Physical Touchscreen Knobs

| Adam Kumpf

Here’s another quick hack to add more physicality to touch screen displays.  Using a small to medium sized knob, you can modify it (or even use it by itself) to behave as a rotary input.

Similar to the soft stylus, the trick is finding a way to create a conductive path from your hand to the screen.  We started by using copper tape, conductive fabrics (see the soft stylus) and wires to simulate two touch points on opposite sides of the knob.  It takes some careful tuning to get the touch points spaced correctly and sized such that the screen reads them as a touch, but it does work with a little patience.

Alternatively, with a small knob, it’s natural to grab it such that your fingers actually touch the screen making it nothing more than a physical prop to provide some tactile feedback (as shown in the video).  It works great and doesn’t require much in terms of materials or time; just grab a small object and give it a try!


64 Comments »

64 Comments on “Physical Touchscreen Knobs”

  1. 1 Natan said at 5:44 am on May 7th, 2010:

    Original stylus) I like it.

  2. 2 Tim Thompson said at 5:12 pm on May 10th, 2010:

    Brilliant! Love it!

  3. 3 Sara said at 3:08 pm on May 11th, 2010:

    This is great! I added it to my site. Not sure if you were thinking about it in accessibility terms, but this’ll also add a lot of control for people with hand-motor challenges. Look forward to following the development(s). Cheers—Sara

  4. 4 アナログおつまみインタフェース(Physical Touchscreen Knobs) : monogocoro ものごころ said at 7:02 am on May 13th, 2010:

    […] | Physical Touchscreen Knobs // Share| Subscribe to comments Comment | Trackback | Post Tags: DS_LABS, iPad, […]

  5. 5 iPhone Physical Touchscreen Knob Hack | Geeky Gadgets said at 11:14 am on May 13th, 2010:

    […] Oh Gizmo Via DSLabs Tags: Concepts, DIY, iPhone, Technology News If you enjoyed this post, make sure you […]

  6. 6 iPhone Physical Touchscreen Knob Hack | Daily ICT said at 11:41 am on May 13th, 2010:

    […] Via Oh Gizmo Via DSLabs […]

  7. 7 Clever ‘Hack’ Provides A Physical Knob Interface For The iPhone « TheDailyGizmo said at 12:29 pm on May 13th, 2010:

    […] to a physical button, slider, knob or even scroll wheel. So I like this clever compromise that dsLabs have come up with. Using the same principles people have used to create capacitive […]

  8. 8 Greenhoof » Blog Archive » Homemade iPhone accessory adds another gestural control: spinning said at 1:16 pm on May 13th, 2010:

    […] dsLabs, via OhGizmo! […]

  9. 9 Korptix Computer Services Blog » Blog Archive » Homemade iPhone accessory adds another gestural control: spinning said at 2:12 pm on May 13th, 2010:

    […] dsLabs, via OhGizmo! […]

  10. 10 Physical touchscreen knob makes its way to the iPhone | Daily ICT said at 4:01 pm on May 13th, 2010:

    […] old days when there was actually a real, physical button to fiddle with? That’s where this clever hack from dsLabs comes in – it relies on the same principles that people use to create capacitive […]

  11. 11 Physical touchscreen knob makes its way to the iPhone | nexGadget said at 4:04 pm on May 13th, 2010:

    […] old days when there was actually a real, physical button to fiddle with? That’s where this clever hack from dsLabs comes in – it relies on the same principles that people use to create capacitive […]

  12. 12 Physical touchscreen knob makes its way to the iPhone | Technology & Gadget News said at 4:29 pm on May 13th, 2010:

    […] old days when there was actually a real, physical button to fiddle with? That’s where that clever hack from dsLabs comes in – it relies on the same principles that humans use to create capacitive […]

  13. 13 Physical touchscreen knob makes its way to the iPhone « Gadgets Club said at 4:34 pm on May 13th, 2010:

    […] the good old days when there was actually a real, physical button to fiddle with? That's where this clever hack from dsLabs comes in – it relies on the same principles that people use to create capacitive […]

  14. 14 Physical touchscreen knob makes its way to the iPhone | Gadget Fanboy said at 4:58 pm on May 13th, 2010:

    […] the good old days when there was actually a real, physical button to fiddle with? That's where this clever hack from dsLabs comes in – it relies on the same principles that people use to create capacitive […]

  15. 15 Physical touchscreen knob makes its way to the iPhone | NUZE.ME said at 4:59 pm on May 13th, 2010:

    […] the good old days when there was actually a real, physical button to fiddle with? That's where this clever hack from dsLabs comes in – it relies on the same principles that people use to create capacitive […]

  16. 16 Physical touchscreen knob makes its way to the iPhone - Gadget Blog said at 4:59 pm on May 13th, 2010:

    […] the good old days when there was actually a real, physical button to fiddle with? That's where this clever hack from dsLabs comes in – it relies on the same principles that people use to create capacitive […]

  17. 17 Physical touchscreen knob makes its way to the iPhone | Gadgetorium! said at 5:21 pm on May 13th, 2010:

    […] old days when there was actually a real, physical button to fiddle with? That’s where this clever hack from dsLabs comes in – it relies on the same principles that people use to create capacitive […]

  18. 18 DIY physical controls for iPhone touchscreen [Video] - SlashGear said at 5:22 pm on May 13th, 2010:

    […] […]

  19. 19 Computer Hardware News » DIY physical controls for iPhone touchscreen [Video] said at 5:58 pm on May 13th, 2010:

    […] […]

  20. 20 Physical touchscreen knob makes its way to the iPhone | Products & Tech News said at 6:55 pm on May 13th, 2010:

    […] the good old days when there was actually a real, physical button to fiddle with? That's where this clever hack from dsLabs comes in – it relies on the same principles that people use to create capacitive […]

  21. 21 Physical touchscreen knob makes its way to the iPhone | Hottest Gadget News & Reviews | GadgetInferno said at 7:41 pm on May 13th, 2010:

    […] old days when there was actually a real, physical button to fiddle with? That’s where this clever hack from dsLabs comes in – it relies on the same principles that people use to create capacitive […]

  22. 22 Physical touchscreen knob makes its way to the iPhone | Gadget Users said at 7:59 pm on May 13th, 2010:

    […] old days when there was actually a real, physical button to fiddle with? That’s where that clever hack from dsLabs comes in – it relies on the same principles that public use to create capacitive […]

  23. 23 Physical touchscreen knob makes its way to the iPhone | super STUFF said at 8:19 pm on May 13th, 2010:

    […] the good old days when there was actually a real, physical button to fiddle with? That's where this clever hack from dsLabs comes in – it relies on the same principles that people use to create capacitive […]

  24. 24 Homemade iPhone accessory adds another gestural control: spinning | Keol.Net said at 9:50 pm on May 13th, 2010:

    […] dsLabs, via OhGizmo! […]

  25. 25 Stylus Knob Brings Rotation to the iPhone | Techi.com said at 10:54 pm on May 13th, 2010:

    […] turn and twist it again. That pretty much sums up this neat little invention. The people at DsLabs came up with the idea of a physical knob having the same feel of your finger when applied to the […]

  26. 26 You’re Twisting my iPhone Man! | iPhonefreak said at 11:18 pm on May 13th, 2010:

    […] to the blog, the knob works in a similar way to an iPhone stylus, in that it fools the iPhone’s […]

  27. 27 Forget Using A Stylus, Now There’s A Knob For Your iPhone | Gizmodo Australia said at 11:29 pm on May 13th, 2010:

    […] suppose the next step will be to add buttons, switches and physical keyboards. [dsLabs via OhGizmo! via Dvice] Tagged:clipsconceptsdesigniphone […]

  28. 28 Forget Using A Stylus, Now There’s A Knob For Your iPhone [Concept] | i Top Tech said at 11:38 pm on May 13th, 2010:

    […] suppose the next step will be to add buttons, switches, and physical keyboards. [dsLabs via OhGizmo! via Dvice] AKPC_IDS += […]

  29. 29 DIY: a knob for your iPhone | MobileFun said at 12:20 am on May 14th, 2010:

    […] like a stylus, but you don’t want to get your iPhone screen all dirty either. Easy solution, build a knob that will simulate the act of touching your iPhone screen. This is an easy build, but it’ll […]

  30. 30 Tech Gadget Reviews » Forget Using A Stylus, Now There’s A Knob For Your iPhone [Concept] said at 12:27 am on May 14th, 2010:

    […] suppose the next step will be to add buttons, switches, and physical keyboards. [dsLabs via OhGizmo! via […]

  31. 31 DIY: a knob for your iPhone | said at 1:07 am on May 14th, 2010:

    […] like a stylus, but you don’t want to get your iPhone screen all dirty either. Easy solution, build a knob that will simulate the act of touching your iPhone screen. This is an easy build, but it’ll […]

  32. 32 DIY: a knob for your iPhone | Mobile Telephones said at 1:43 am on May 14th, 2010:

    […] like a stylus, but you don’t want to get your iPhone screen all dirty either. Easy solution, build a knob that will simulate the act of touching your iPhone screen. This is an easy build, but it’ll […]

  33. 33 DIY: a knob for your iPhone | MobiCommz said at 2:22 am on May 14th, 2010:

    […] like a stylus, but you don’t want to get your iPhone screen all dirty either. Easy solution, build a knob that will simulate the act of touching your iPhone screen. This is an easy build, but it’ll […]

  34. 34 Physical Touchscreen Knobs | Gadgetoz said at 6:08 am on May 14th, 2010:

    […] dslabs, ohgizmo] var a2a_config = a2a_config || {}; a2a_config.linkname="Physical Touchscreen […]

  35. 35 Physical touchscreen knob makes its way to the iPhone | BestGadget.Info said at 6:20 am on May 14th, 2010:

    […] old days when there was actually a real, physical button to fiddle with? That’s where this clever hack from dsLabs comes in – it relies on the same principles that people use to create capacitive […]

  36. 36 Mobile Apps: DIY: a knob for your iPhone » The Mobile Apps Site said at 9:49 am on May 14th, 2010:

    […] like a stylus, but you don’t want to get your iPhone screen all dirty either. Easy solution, build a knob that will simulate the act of touching your iPhone screen. This is an easy build, but it’ll […]

  37. 37 Dial a modo de lápiz táctil, especial para nostálgicos - Gizmodo ES - The gadgets weblog said at 10:37 am on May 14th, 2010:

    […] por separado. Para APP’s que nos permitan hacer de DJ vendría de lujo. — Javier G. Pereda [dsLabs] swfobject.embedSWF("http://www.vimeo.com/moogaloop.swf", "vvq4bed27f383277", "400", "300", "9", […]

  38. 38 iPhone Physical Touchscreen Knob Video? | Technology & Gadget News said at 10:45 am on May 14th, 2010:

    […] a video demonstration of the iPhone Knob in action courtesy of the guys by at Gizmodo by way of dslabs which lasts just 16 seconds but shows just how pointless that is. I mean a touchscreen is designed […]

  39. 39 Accedere ad iPhone senza il Touch! | iPhonefunia said at 1:52 pm on May 14th, 2010:

    […] DSLabs var a2a_config = a2a_config || {}; a2a_localize = { Share: "Condividi", Save: "Salva", […]

  40. 40 En annan variant « Plattan said at 8:37 pm on May 14th, 2010:

    […] Physical Touchscreen Knobs […]

  41. 41 Clever ‘Hack’ Provides A Physical Knob Interface For The iPhone | blogtoptech.info said at 9:12 pm on May 14th, 2010:

    […] to a physical button, slider, knob or even scroll wheel. So I like this clever compromise that dsLabs have come up with. Using the same principles people have used to create capacitive […]

  42. 42 touchscreen knob concept is turning a lot of heads on [technabob] said at 12:30 pm on May 16th, 2010:

    […] touchscreen are awkward, whereas if you had a knob you could easily perform rotation. The folks at dsLabs tried to come up with a solution to that problem – a touchscreen […]

  43. 43 touchscreen knob concept is turning a lot of heads | Marthee's Tech News said at 1:03 pm on May 16th, 2010:

    […] touchscreen are awkward, whereas if you had a knob you could easily perform rotation. The folks at dsLabs tried to come up with a solution to that problem – a touchscreen […]

  44. 44 Dial a modo de lápiz táctil, especial para nostálgicos | Noticortos.com said at 6:12 pm on May 16th, 2010:

    […] por separado. Para APP’s que nos permitan hacer de DJ vendría de lujo. — Javier G. Pereda [dsLabs]Leer más aquí: Dial a modo de lápiz táctil, especial para nostálgicosPor: GIZMODO […]

  45. 45 DIY physical controls for iPhone touchscreen [Video] | mobblah said at 6:39 am on May 17th, 2010:

    […] […]

  46. 46 adaptive path » blog » Adaptive Path » Signposts for the week ending May 14, 2010 said at 6:28 pm on May 17th, 2010:

    […] Whew! Here we are again. Last week we checked out how to turn touch screens back into physical inputs with this hack: Physical knobs for touchscreens. […]

  47. 47 TweakingKnobs said at 10:10 am on May 18th, 2010:

    man that is fuckin awesome !!!

    i saw this protitype with something like this , this is really cool.

    you can make a full DIYS controller.

    we need now , some faders , and buttons.

    And also , some new “controllers” something that are not kobs , faders or buttons , we are in 2010 , faders , knobs and buttons are cool , but , we need to find THE NEXT THING

    and what would be cool is that the buttons could display letters

  48. 48 Planner Reads » Blog Archive » Links for 2010-05-19 [del.icio.us] said at 9:53 am on May 20th, 2010:

    […] that returns candies in exchange for the deletion of digital data from users mobile storage device dsLabs » Blog Archive » Physical Touchscreen Knobs Homesense | Interactive Architecture dot Org http://del.icio.us/russelldavies#2010-05-19 May […]

  49. 49 Teague Labs » Blog Archive » Physical Touchscreen Knobs said at 1:49 pm on May 21st, 2010:

    […] Follow this link: Teague Labs » Blog Archive » Physical Touchscreen Knobs […]

  50. 50 Science & Technology » Blog Archive » iPad 3G remains completely … | The Apple Ipad Blog said at 2:54 pm on May 21st, 2010:

    […] Teague Labs » Blog Archive » Physical Touchscreen Knobs […]

  51. 51 adaptive path » blog » Adaptive Path » Signposts for the week ending May 21, 2010 said at 1:42 am on May 22nd, 2010:

    […] Let’s get physical, physical… knobs for touchscreens. […]

  52. 52 Signposts for the week ending May 14, 2010 | Uxable said at 6:00 pm on June 7th, 2010:

    […] Whew! Here we are again. Last week we checked out how to turn touch screens back into physical inputs with this hack: Physical knobs for touchscreens. […]

  53. 53 Signposts for the week ending May 21, 2010 | Uxable said at 6:01 pm on June 7th, 2010:

    […] Let’s get physical, physical… knobs for touchscreens. […]

  54. 54 iPhone Physical Touchscreen Knob Video? | Cellular Site said at 1:00 pm on July 21st, 2010:

    […] a video demonstration of the iPhone Knob in action courtesy of the guys over at Gizmodo by way of dslabs which lasts just 16 seconds but shows just how pointless this is. I mean a touchscreen is designed […]

  55. 55 DIY: a knob for your iPhone said at 3:37 am on July 31st, 2010:

    […] like a stylus, but you don’t want to get your iPhone screen all dirty either. Easy solution, build a knob that will simulate the act of touching your iPhone screen. This is an easy build, but it’ll […]

  56. 56 The Greener Blue said at 5:12 am on August 25th, 2010:

    […] […]

  57. 57 Homemade iPhone accessory adds another gestural control: spinning | markbyben.com said at 7:26 pm on September 2nd, 2010:

    […] dsLabs, via OhGizmo! […]

  58. 58 touch and multi-touch interfaces - Blog Archive • μο. said at 11:28 am on April 5th, 2011:

    […] introduced a DIY hardware knob that can be used as a virtual, physical control on the multitouch-capable touchscreen devices. It […]

  59. 59 Touchscreen Interface Hacks | Price Gadget Reviews said at 12:21 pm on May 26th, 2011:

    […] interesting ways you can extend a touch inte&#114&#102&#97ce. Similar to work done at Teague Labs and the Reactable project, Knu&#101&#112&#102el looks to make touch interfaces even more […]

  60. 60 Tech Curl - Touchscreen Interface Hacks said at 4:28 pm on May 26th, 2011:

    […] demonstrating seven interesting ways you can extend a touch interface. Similar to work done at Teague Labs and the Reactable project, Knuepfel looks to make touch interfaces even more tactile and […]

  61. 61 Touchscreen Interface Hacks | User Car Buying Guide - 100% Free Download said at 10:14 pm on May 26th, 2011:

    […] has put together a video demonstrating 7 engaging hold UI projects. Similar to work finished during Teague Labs as well as a Reactable project, Knuepfel looks to have hold interfaces even some-more pleasing as […]

  62. 62 DIY: a knob for your iPhone | TC2011 said at 8:13 pm on July 14th, 2011:

    […] like a stylus, but you don’t want to get your iPhone screen all dirty either. Easy solution, build a knob that will simulate the act of touching your iPhone screen. This is an easy build, but it’ll […]

  63. 63 DIY: a knob for your iPhone | Tech 2 Up said at 6:11 am on July 24th, 2011:

    […] like a stylus, but you don’t want to get your iPhone screen all dirty either. Easy solution, build a knob that will simulate the act of touching your iPhone screen. This is an easy build, but it’ll […]

  64. 64 Physical Touchscreen Knobs | iPhone HD said at 8:48 am on November 28th, 2011:

    […] More dslabs.teague.com This entry was posted in Accessories. Bookmark the permalink. ← The One Minute Hack: DIY […]


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