Notes on making a Toe Pressure Synth Controller

The following was dreamed up as an offshoot of my development of an Aftertouch for a wind synth. The primary purpose is to add another continuous controller (cc) to the wind synth via pressure sensitive resistors (FSR - manufactured by Interlink Electronics) to permit added user control.

Experiment #1: (11/4/96)

>a windlister wrote: "Hmmmm. A windcontroller Cyborg Parasite Symbiot?"

Funny you should mention this.....

A few evenings ago I put a force sensing resistor (FSR) (1.5" square model) into the toe of my shoe (Reebok model) and was able to envoke the VL1 scream parameter by curling my big toe downward. I was waiting until I had completed some other FSR location experiments (neckstrap, right thumbhook, top of mpc, etc.) before revealing that I was starting to wire up my body. But, I guess I'll have to fess up early.

It worked reasonably well, though not as consistant as I would like. I will try some leather shoes instead of my sneakers and perhaps I can get better performance. Mind you, this all started innocently as a 'no travel' footpedal experiment by taping a FSR to a piece of plywood.

I can see it now: a 1/4" phone jack on the heel of my shoes for the FSR wire to get into the Anatek Pocket Pedal! Yes I know, I'm one strange dude.

All wired up with no place to go!

the windlister then replies:

" .....for inventing the first pair of VL shoes! Such devices can only help the economy, creating jobs for VL-Cobblers and the like! Art - my only request is that you figure out how to make them wireless without looking like platform shoes. I can see a whole line of VL products: VL polish, VL Inserts, and a complete line of VL accessories!"

Update on the VL-Suede Shoes

Model-02 3-13-97

Not wanting to be barefoot in the winter, I've finally turned the loose FSR- in-the-shoe into a real "VL-Suede Shoe insert. Using clear packing tape, I placed a 0.2" FSR** to the bottom side of a Dr. Scholls shoe insert right under my big toe. The tape works beautifully and holds the FSR and wire flat. The wiring is 2 conductors of ribbon cable, carefully laid flat and taped the length of the insert, coming up by my heel. I could not feel the wire with my foot.

I worked with several grades of Dr. Scholls inserts, several sizes of FSRs, and top vs. bottom placement of the FSR. The larger FSRs were too easily actuated by my toe, as was putting the FSR on top of the Dr. Scholls insert. The cheapest type if Dr. Scholls insert was just as good as the heavy duty variety. I did trim the insert to fit the sneaker better, and of course wrote in large magic marker letters : VL-Suede Shoe (tm) just for the fun of it. I also keep them in a "VL-Suede Shoe Box***".

Now the detail is to work on an appropriate interconnect between the shoe and the Anatek Pocket Pedal. I'll add some tubing ('spaghetti' for the mature EEs in the group) to protect the thin ribbon cable wire where it comes alongside my heel, and them arrange for some sort of clip or velcro attached to a mini-phone jack so I can clip it to the ankle cuff of the shoe. That will allow me reasonable freedom to 'unplug' when I need to walk beyond the length of the wire to the Anatek Pocket Pedal.

Will I ever use this in a gig setting? Probably not. Why do this then? It keeps me and at least a few others on the wind list amused.... but most importantly, it keeps others thinking about adding controllers for more expressive music. Expressive music is what we all are looking for!

**FSR stands for 'force sensing resistor' and is a trademark of Interlink Electronics.

***Formerly a Dexter shoe box.