My next throttle

 photo ESU-MobileControl-II-Matt_zpscokoid7h.jpg
(Matthew from ESU has plenty of reasons to smile, as he shows off the Mobile Control II WiFi throttle. Click on the image to read more on the ESU website)

Yesterday, a friend and I visited George’s Trains and The Credit Valley Railway Company – my two go-to hobby shops in the Greater Toronto Area. And in both locations, we ran into Matthew Herman – general manager of ESU LLC, the North American arm of the German company that creates the awesome LokSound DCC/sound decoders.

Matt was in the area to visit various customers and show off some products – including what is destined to become my next standard for throttles on my layout.

Regular readers know I’m a fan of TouchCab – a throttle application that runs on Apple wireless devices and interfaces with Lenz DCC systems without the need for a computer running JMRI. (Unfortunately, TouchCab’s developer has announced that he’s closing down the business – so if you want a copy of it, now’s the time to get it.)

Generally, those who have experienced TouchCab on my layout have enjoyed it. They like the software-based throttle, which can be modified for various situations (for example, for left-handed or right-handed operators), and they like the well-lit screen for finding various function keys. But some have missed the tactile feel of a throttle knob, direction switches, and so on. Running with a button-less throttle requires looking at the throttle to make sure one is pressing the correct control. So using a software-defined throttle isn’t for everyone.

That’s where ESU’s Mobile Control II is set to really shine.

 photo ESU-MobileControl-II-Box_zpslvgknbuc.jpg

This WiFi-connected wireless cab combines the best features a traditional throttle with the power of a software-defined model. I had a chance to look over Matt’s sample at Credit Valley. It wasn’t powered up – but I’m already impressed.

The unit feels really nice in the hand and the large throttle knob rolls nicely under the thumb. The throttle has a number of buttons on the sides which may be mapped to any function key, so you can put your most frequently-used functions within easy reach.

The lower 2/3 of the throttle is a capacitive touch-screen interface, which most of us are familiar with thanks to Apple and Android devices. This will display all the features and functions that we currently enjoy on throttle applications such as WiThrottle.

I can’t wait.

Now, the catch: ESU makes the hardware, and has created an open source platform based on the Android system. But it’s up to throttle apps developers to update their apps – or code new ones – to work with this controller. I’m not a coder so I’m not sure about the work required to do that, but my impression from Matt is that ESU is keen to work with those who are to integrate their apps on the Mobile Control II.

If you’re writing a throttle app – or considering writing one – I encourage you to contact Matt at LokSound to find out more. You’ll find Matt’s contact information here. I look forward to trying your Mobile Control II-compatible throttle app in the not-too-distant future!

Great to talk with you yesterday, Matt. Thanks for visiting!

8 thoughts on “My next throttle

  1. Sounds like a neat throttle. I use and quite like the WiiThrottle app on an old Apple iPod but do miss the dial that was so much a part of every DC throttle I’ve ever built or used – I never quite caught onto keypad-based speed control (push 7 to go faster or frantically hammer on 3 as you find the end of the siding was closer than you thought). I didn’t realise that ESU made throttles too. Cool.

    /chris

  2. Trevor:

    The fly in the ointment here is I don’t see the economic benefit to a developer (wasn’t the TouchCab app. only $7.95 on iTunes?) to write the code to interface the ESU Mobile Control II to other mfg. DCC systems as it currently only works for the ESU ECOS DCC system. The previous ESU Mobile Control I which I am using was able to be used with my Lenz system. If ESU wants to sell the Mobile Control II for other DCC systems it seems like they should be writing the code as they have the working knowledge of the controller and have already done it for ECOS. What am I missing here?

    Rod

    • Well, I’m hoping I haven’t mis-interpreted what I heard from Matt yesterday. I’ve emailed him to have him look over this post and I will correct any errors that he discovers. Stay tuned!

      • There’s an interesting – but brief – review of the device on Lokgeek, as part of a report on the 2014 Nuremberg Toy Fair. Note that it is from 2014, so it’s a bit dated.
        It appears that ESU has an app for the ECOS II that allows you to use the knob. But the API is open to allow app developers to enhance their apps to take advantage of this piece of hardware.

        • Hi Trevor, thanks for mentioning my blog. This wasn’t so much a review of the Mobile Control II as a rant against Uhlenbrock’s competiting product.
          I have seen the Mobile Control II in fairs but haven’t used it extensively, still looks like a great product though!

          I have sadly updated my article on the ECOS II, disappointed to learn thanks to Trevor that Touchcab was closing down.
          I was indeed pointing out that the ESU Mobile Control II is an open product for developers. They have published their API on GitHub (https://github.com/esugmbh/mobilecontrol2-sdk), developers will know what this means.
          In fact, I think RocRail already has a working Android App using the throttle as well.

          Happy modern model railroading!
          Pierre

  3. Not true that it only works with ECOS. It works on a wireless interface with any DCC system from what I understand from Matt. Also you can plug a headset into your throttle and call up the dispatcher on Skype. How cool is that?

    • I had the same impression, but that until the apps developers update their offerings, the physical knob and buttons only work with ECOS. That said, I’m in touch with Matt and will seek clarification.
      Cheers!

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