This pressure-sensitive, multi-touch input device will enable users to interact with the digital world like never before.
Despite all the advancements in technology, the keyboard and mouse have collectively withstood the test of time, remaining relatively unchanged for decades — until now. That’s because Mountain View, California startup Sensel is hoping to usher in a new generation of multi-touch interaction with an input device that they call the Morph.
Powered by the company’s patented Pressure Grid technology, the Morph will let users interact with computers and programs in a whole new way. While on the surface it may appear to look like an ordinary trackpad, it is far from that. Inside lies approximately 20,000 sensors (or “sensels”) that can detect and measure the force of even the slightest touch. And given that it’s not a capacitive touch device, it doesn’t require a human to press on its outer force-sensing material. Instead, any object ranging from a paintbrush to a drumstick will do the trick.
“Unlike other touch technologies, which can only sense conductive objects, each of the sensor elements in our device senses pressure with a high dynamic range. These sensors allow us to capture a high-resolution image of the pressure applied to the device. Highly tuned algorithms on the device take these pressure images and turn them into a list of touch locations, each with their own force and shape information,” its creators write.
What’s nice is that the Morph works right out of the box with an assortment of applications, and is even hackable for the tech-savvy bunch. Simply connect it to your computer via USB, to your iPad over Bluetooth, or to your Atmel powered Arduino with developer cables, and you’re good to go.
As its name would imply, the unit can literally “morph” depending upon your activities throughout the day. This is achieved with the help of magnetic, fully customizable overlays (each shipment will come with three) that are placed over the gadget and instantly provide a visual “map” for each mode’s unique functionality. Backers can choose from a QWERTY keyboard, a music production controller, a piano, a drum pad, a game console, an art overlay, as well as one more to be decided by the Kickstarter community.
What’s more, Sensel has introduced an “innovator’s” overlay, which gives the Maker crowd the ability to design, print and use their own custom interfaces. And as if that wasn’t enough, you can actually combine multiple devices to amplify the awesomeness. For example, you can put four Morphs together to make an instrument with 96 keys.
“Imagine having your art tablet, music production controller, QWERTY keyboard, piano, video game controller (and anything else your mind can fathom) all in one device. If you can imagine something so limitless without your brain imploding, you’ve imagined the Sensel Morph,” the team explains.
With the Morph, you will also be able to create new, custom interfaces. The Sensel crew is developing a web-based drag-and-drop interface that will go live when the first batch of devices ship. With this interface, you will be able to devise your own overlay without having to do any coding. As for the developers out there, Sensel’s open source API will enable you to integrate the propietary technology into your own applications. The Morph is compatible with Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS and Arduino.
“Our mission from the start was to address the mismatch between the expressive capabilities of our hands and the restrictive interfaces of today’s devices,” the folks at Sensel add. “We want to enable new ways of interaction with digital devices and allow Morph users to unleash new possibilities in the worlds of music, art, gaming (cue Buzz Lightyear), and beyond!”
Housed inside the iPad-sized device’s aluminum casing and beneath its super thin, force-sensing material lies a patented electrical drive scheme and circuitry, which includes a microprocessor, an accelerometer, LEDs, Bluetooth LE support, a rechargeable battery and a microUSB port.
Ready to interact with your digital world like never before? Head over to the Morph’s Kickstarter campaign, where Sensel is currently seeking $60,000. Delivery is slated for next summer.