Orlie's Coffee Machine Upgrade Boosts Accessibility By Swapping a Touchscreen for Chunky Buttons

With the factory touchscreen proving an accessibility barrier, this Arduino-powered upgrade prods the panel on your behalf.

Pseudonymous maker "Orlie" has penned a guide to making an off-the-shelf coffee machine considerably more accessible — taking features that previously required interacting with a touchscreen and making them available on large physical buttons.

"Some people have trouble to interact with touchscreen based coffee machines," Orlie explains. "Therefore, we build an easy to use adapter, with which the coffee machine can be used by wireless buttons. All coffee options are presented in an MATLAB-based app. By using Button One we can toggle through all options. With Button Two we can select the option, and with Button Three we can reset the menu."

The heart of the system is an Arduino GIGA R1 WiFi development board, which controls an extension to an off-the-shelf coffee machine — using, cleverly, motors and rails from an old 3D printer that are capable of moving a "finger" around the machine and poking at the touchscreen under programmatic control.

These motors are driven by a MATLAB application — though, as the system uses MQTT to communicate under the hood, Orlie notes it could be replaced with Python, JavaScript, or anything else capable of talking MQTT — which listens out for inputs from three chunky arcade-style buttons in 3D-printed houses. Inside each housing is an Espressif ESP8266-based microcontroller board and a pair of AA batteries, allowing the buttons to be used entirely wirelessly.

As Orlie notes, using the system is simple: just scroll through the options with the first wireless button, then lock the choice in with the second button to enjoy a cup of your preferred coffee without having to peer and poke at the small touchscreen fitted to the machine at the factory. The third button, meanwhile, cancels out and returns to the start of the menu tree.

Orlie's full guide is available on Instructables, including the 3D print files and source code required to give your own coffee machine an accessibility upgrade. Those working on similar projects, meanwhile, should check out our Build2gether 2.0 Inclusive Innovation Challenge, which has 200 hardware "SUPERBOX" prizes to give away to anyone working on projects to improve accessibility and inclusivity in the real world.

Gareth Halfacree
Freelance journalist, technical author, hacker, tinkerer, erstwhile sysadmin. For hire: freelance@halfacree.co.uk.
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