This is a converted old video intercom, with modern search functions added!
It connects to a PC or laptop and lifting the phone handset automatically launches Chrome on the computer and activates Google Voice Search. Speak your search into the handset microphone and the results appear on screen, with audio feedback through the handset's speaker.
I use voice search on my phone a lot and this gives me the same capability on my workshop PC, but using adapted old technology to make it fun!
The first two red buttons are programmable, and are currently set up to Skype call my wife and shut down the PC, respectively. The other red buttons control the inbuilt digital photo frame, which displays a slideshow of appropriate images - one to power it on/off and the other to manually advance the image.
Step 1: The Big Idea
I wanted to reuse this old intercom phone, but in a project more interactive than I'd built before - it sat around for almost a year waiting for an idea. Initially I thought of just putting a photo frame in it for decoration, but after reading this instructable about repurposing keyboard keys and this lifehacker article about Google Voice Search I was inspired!
I found out more about AutoHotkey (which is awesome) and did some experiments using hotkey scripts to launch Chrome and send the Voice Search keyboard shortcut (CTRL + SHIFT + .), which worked well, but which keyboard button to re-use to fire the script? I didn't want to run loads of wires from the existing keyboard, or remap a key that would be needed in everyday use, also keyboard guts would be too big to build into the case. Next I tested it with a mouse, thinking the middle button could be used - this worked too, but I wanted to have multiple buttons!
Reading through the AutoHotkey commands list I spotted that you can use Joypad buttons, and this was the perfect solution - multiple buttons in a small package, using a standard plug & play USB connection.