Touchpads with multi-touch support can have some pretty neat functionality. The Sensel Morph, however, is like a touchpad on steroids. In addition to multi-touch support, it is pressure-sensitive and can swap its top layer to become almost any type of controller.
Sensel says that the aim of the Morph was to create a computer input device that would do justice to the expressive capabilities of our hands. The closest thing on the market, it says, is Apple's Force Touch, which can be found in the new Macbook Pros. The company explains, however, that whereas Force Touch uses four sensors and detects one overall force, Morph has 20,000 sensors and detects the individual pressure of each contact point.
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The individual sensor elements are spaced 1.25 mm apart. This makes the device able to capture a high-resolution image of any pressure applied to it. Its sensitivity is said to be such that it can detect different objects, such as paintbrushes or drumsticks.
The Morph measures 240 x 169.5 x 6.75 mm (9.4 x 6.7 x 0.3 in) and is powered by a built-in rechargeable lithium-polymer battery which will reportedly last for around 14 hours in use or a month on standby. The device is compatible with Windows, Mac, Linux and iOS devices, and can connect to a computer via USB, to a tablet via Bluetooth Low Energy, or to an Arduino via developer cables.
Different overlays with different layouts can be placed on top of the Morph for different activities, allowing it to literally morph into different types of controllers. The thin, flexible layers are held in place by magnets and are also automatically recognized by the device. Users will be able to create their own overlays using a web-based drag-and-drop interface, before sharing them in an online community.
Among the overlays that have been created by Sensel are a music production controller, a QWERTY keyboard, a video game controller and a piano keyboard. It's also possible to use multiple Morph devices together. Four of the devices used together, for example, can act as a 96-key piano keyboard, which, as Sensel points out, is more keys than grand piano has.
Other ways in which the Morph can be used include using (clean) paintbrushes on it to give a brushstroke effect that is otherwise difficult to replicate digitally, and sketching on a piece of paper on top of it to capture the image digitally. Musicians and gamers can benefit from the pressure sensitivity of the device, with greater levels of control afforded to them.
A Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign is underway for the Sensel Morph. At the time of writing, individuals who pledge from US$249 can receive a Morph unit, assuming all goes to plan. Shipping is expected from June of next year.
The video below is the Kickstarter pitch for the Sensel Morph and provides an introduction to the device.