Awesome Stuff: One Great Knob
from the turn-anything-up-to-11 dept
For the past few weeks, we’ve been looking at selections of cool Kickstarter projects — but this week we’re going back to taking a closer look at one interesting offering: the nOb, a multi-functional control peripheral with a unique approach to what it does.
There are no shortage of USB knobs, sliders and switches out there, and they pretty much all come to us from the music production world, and are all MIDI-based. In fact, in the past, I’ve criticized devices for bucking that standard — but the nOb does so for a good reason: it’s not just about music.
Instead of MIDI-over-USB, the nOb uses a USB serial standard and is designed to interact with all sorts of software interfaces. Anything that can be clicked-and-dragged onscreen can be controlled with the nOb by simply hovering your cursor over it. Thus, far beyond just music software, it can control things like the playhead in video editing software, or the adjustment sliders and canvas panning in Photoshop, or for that matter any scroll-bar in any app. Its exact input style is controlled by two switches on the device, and both these switches as well as the knob are all touch-sensitive, allowing for an additional layer of customizable control with various taps and double-taps.
The simple flexibility of the nOb is what makes it noteworthy. Though it probably seems like a simple toy to casual users, it has a lot of potential for a wide variety of professional tasks in music, video, design, illustration, photography, animation, 3D modelling and anything else that requires hours hunched over a keyboard and mouse, navigating a complex project and tweaking hundreds of settings to perfection.
For now, I have few if any reservations. It seems a little on the pricey side at €150, but once you look at the quality of construction and consider the touch-sensitive controls, it’s pretty justifiable. It would be nice to see it include a MIDI-based option (and indeed, this is one of the stretch goals) since the mouse-hover control system will not always be ideal for music applications, especially complex workflows that rely on MIDI as a near-universal standard — but this isn’t a case of ignoring a good standard out of hubris or ignorance. It’s a conscious choice to try something different that opens up huge new possibilities, and the nOb’s USB serial interface is also open and developer-friendly.
The Beautiful & Hackable
It can’t go entirely unmentioned that the nOb looks very nice — and there’s no reason to doubt the claim that it feels very nice too, given the mahogany enclosure and the solid aluminum knob. Also, in keeping with the tradition of the great analog synthesizers and mixer boards of old, it’s designed to be easily physically hackable for the tinkerers out there: everything is screwed together and easily disassembled.