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MaKey MaKey invention kit USB input device

by Mark Tyson on 17 May 2012, 00:19

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Do you fancy making your own joypad from bits of play-doh, turning your stairs into a piano keyboard or even substituting your space bar with a banana? All this capability and more can be yours, limited mainly by your imagination, if you buy the $35 Makey Makey invention kit available via Kickstarter.

Inventors Jay Silver and Eric Rosenbaum have published details, pictures and a very entertaining video on the Kickstarter crowdfunding website of their project entitled “MaKey MaKey: An Invention Kit for Everyone”. The kit turns “anything” into a touchpad or key. The $35 kit consists of a circuit board, USB cable and crocodile clips to attach to your substitute input device components. Jay and Eric, final-year PhD students at the MIT Media Lab, have already reached their funding goal of $25,000 so the MaKey MaKeys will definitely be produced. In fact this is another Kickstarter rip-roaring success as they have over double their funding target already with nearly a month to go, as I write.


MaKey MaKey video demonstration


The video illustrates best the wide range of fun applications of the MaKey MaKey but it’s also possible that the device will be used to seriously help people who might not be able or inclined to work with a regular keyboard/mouse combination - at an attractive price. The invention has been tested and works on Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7, and Mac OSX operating systems. The materials that work as input devices need to conduct just a tiny bit of electricity and if they don’t then you can rub them with bananas until they do!


Play-doh joypad in action


I shall quote the technical basis of how the MaKey MaKey works straight from the Kickstarter website: “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.”

My favourite MaKey MaKey uses so far are the following:

  • Piano stairs
  • Water bucket dance dance revolution
  • Play dough joypad
  • Beach ball game controller

However there are many more MaKey MaKey usage pictures and videos at the Kickstarter website and some other cool suggestions in the comments there. I especially like the suggestion of combining the MaKey MaKey with a Raspberry Pi...

HEXUS Forums :: 5 Comments

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This could be interesting. Agreed on the piano stairs as well.
Looks fun.
Love it. It seems like such a simple and user friendly device I'm amazed i didn't think of it (damn!).
Really like the Play-Doh game pad, brought a smile to my face. :)
Checked their website looks it should be available in august hopefully it'll come soon to the UK & I'll buy one (I'm sitting here thinking of all the possibilities!)
Hmmm hook this up to a Raspberry Pi to make a nice HTPC. Armchair remote anybody?
Amusing gimmick, and would probably entertain me for an hour or so. But would I buy one? No.
Just imagine a catapult/slingshot attached to this board, real life Angry Birds minus the mess of spattered animals and falling bricks etc

p.S. I want one!