Swifty and the Beam

Swifty and the Beam are a pair of gadgets which use infrared to pass clicks from switches to devices, all without wires and a net!

This is just a quick review for my toolchain series. The Swifty and the Beam 1 from Origin Instruments are a pair of accessibility devices; they hook up your switch (mine is the Buddy Button) to your computer (laptop, desktop, or anything else that needs a mouse and has a USB port in it).

The Beam!

You plug your button into The Beam - it has three jack ports - and it beams a signal to the Swifty on clicking. It can also do right mouse clicks, and is apparently able to emulate a joystick although I’ve never tried this.

You connect your switch to the Beam with a 3.5 mm jack which is the standard plug on almost every accessibility switch I’ve ever seen. There are obviously some exceptions but if you’ve got an accessibility switch it will most likely have a 3.5 mm jack on the end of it. It’s the same as a headphone plug. You can’t plug this right into the corresponding port on your computer though, you gotta buy all this other stuff to make it work.

Cue drum roll and dramatic music

The Swifty!

The Swifty is the receiver. It’s a little USB stick and you plug it right into your computer’s USB port. It receives the infra red from the Beam and converts it to an input the computer can understand. You can’t use the IR receiver on your computer, though… you gotta buy all this other stuff to make it work! :P

You don’t strictly need to use Swifty with the Beam; you can plug your button straight into the jack on the Swifty, but this has two distinct drawbacks: (1) it literally tethers you to the computer so if you have spasms or you are in a power chair, you can easily accidentally trash your machine this way, and (2) you can’t rage quit during an online conversation and just storm off without ripping the cable out of the back of your computer. I mean, who can live under those conditions!
Also, splitting them up seems a little cruel to me.

So if you can, get them both. With both of them you gain the ability to have some distance from the machine you’re controlling, and you’re also free to move around in your wheelchair and come back to your work and carry on without having to ask and wait for someone to come and untie you. And who doesn’t want that?!

Setup is really easy. Take them out of the box, put batteries in the Beam, plug your button into the Beam and the Swifty into the computer, and you’re off to the races. All you have to decide is: which accessibility switch are you going to use (the Buddy Button, obv), do you want left click, right click or joystick emulation and where are you going to put the Beam while it’s in use.

( I rest mine on my right knee. This is not ideal because it falls off, so I suggest mounting your using Velcro to somewhere on your chair if you use your computer whilst driving a wheelchair. I used to have mine mounted this way and it was better except I kept forgetting to have it taken off when I went outside and it rains too much here for that to be a good long term plan!)


POSTSCRIPT: you know, the urge to make Pinky and the Brain references is so strong. So here we are, just because:

  1. You can buy these separately but I recommend buying them as a bundle.