Push to Talk

22 February 2013 2:40pm | Posted by Alex

I spend a lot of time on Skype, either on conference calls or calling into meetings. Because noise reduction is imperfect, I try to keep my microphone muted when I'm not talking, so we don't accidentally develop feedback. But as often as not when I go to speak, I miss clicking on the unmute button in Skype and have to start the sentence again, which makes it hard to interject in a timely way. Plus it would be nice if the muting interface was the same even when we use Google Hangouts or other video conferencing software. So to deal with this I put together a simple push to talk switch.

The mac app Shush is a partial solution. It's a master microphone mute that lets you push to talk (or push to mute) by holding down a combination of control keys. But it doesn't quite solve the problem for me, as to save desk space I use a Logitech Easy Switch Keyboard connected to several computers and much of the time I'm on Skype on one and typing on the other, so push to talk from the keyboard doesn't help.

The solution I put together is to use a Teensy 3.0 microcontroller, which is an Arduino compatible board with a micro USB port and built in HID emulation, to make a single button keyboard. The button is a normally open pushbutton with a good action and the case is an old parallel port switch, chosen for its relative heft. The source code is included below.

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