Jun 6, 2016 | By Alec

Have you ever been in one of those situations at the office where you didn’t have the time or energy to type out a complete message? When you’re out of coffee, are locked in the stairwell or when a meeting is delayed? Thanks to the new SlackAlert button, a 3D printed creation by product and marketing developers Viget, you’ll never have to type out the whole message ever again. Simply press the button, and a predetermined message is posted in the relevant Slack channels for your coworkers to see.

Of course this whole tool is completely dependent on the Slack communications network. For those of you who are not yet using it in the office, it’s an increasingly popular cloud-based system of communication channels that conveniently organizes every team or project conversation you’re a part of. Perfect for removing some clutter from overfull inboxes and adding some clarity to a busy office life. Increasingly used since 2013, it is also gaining traction at universities, clubs and private homes.

While you would normally choose the relevant conversation and type out your complete message, the 3D printed SlackAlert can now take care of that with the push of a single button – without screens. The message will be posted instantly, alerting everyone that the office is out of coffee - again. What’s more, its LED lights will spring into action if the message receives a response. It has been built by the interactive Viget agency, who previously made headlines with the fantastic 3D printed Twitter-powered horse brooch at the Kentucky Derby, which jumped into action live on TV whenever someone used a specific twitter handle.

As Viget’s Hardware Developer Justin Sinichko explained, the SlackAlert button is somewhat similar to that brooch, and was born out of their own fantastic office experiences with Slack. “We use it on our computers and phones but wanted to create a way to send messages to and from Slack sans screens. We’ve all been caught in situations without the ability to Slack ASAP, whether it’s finding yourself locked in the office stairwell, running low on cereal, or ringing the sales gong. That’s why we created SlackAlert, a magic piece of hardware that integrates with every Slack channel,” he says.

While the physical button isn’t commercially available, Justin invites everyone to build a SlackAlert at home. That’s why this 3D printing project is completely open source, from its hardware components to the internal software. If you’re interested, you can find Justin’s tutorial here. As he explains, it’s quite simple to make this fantastic little gadget, which you can install in all corners of any office environment.

At its core is a Particle Internet Button (with LEDs), built around a powerful Photon kit that relays the predetermined message through Wi-Fi. This hardware is all packaged in a 3D printed casing and mount, which Viget made from translucent and opaque ABS filament. “Designed to endure literally thousands of years of wear-and-tear, the co-polyester base and cover work together to cradle the internet button like a tiny robotic newborn,” Justin says of the print.

The custom software setup for the SlackAlert runs on a Screenless framework, an open source AUI that Viget often uses for rapid prototyping. This connects the circuit board and web application that integrates the SlackAlert with your office’s Slack environment. Through it, makers can select precisely which organization and conversation receives what message at the click of a button.

All in all, it’s a relatively simple engineering project to work on, and can be as simple or difficult as you want it to be. The only real expense is in the $50 Particle Internet Button, which can be connected to Wi-Fi by following Particle’s instructions. The only downside to this button is that it has been connected to 11 permanent LEDs which constantly draw a current. If you want to increase the SlackAlert’s battery life, you might want to go for a wired approach as the Viget team has done. To do so, follow their tutorial here. “It should press in relatively easy, but will take some work to get out. Be certain everything is fitting at this point and the orientation of components are correct,” they say.

But of course you can also go as crazy as you want with it. Why not combine multiple buttons for multiple messages? You’ll never have to type out anything out again. After assembly, it’s a simple matter of copying Viget’s firmware, which can all be found in the tutorial. Just follow Justin’s installation instructions, and office life could become a whole lot easier and more fun in no time.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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