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Palette uses analog knobs and dials to give you greater control over your digital world

palette modular controller matte aluminum

Do you remember when electronics used to have knobs and sliders? These analog switches were how we interacted with our AM/FM radios, televisions, and recording soundboards. Digital technology has pretty much done away with these components, yet it has also made working with our devices that much more difficult – why do we need keyboard shortcuts or convoluted menus just to brighten a screen? Well, some smart Canadians have developed the Palette, a customizable, easy-to-use hardware system that lets us do just that: controlling everyday functions simply and quickly by turning a dial or moving a slider up and down.


Inspired by their love for Lego bricks, the Palette is made up of different modules that you connect together to fit your workflow. Each module is either for power (which has an OLED screen to show you which current application it’s configured for), a button, a dial, or a slider. Everything starts with a power module, which you connect to your computer via USB and the Palette Desktop App. From there, you can chain together as many different button, dial, or slider modules. They can be combined in different ways to suit your desktop space or your OCD workflow habits. Out of the box the Palette supports Adobe Creative Suite; music software like Traktor and Abelton; and even Web-based software like Google Maps and Spotify.

The Palette in wood.
The Palette in wood.

There are a variety of users who can benefit from the Palette. DJs can use it to mimic the levels of a real soundboard; photographers and designers can access frequently used functions with much more refinement that moving your mouse across the screen or finger across the touchpad; and even gamers for executing certain moves in game. Even if you’re not any of these types of users, having a button, slider, and dial next to your keyboard just looks cool. The modules come in either wood or aluminum, and they have LEDs that light up as indicators. The creators, Calvin Chu and Ashish Bidadi, plan to release a software development kit to allow other developers to put Palette compatibility with their software.

Like so many of these cool ideas these days, the creators have hit Kickstarter to help fund the project, which they just launched today. They have a goal of $100,000 (CAD) with a deadline of 45 days. To get in as an early supporter, they’re offering an early bird special of $89 for one power, one button, one dial, and one slider module. The more you invest, the more modules they’ll throw in. If successful, they’re looking to ship the first batch to Kickstarter supporters around June 2014.

As much as we embrace the digital life, we love the old analog days when life was simpler. When 3Dconnexion came out with its 3D mouse, we loved the concept of using a big knob to control certain computing functions. The Palette channels that simplicity but takes it to the next level.

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