Electronics

MaKey MaKey turns anything into a touchpad

MaKey MaKey turns anything int...
A game controller made from paper and Play-Doh
A game controller made from paper and Play-Doh
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The very first Makey Makey prototype, breadboard and all
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The very first Makey Makey prototype, breadboard and all
The second Makey Makey prototype in attractive PCB green
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The second Makey Makey prototype in attractive PCB green
The Makey Makey board is connected to and powered by a computer via USB
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The Makey Makey board is connected to and powered by a computer via USB
A grad student made this working pressure sensitive switch by layering Play-Doh under a spring
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A grad student made this working pressure sensitive switch by layering Play-Doh under a spring
Spelling out a word using alphabet soup and then touching the letters to create an email message or status update
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Spelling out a word using alphabet soup and then touching the letters to create an email message or status update
An alligator clip connected to the Makey Makey board can be secured to anything that conducts even the tiniest amount of electricity
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An alligator clip connected to the Makey Makey board can be secured to anything that conducts even the tiniest amount of electricity
Examples of some of the items which can be used as touch interfaces using Makey Makey
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Examples of some of the items which can be used as touch interfaces using Makey Makey
The back of the third Makey Makey prototype, showing 12 more inputs and Arduino connections
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The back of the third Makey Makey prototype, showing 12 more inputs and Arduino connections
A banana can be mapped to a computer keyboard key or mouse click using Makey Makey
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A banana can be mapped to a computer keyboard key or mouse click using Makey Makey
Bananas being used as piano keys in a software learning suite
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Bananas being used as piano keys in a software learning suite
The front of the third Makey Makey prototype showing six inputs on the front of the board for attaching alligator clips, which are mapped to the arrow keys and space bar on a computer keyboard and the left button of a mouse
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The front of the third Makey Makey prototype showing six inputs on the front of the board for attaching alligator clips, which are mapped to the arrow keys and space bar on a computer keyboard and the left button of a mouse
An 8 year-old user creates a knife-and-log interface for cutting virtual wood in an online game
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An 8 year-old user creates a knife-and-log interface for cutting virtual wood in an online game
Using other people as keys on a virtual synthesizer
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Using other people as keys on a virtual synthesizer
Rendering of the front of the Makey Makey circuit board
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Rendering of the front of the Makey Makey circuit board
The Makey Makey kit will consist of a main project board, clips and cables
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The Makey Makey kit will consist of a main project board, clips and cables
Using pencil-drawn icons to control an online game of Pacman
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Using pencil-drawn icons to control an online game of Pacman
The Makey Makey board clipped to Play-Doh, which act as game controllers
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The Makey Makey board clipped to Play-Doh, which act as game controllers
A game controller made from paper and Play-Doh
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A game controller made from paper and Play-Doh
The Makey Makey kit will consist of a main project board, clips and cables
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The Makey Makey kit will consist of a main project board, clips and cables

As I discovered when reviewing the Minty Geek Electronics Lab a while back, experimenting with circuit building can be a great deal of fun. There was one particular project in this kit that made use of the human body to complete a circuit, with a simple lie detector test being the end result. With their Makey Makey open source hardware project, Jay Silver and Eric Rosenbaum have taken such touch interaction to a much more entertaining and inventive degree. Everyday objects like bananas, coins, and even Play-Doh can be transformed into a computer keyboard key or mouse click to control onscreen gaming action, play software-based instruments or type out short messages.

Based on research at MIT Media Lab's Lifelong Kindergarten and two years in the making, the Makey Makey printed board features six inputs on the front for attaching alligator clips. These are assigned to the arrow keys and space bar on a computer keyboard and the left button of a mouse. The other end of the clip can be secured to anything that conducts even the tiniest amount of electricity.

Bananas being used as piano keys in a software learning suite
Bananas being used as piano keys in a software learning suite

With a website, game or learning program loaded into the USB-connected computer, a user would then grab a cable running from the earth strip with one hand and make contact with the chosen object with the other. The upshot of all this wizardry is that things like bananas can be used as piano keys in a software learning suite, some Play-Doh or pencil drawn shapes/icons on a piece of paper can act as controls for onscreen gameplay, and a short message made from alphabet soup can type an email or status update when touched.

As the input commands are sent to the computer in the Human Interface Device (HID) protocol, the newly-created touch interface should work on any computer, and is certain to be as popular with aging geeks like myself as it is with inquisitive young minds.

Makey Makey has gone from first breadboard prototype through two more working units and is now entering its final production stage. Silver and Rosenbaum hope that the simple-to-use kit will encourage everyone to tinker with electronics. In fact, the custom board runs on top of Arduino and can be switched into Arduino mode at any time for more advanced electronics experimentation.

The back of the third Makey Makey prototype, showing 12 more inputs and Arduino connections
The back of the third Makey Makey prototype, showing 12 more inputs and Arduino connections

The custom board features an ATMega32u4 microcontroller running Arduino Leonardo bootloader, and makes use of high resistance switching to enable detection of a closed circuit. There are a further 12 inputs on the back split between keyboard and mouse controls for more involved projects.

Silver and Rosenbaum recently listed the project on crowd-funding portal Kickstarter to help bring the Makey Makey kit into its first production run, and it's already attracted a good deal more than its original funding target.

The developers have priced the kit – which includes the board, clips and cables – at US$35 per unit. Makey Makey will also be available from manufacturing partners Sparkfun later in the year.

MaKey MaKey - An Invention Kit for Everyone

Sources: Kickstarter, Makey Makey

4 comments
Richardf
The idea of a universal controller of many or any objects is fascinating.
Andrew Christianson
I couldn't stop laughing throughout the video! This is a wonderful idea.
Stacey Erbay
I want a Makey Makey..... where can I buyey buyey????? This would be wonderful fun in the classroom! Students will go wild! O:-)
Facebook User
brilliant! want.