I know, of course, that it's somewhat dangerous (not to mention illegal in many places) to operate a touch screen device while driving. That's why I've wanted to add physical controls to my system for quite a while. In fact, the latest version of the system was built with that in mind, with a structure that was prepped for it.
I had initially become pretty excited about the Flic Bluetooth button when I heard about it last year on the Tasker Google Group. I backed their project on Indiegogo and ended up ordering five of them. I've become a bit disillusioned, though. They were supposed to deliver in March, and it's now August and I still don't have them.
I had intended, originally, to mount four in the car: two on the center console for the passenger, and two on the back of the steering wheel (that mirrored the console buttons) for the driver. I figured that with two buttons, I could control just about everything in my system. I may still mount one on the console for passenger music control, but I've found something better for complete driver control.
This is a "Compact Bluetooth Gamepad" that I bought from GearBest. It only costs about $7, has a rechargeable battery, and incorporates nine buttons (including a four-way joystick) that send standard Android keycodes to your device. And with Tasker and the AutoInput plugin, I can intercept those codes and make them do anything I want. And what I want is to control the digital dash system...completely.
Here are the keycodes it sends in it's default mode. There are at least two other modes that change the mapping, but I haven't messed with those.
I've remapped all the buttons except for the Play/Pause control; that one I use as is. In addition, each of the joystick buttons uses two linked Tasker profiles to allow it to recognize two different types of activation: a short click, or a longer, held one. (I could do that with the buttons as well, but haven't needed to...yet.)
This picture shows how I've got it mounted in the car. An inverted "U-shaped" piece of plastic with a couple of self-adhesive rubber feet to hold it in place and a couple of Velcro dots to hold the controller to it. It gives me a very nice little sidearm controller that's easy to reach and use. In the descriptions that follow, "up" is toward the front of the car.
Here's a list of functions that each button can perform, broken down by screen:
On the Main Screen
Joystick Up Click - Launch Google Maps
Joystick Up Held - Show the list of pre-programmed destinations
Joystick Down Click - Launch the MyRadar weather app
Joystick Down Held - Launch the Weather Channel app
Joystick Left Click - Replay previous song
Joystick Left Held - Show the list of favorite songs
Joystick Right Click - Skip to the next (random) song
Joystick Right Held - Launch PowerAmp if the music source variable is currently set to "Local". If it's set to "Net", launch Pandora, instead
Volume Down Click - Launch Pandora and start playing my pre-existing 60's music station
Volume Up Click - Launch Pandora and start playing a mix of my pre-existing stations.
Back Key Click - Launch Pandora and start playing my pre-existing 70's Rock station
Enter Key Click - Launch GasBuddy
On Google Maps
Joystick Up Click - Return to Main Screen
Joystick Up Held - Toggle Voice Navigation on and off (uses AutoInput to press on-screen controls)
Joystick Down Click - Download A-GPS data using the GPSStatus app. (uses AutoInput to press on-screen controls. Automatically returns to the main screen.)
On Radar or Weather Apps
Joystick Click Down - Return to Main Screen
Enter Key Click - Return to Main Screen
When the Destinations List is Showing
Joystick Down Click - Step the cursor down to highlight the next destination in the list. If you try to step below the last one, it wraps around back to the top of the list.
Joystick Up Click - Step the cursor up to highlight the previous destination in the list. If you try to step above the first one, it wraps around back to the bottom of the list.
Joystick Left Click - Cancel destination selection and remove the on-screen list
Joystick Right Click - Select a destination and send it to Google Maps. Navigation starts automatically.
When the Favorite Songs List is Showing
Joystick Down Click - Step the cursor down to highlight the next song in the list. If you try to step below the last one, it wraps around back to the top of the list.
Joystick Up Click - Step the cursor up to highlight the previous song in the list. If you try to step above the first one, it wraps around back to the bottom of the list.
Joystick Left Click - Cancel song selection and remove the on-screen list
Joystick Right Click - Select a song and send it as a search to PowerAmp. The song will start playing and then the system returns automatically to the main screen.
The Play/Pause key executes the Play/Pause function regardless of what screen is showing.
It seems a bit complicated when you're just reading through the list, but the operation is really pretty intuitive (at least to me.) That's the beauty of designing your own system; you can have something that makes perfect sense to you, even if others don't see it the same way.
If you've read some of my previous entries, you might notice that there are a few functions that aren't accounted for. They're used so rarely that I didn't feel it was necessary to add those in, but if I get bored, or ambitious I might do it anyway. The missing functions are: launch ScannerRadio, set the PowerAmp EQ, toggle Auto-Brightness, and launch the fireplace app.
I just got back from a long weekend mini-vacation where we put about 700 miles on the car and the system worked very well. So far, I'm very pleased with how this part of the project has turned out.