connection. I say "theoretical", because in actual fact, one phase supplies the entire apartment with 10A 230V and the remaining two phases supply the kitchen with 2x 16A 230V. My electrician friend just shook his head and mumbled "goddamn Copenhagen wiring" when he saw it.

I have drawn up a budget for replacing the old wiring, but it would involve tearing down the beautiful stucco ceilings and basically remodeling the entire apartment in one go.

If it ain't broken, don't fix it :-)

Re:Are Americans really this lazy? (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 2 years ago | (#39326755)

I lived in this house [google.com] several years ago. Built in 1918, thoroughly modern with gas and electric... it still had a gaslight fixture at the top of the stairs. It had additional wiring installed over the years, in fact my basement was a good museum of electrical wiring with about every kind there was. The K&T wiring was solid, much better than some 30 years younger.

Now, if you have a house built in the 1970s with aluminum wiring you'd damned well better have some great insurance. Those houses were firetraps. It had been installed and removed in the pictured house; some of the 1970s wiring was still there but none of it was hot.

Re:Are Americans really this lazy? (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 2 years ago | (#39316965)

Who wires a room with three entrances, but only one light switch?

Belgians wire long corridors with switches at each end in series.

I could try and fix it, but I'm afraid to touch it for fear of what I might find.

Re:Are Americans really this lazy? (1)

PPH (736903) | more than 2 years ago | (#39315873)

Also handy if you have a room with 3 entrances, but only one has a light switch, etc.

Motion detector?

That clapper is going to make sneaking into the house late at night without waking the wife really tough.

Re:Are Americans really this lazy? (4, Interesting)

Meshach (578918) | more than 2 years ago | (#39315021)

To be fair this is not targeted just at turning on and off lights. The article states that is can control any electronic device: computers, music players, cooking... anything. And the creator explicitly says it is unencumbered with patents so it is an idea any one can use to improve any existing technology.

Sounds like a win-win

Re:Are Americans really this lazy? (1)

Nidi62 (1525137) | more than 2 years ago | (#39315347)

Don't most (if not all) music players with any kind of speaker system already come with remotes? This whole thing really sounds to me like a solution looking for a problem.

Re:Are Americans really this lazy? (1)

Meshach (578918) | more than 2 years ago | (#39315427)

This whole thing really sounds to me like a solution looking for a problem.

That is the essence of the clapper: it is totally unnecessary. No one needs it; no one needs most of the things we discuss on Slashdot. But there are still people who want to discuss them just like there are people who want the clapper.

Re:Are Americans really this lazy? (4, Insightful)

artor3 (1344997) | more than 2 years ago | (#39315115)

You walk a couple meters to use a lightswitch? How fucking lazy are you? Active people like me go down to the breaker in the basement to turn the lights on and off, and then jog two laps around the house for good measure.

Word to the wise: laziness is not doing something potentially beneficial because you prefer to just sit around doing nothing. There is no gain from flipping a light switch, and therefore it's not lazy to find more convenient ways of doing it. You might as well bitch about people being too lazy to use a crank starter for their car.

Re:Are Americans really this lazy? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39315181)

Seriously. What is this luddite attitude? Are we lazy for using knives instead of ripping the meat of bones with our teeth? Or lazy because we use computers instead of pencil and paper?

Re:Are Americans really this lazy? (1)

MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) | more than 2 years ago | (#39316513)

Acting unimpressed makes a nerd appear smarter. It's risky, though, that's why statements like "less space than a nomad, lame" have a way of haunting you.

Re:Are Americans really this lazy? (1)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | more than 2 years ago | (#39315183)

FIRST YORKSHIREMAN: And you try and tell the young people of today that ..... they won't believe you.
ALL: They won't [phespirit.info] !

Re:Are Americans really this lazy? (0)

GmExtremacy (2579091) | more than 2 years ago | (#39315193)

You should be walking to your destinations, you lazy sack of garbage! I don't care if they're miles away, you should walk!

Re:Are Americans really this lazy? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39315269)

You're a nigger, always bitching about this or that, never saying anything constructive. What a fucking waste of flesh.

Re:Are Americans really this lazy? (2)

tomhath (637240) | more than 2 years ago | (#39315289)

I know reading the article is too much work for you, but the very first illustration shows someone leaving the room and knocking on the wall where a light switch would normally be found...

Re:Are Americans really this lazy? (1)

hackertourist (2202674) | more than 2 years ago | (#39317707)

There is no gain from flipping a light switch

But there is. A light switch is a passive element, it consumes no power on its own. Any remote controller including the one in TFA will expend power 24/7 doing nothing but wait for your commands.

You insensitive clod! (1)

PPH (736903) | more than 2 years ago | (#39315855)

We're even too lazy to figure out what a couple of meters is in our British Imperial system of units (adopted as US customary units by changing the spelling of 'metres').

Re:Are Americans really this lazy? (1)

MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) | more than 2 years ago | (#39316497)

You're speaking as though you don't have a mobile phone or a bunch of remote controls orbiting your couch.

great project (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39314995)

I knocked your sister up

She also kept her legs intentionally open

Re:great project (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39315533)

She's also your sister, bro. Hope you liked my sloppy seconds!

Enter port knocking. . . (2)

mjjochen (638603) | more than 2 years ago | (#39315061)

Can I set this up with port knocking. So maybe every time I get a knock on 22, then 23, and eventually 80, in any particular order on my external IP, that my lights go on and off? That would be cool. Maybe rig it to the stereo system, too. 137/138 would control the volume. Fun times.

the clapper work for old tv with out a remote like (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | more than 2 years ago | (#39315081)

the clapper work for old tvs with out a remote like the one in the ad. With the ones with remotes killing the power like that just made it lose the channel map.

Now days trying to kill the power like that will just mess up the cable box.

Seance ... knock three times (2)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | more than 2 years ago | (#39315105)

"Once", "Twice", or "Thrice ... well done."

Re:Seance ... knock three times (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39315645)

God I miss that pinball game. The Addams Family was the best machine ever. They had one in college that had a very loose tilt meter. You could beat the crap out of that machine. Good times.

Already patented... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39315121)

Unfortunately the concept is patented...
http://www.cobenelec.com/?q=node/19
(based on TE Connectivity touch solution/ Sensitive object APR technology)

Next on CNN: Man killed for knocking on wall. (1)

EchoRomeo (2582713) | more than 2 years ago | (#39315261)

I don't think my neighbors in my apartment complex would like me banging on random walls to turn things on and off. Like wise I would get pretty mad if i heard someone just banging on the wall throughout the day.

My dog.. (1)

ronmon (95471) | more than 2 years ago | (#39315287)

has a tail like a broomstick and she is a very happy girl. Crap would be flashing on and off all over the house.

Re:My dog.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39315563)

one work, docking. get a 1 lbs. chinese kitchen knife and whack that bitches annoying limb off. cauterize the stump with a red hot poker and you're good to go. that'll tone done that pestilent happiness problem too.

The ultrasonic remote has come full circle (2)

MrEricSir (398214) | more than 2 years ago | (#39315299)

My grandfather had an old Zenith TV set with an ultrasonic remote. Every time someone jingled their keys or flushed the toilet, it would change the channel or adjust the volume. This seems like it will have the same problem.

Re:The ultrasonic remote has come full circle (1)

geekmux (1040042) | more than 2 years ago | (#39315877)

My grandfather had an old Zenith TV set with an ultrasonic remote. Every time someone jingled their keys or flushed the toilet, it would change the channel or adjust the volume. This seems like it will have the same problem.

From TFA:

"What is a contact mic? Well, it is just a fancy word for a piezoelectric element. It is very simple to produce, has a non linear response curve and a resonant frequency around 3kHz. Why is it well suited for this project? Because it will only 'listen to' the vibrations of the surface it is fixed to."

Sounds like he might have isolated that particular problem.

Re:The ultrasonic remote has come full circle (1)

Ihmhi (1206036) | more than 2 years ago | (#39316051)

Wouldn't soundwaves going through the air cause the wall to vibrate, even if only slightly?

What about when an airplane flies over head or a large truck drives down the road? In both cases my house shakes a little bit - you can certainly feel the vibration in the walls.

Re:The ultrasonic remote has come full circle (1)

karnal (22275) | more than 2 years ago | (#39317497)

I would guess the part about the resonant frequency being around 3kHz in addition to the part that it has a non linear response curve helps with this. It would be very very difficult to resonate a wall at 3kHz via a sound wave. Judging by the walls in my house, it's typically 150Hz or less (as cars with subwoofers/missing mufflers drive by.)

Oh, boy! (1)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 2 years ago | (#39315375)

My poltergeist is going to have fun now!

Re:Oh, boy! (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 2 years ago | (#39315833)

We refer to that as a 'from the other side'-channel attack...

Happy Days (2)

thereitis (2355426) | more than 2 years ago | (#39315433)

I immediately thought of "The Fonz" from Happy Days when I saw this story. Now we can all be cool.

Re:Happy Days (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39315469)

That means you're cooler than me.
I was thinking it would turn off all the lights if you tapped out a "rhythm of four... the heartbeat of a Time Lord"

Prior art (4, Funny)

trold (242154) | more than 2 years ago | (#39315467)

The product is clearly a knockoff

Re:Prior art (1)

geekmux (1040042) | more than 2 years ago | (#39315887)

The product is clearly a knockoff

Yes, but he already discussed the issue of paten...ooooh, I see what you did there.

Cheap security system?!? (1)

stretch0611 (603238) | more than 2 years ago | (#39315515)

How long before we take this unit and have it turn on a mp3 player of a large dog barking viciously...

Re:Cheap security system?!? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39315929)

Been sold since the 80's. And they hang right on the door!

The people downstairs ... (1)

PPH (736903) | more than 2 years ago | (#39315891)

... can just shut off your loud stereo themselves by knocking on their ceiling with a broomstick.

Knock Offs (1)

DigitalJanitor (21725) | more than 2 years ago | (#39315963)

So when my Asian friends come over and turn off my lights can I take them to court for infringement?

stupid and done for decades (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39316025)

variations on this have been done for decades. cant' we get some holodeck cool and talk to a computer, it's the fucking 21st century for craps sake

harass your neighbors with it (1)

cstacy (534252) | more than 2 years ago | (#39316299)

"Penny...Penny...Penny..."

Encoding problem. Morse code? (2)

Animats (122034) | more than 2 years ago | (#39316695)

If you have more than one thing to control, you'll need some encoding scheme, like Morse code. This won't scale up well.

Re:Encoding problem. Morse code? (1)

Crypto Gnome (651401) | more than 2 years ago | (#39317071)

And the first night of hot-passion-and-burning-lust in your newly-automated pad leads to madness and chaos

Of course, some people prefer things that way....

Visitors (1)

jduhls (1666325) | more than 2 years ago | (#39316915)

So when folks knock on my door, my living room lights turn off?

As someone living in a block of flats (1)

Hentes (2461350) | more than 2 years ago | (#39317221)

It's already noisy enough without everyone banging on the walls.

Great, Another Insomnia Ad Jingle (1)

retroworks (652802) | more than 2 years ago | (#39317537)

It's been 30 years, and I still can't get "Clap on! Clap off! Clap-on-clap-off..." song out of my head. This is worse than Ch-ch-ch-Chia Obama.

ring the doorbell and run away (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39317561)

The ten year old in me is looking with delight at this. It brings knocking on the door and running away to a whole new level.

A VISITOR! (1)

CohibaVancouver (864662) | more than 2 years ago | (#39317829)

Every time anyone knocks on the wall in my house the dog bolts to the front door, tail wagging madly with joy, thinking a visitor has arrived. Think Dug from Up!... Definitely not an option in my house.

For you young whippersnappers (1)

Boawk (525582) | more than 2 years ago | (#39318153)

The commercial and jingle etched into the memories of all who were sentient in the 80's: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cfgN5tUgjb8 [youtube.com]

Great product for apartments (1)

johnb10001 (604626) | more than 2 years ago | (#39318665)

The current apartment neighbors are a bunch of idiots that can't close a door, drawer or cabinet without slamming it. Now all I have to do is place a speaker near the wall and have it play some annoying sound back to the neighbors each time they slam a door.

Isn't this regression? (1)

TheSkepticalOptimist (898384) | more than 2 years ago | (#39328539)

I would have hoped in the 21st century, you could just say "lights on" or "lights off" to control a lamp, not thump on the wall like a caveman.

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