The MaKey MaKey project is the brainchild of MIT Media Lab students Jay Silver and Eric Rosenbaum. Although the Kickstarter project has far surpassed its $25,000 funding goal, you can still get a MaKey MaKey with everything for $35.
We found this project at kickstarter.com. And of course, we love it. Just like everyone else.
PLEDGED OF $25,000 GOAL
everyone is creative, inventive, and imaginative
MaKey MaKey is a new Arduino interface board that let’s you convert everyday objects into touch-based input contraptions. Instead of using your mundane keyboard and mouse, this board lets you type and click with odd objects like pennies and candy, for example.
Here’s how the system works: The MaKey MaKey board connects to your computer via USB (without any additional software), as well as to whatever controller interface you want via a set of alligator clips. It can connect with up to six objects that conduct even the tiniest bit of electricity, so most metals and food items are fair game. You can also make it work with non-conductive objects by applying some copper tape or spritzing them with water.
What’s MaKey MaKey?
MaKey MaKey is an invention kit for the 21st century. Turn everyday objects into touchpads and combine them with the internet. It’s a simple Invention Kit for Beginners and Experts doing art, engineering, and everything inbetween:
It comes ready to use out of the box with everything you see above: MaKey MaKey, Alligator Clips, USB Cable.
What Can I Make?
That’s up to you! First, load up a computer program or any webpage (yes that’s right, you’re surfing the internet to invent).
Let’s say you load up a piano. Then, instead of using the computer keyboard buttons to play the piano, you can hook up the MaKey MaKey to something fun, like bananas, and the bananas become your piano keys:
Or let’s say you Google for an online “Pacman” game and draw a joystick with a pencil (yes, an actual ordinary pencil):
Then you can play Pacman by touching the drawing with your finger.
Or you could load up facebook or gmail and send a message on a custom-made alphabet soup keyboard:
How Does it Work?
Alligator Clip two objects to the MaKey MaKey board. For example, you and an apple.
When you touch the apple, you make a connection, and MaKey MaKey sends the computer a keyboard message. The computer just thinks MaKey MaKey is a regular keyboard (or mouse). Therefore it works with all programs and webpages, because all programs and webpages take keyboard and mouse input.
Make + Key = MaKey MaKey!
Who is MaKey MaKey For?
Artists, Kids, Educators, Engineers, Designers, Inventors, Makers… Really it is for everyone. Here is an 8-year-old girl in a Maker Space:
She invented a “knife-and-log” interface for cutting virtual wood in an online game.
We ran a workshop in February 2012 with some professors and grad students who specialize in interaction design. One grad student made this beachball game controller:
Another grad student made this working pressure sensitive switch by layering Play-Doh under a spring:
The workshop took place at Queen’s University during a conference.
With MaKey MaKey, kids can start inventing right away, and experts can make working prototypes in minutes instead of days.
What materials work with MaKey Makey?
Any material that can conduct at least a tiny bit of electricity will work (if it doesn’t already work, just rub it with bananas, spray it with water, or apply copper tape). Here are some materials people have used in our workshops including Ketchup, Pencil Graphite, Finger Paint, Lemons, etc.:
Other materials that work great: Plants, Coins, Your Grandma, Silverware, Anything that is Wet, Most Foods, Cats and Dogs, Aluminum Foil, Rain, and hundreds more…
MaKey MaKey works with any laptop or computer with a USB port and a recent operating system. How recent? We have tried it with Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7, and Mac OSX.
Why Are You Creating MaKey MaKey?
We believe that everyone is creative, inventive, and imaginative. We believe that everyone can create the future and change the world. So we have dedicated our lives to making easy-to-use invention kits. We believe that the whole world is a construction kit, if we choose to see it that way.
We are inspired by the Maker Movement. We want to help people start to think of themselves as Makers and agents of change. When you have the “Maker’s Mindset,” you know you can change the world.
Why Are you Doing a Kickstarter?
If we raise $25,000 then we can do a large first run, which brings the retail cost down significantly, so that we can sell the kit to you for $35 (including shipping). We want this to be accessible to beginners, educators, artists, inventors, engineers, and anyone else regardless of income.
We are raising Kickstarter money to fund the first large run of MaKey MaKey kits. That is why most of the rewards are kits themselves. That’s what we’re spending the money on: manufacturing the kits.
Have You Prototyped This?
Everything in the video is real, running on either the first or the second prototype. Two years ago, we created the first prototype for MaKey MaKey, and ran a workshop at the San Francisco Exploratorium where people made “Drum Pants” and “Tweet Tea”:
Then we built the second prototype from 2011 to 2012, and we tested it with professional interaction designers. It looks like this:
Our third prototype was just made, and will be tested at the Maker Faire and by 100 beta testers. It looks like this:
Now we are designing the kit a fourth time. This will be the kit you, our KickStarter supporters, will receive. It will look mostly like the third prototype, with some aesthetic modifications.
How Are You Manufacturing the Circuits?
We are collaborating with the amazing team at Sparkfun. Sparkfun is the perfect choice for us because they make safe, environmentally responsible (RoHS compliant) circuit boards. They are located in the USA (in Boulder, CO), and they treat their employees fantastically. Workers are paid a generous wage with benefits, can bring their dogs to work, listen to music while they work, etc. That may sound like it should be “normal”, but in the world of circuit production it is very rare and there are lots of sad working conditions elsewhere. Also, Sparkfun is the world’s largest manufacturer of Open Source Hardware, which is critical to MaKey MaKey, an all Open Source Hardware project.
We worked closely with Jim Lindblom and others from the Sparkfun team to get the board ready for manufacturing. We’re grateful to have them as our partners in this project. With their help we will be done manufacturing and shipping by the end of August. They have a lot of experience meeting deadlines.
What Does the Back of the Board Look Like?
The back of the board has hookups for 6 keyboard keys, and mouse control. It also has the open hardware logo, a link for help getting started, and an area for using the board in Arduino mode.
Wait… Is this thing an Arduino?
You could say this board is 2 for the price of 1. MaKey MaKey runs on top of Arduino. You can start using your MaKey MaKey board in “Arduino mode” at any time. This would allow you to spin motors, turn on LEDs, or anything else that an Arduino can do. If you want to learn to use Arduino or other electronics, but want to start without any programming or breadboarding, MaKey MaKey is a good starting point. There’s no need to understand Arduino in order to use MaKey MaKey.
Seriously, I Am a Geek, Tell Me All the Krazy Tech Stuff
MaKey MaKey is a printed circuit board with an ATMega32u4 microcontroller running Arduino Leonardo bootloader. It uses the Human Interface Device (HID) protocol to communicate with your computer, and it can send keypresses, mouse clicks, and mouse movements. For sensing closed switches on the digital input pins, we use high resistance switching to make it so you can close a switch even through materials like your skin, leaves, and play-doh. We use a pull-up resistor of 10-50 mega ohms. This technique attracts noise on the input, so we use a moving window averager to lowpass the noise in software, saving money on hardware filtering. There are six inputs on the front of the board, which can be attached to via alligator clipping, soldering to the pads, or any other method you can think of. There are another 12 inputs on the back, 6 for keyboard keys, and 6 for mouse motion, which you can access with jumpers via the female headers. If you wish to use a different set of keys, or otherwise change the behavior of your MaKey MaKey, you can simply reprogram it using the Arduino environment. By cutting a trace on the back of the board, you can disconnect the large pull-up resistors if you want to, which would be necessary in a small minority of Arduino-style projects. Have more geeky questions? Post them in the comments and we’ll answer them.
The homepage for MaKey MaKey is makeymakey.com
Here is the Press Page for photo links etc.
“DIY circuit turns your alphabet soup into a keyboard” ~New Scientist
“It’s by far the coolest Kickstarter project I’ve seen to date” ~Kotaku