Tag Archives: Makey Makey

Turning chicken nuggets and sushi into music with MaKey MaKey

While dipping a chicken nugget into sauce or touching sushi may not be the most conventional way to create music, if there is one thing that MaKey MaKey has taught us, is that nearly anything can be transformed into a MIDI trigger. This includes the tops of cats’ heads, plastic mannequin parts, cacti, rubber finger monsters, and old-school Polaroid cameras, as demonstrated by musician Mark Redito (also known as Spazzkid).


As you likely know, MaKey MaKey is a printed circuit complete with an ATmega32U4 MCU running on an Arduino Leonardo bootloader. Originally designed by the folks at MIT Media Lab, the kit has since become an immediate sensation throughout the Maker community. From playing Mario on Play-Doh or the piano on bananas, the possibilities are truly endless once you affix the alligator clip to the musical object of choice and rock out.

While one would assume that jamming away on some raw fish or dunking a piece of chicken into sweet ’n sour sauce may not produce the most desirable sounds, this performance is anything but. Redito’s performance is testament to the fact that playing tunes on ordinary objects doesn’t need to sacrifice quality. Listen for yourself below!

Hey McDonald’s, do we sense a future commercial? Because we’re surely lovin’ it! If you liked this creation, be sure to check out some other MaKey MaKey creations like this magnificent monome.

littleBits announces bitLab, an App Store for hardware

Taking one step closer to its mission of “putting the power of electronics in the hands of everyone,” litteBits has announced the launch of bitLab, a marketplace for user-generated hardware. Comparable to Apple’s App Store, bitLab allows Makers to create their own littleBits modules and share them with burgeoning DIY community.


“When Apple launched the App Store, many apps were games, many were frivolous. I remember a lot of fart apps,” explained littleBits Founder and CEO Ayah Bdeir. “But now 6 years later, there are more than 1.3 million apps that have distributed nearly $15 billion to the software developer community. We believe the same thing will happen with hardware ­developers just need one common platform to develop on, a supply chain that powers it, and a marketplace for community and distribution.”

According to the company, anyone with a working prototype of a new Bit can submit it for community consideration. In contest-like fashion, littleBits will then select the ones receiving the most votes, examine them for viability and put them into production, with the creators receiving a 10% royalty.


“We’re breaking down the barriers of entering the field of hardware. We want to democratize the hardware industry, to revolutionize it and make it accessible,” Bdeir tells Forbes. While anyone with a laptop and a little coding skill can make an app, and 3D printing is opening up manufacturing, the hardware industry hasn’t gone through that. “It’s still largely closed, very top down, really prohibitive to non-engineers.”

In its latest blog, littleBits writes:

For the hardware community, the bitLab means our community can come together and develop on one common platform, add in a seemingly incremental innovation, and see the innovation multiply. The hardware developer community has often been distributed, decentralized and considered by the outside world to be secondary to the software developer community. We believe a big part of that is because the community has not had one common platform to develop on, with a supply chain as a backbone, coupled with a marketplace to grow its distribution. But even more importantly, we haven’t seen this happen in hardware because of one simple fact: making hardware modular is an extremely difficult and complex problem. It’s difficult to create a system, a product line, and a supply chain in which one module can be added to the others and work in every which way. Over the past many years, this is exactly what we have done with littleBits. We have made the largest modular hardware library in the world. With the bitLab, a hardware developer that has created an exciting new sensor circuit or has an idea for a new digital interaction can create a module (or multiple) and leverage the entire littleBits library with its sensors, switches, wireless transmitters, power, actuators and other modules without having to recreate them. Every new Bit multiplies the power of the rest of the modular platform. And it grows exponentially from there.

Similar to how the app store opened up Apple’s API to developers, littleBits has open the doors to a world of electronic modules, via its Hardware Development Kit that is now available. “It’s a proprietary connector basically creating entry points into the system,” Bdeir reveals to Fast Company. “With that and the rest of the HDK, which also includes a perf board, tinkerers can plug in whatever they can think up and make it work with other bits.”


In recent months, littleBits has taken huge strides to stretch the limits of imagination. Around Maker Faire Bay Area, the company launched its Arduino module. This programmable ATmega32u4 powered Arduino at Heart component enabled Makers to easily incorporate sketches into their littleBits circuits.

A few months later, they launched another pillar of “power,” the cloudBit. In what the company hoped would alter the perception of littleBits from toy to tool, the electronics kit manufacturer announced a new component that empowered any littleBits creation to the become an Internet-connected ‘thing’ without the need to solder, wire or program for basic projects.

Now, the newly-unveiled bitLab is the first of its kind in the field of electronics. “Even though it may seem obvious that hardware needs an app store, building a genuine app store that can allow every new “app” to interoperate with every other app and its underlying platform is complex,” the company writes.

bitLab is an evolutionary successor to dreamBits, an open forum where littleBits users can suggest new modules they’d like to see produced. While countless Makers have already showcased their creativity and added a number of ideas to the site, Bdeir is hoping bitLab will now experience a domino effect. In other words, as more Bits join the library, more people will think of different and new ideas.


Partners who took part in the bitLab beta include some of our friends as well as fellow Arduino At Heart members including Arduino’s Massimo Banzi, MaKey MaKey‘s Jay Silver, Bare Conductive‘s Matt Johnson, Korg‘s Tatsuya Takahashi, Gabotronics’ Gabriel Anzziani, Backyard Brains’ Greg Gage, and and Bleep Labs’ Dr. Bleep.

“We want people to say, ‘There’s a Bit for that,’ and if there isn’t one, they will make one,” Bdeir concludes. Interested in learning more? Read littleBits’ entire announcement here.

The Maker Movement continues to grow as a technological and educational revolution, demonstrating its true potential to today’s young Makers. Ayah Bdeir will be joining Massimo Banzi, Quin Etnyre, and Atmel’s Bob Martin and Daniel Ujvari for Saturday’s Maker Faire panel on the MAKE: Live Stage as they explore the ways in which DIY culture is influencing young Makers and helping to create tomorrow’s industry innovators.


Don’t forget to join the Atmel team in Queens this week for the 5th Annual World Maker Faire! Undoubtedly, this year will be amazing as an expected 750+ Makers and 85,000+ attendees head to the New York Hall of Science to see the latest DIY gizmos and gadgets, as well as a number of the Makers mentioned above. Once again a Silversmith Sponsor of the event, Atmel will put the spotlight on everything from Arduino to Arduino-related projects


Hacking bus stops Maker style

To promote this year’s Trondheim Maker Faire, HK reklamebyrå, Norwegian Creations and Trondheim Makers “hacked” two bus stops in the heart of the city. Rather than go with old-fashioned poster signage, the group of Makers wanted to do something a bit more special. With only one week of preparation and a very limited budget, we had to use what we had in our drawers.


I’m not sure if the city of Trondheim, ATB (the bus company) or Clear Channel knew what they allowed us to do, but each of them said “yes” without any other reservations other than, of course, that we had to return the bus stops to a state normality upon completion.

Aasmund doing some accurate measurements for Øyvind.

Aasmund doing some accurate measurements for Øyvind.

As with any Maker project, there were problems to overcome. The first challenge we experienced was how to get stable AC electricity. The outlets in the poster boxes are on the same system as the street light; as a result, there’s only electricity when it’s dark outside. This was certainly a bad thing if you want to have it up and running during daytime, or even evenings because of the long Norwegian summer days. So, we actually got the keys to the boxes that contain all the network and electricity for the real-time timetable system used by the bus company.

Preparing the plywood and electronics at the Fix Makerspace in Trondheim.

Preparing the plywood and electronics at the Fix Makerspace in Trondheim.

The first bus stop we started working on was the one with a retro game. Our first plan was let people play Super Mario Bros, but we soon realized that it would be difficult for the player to control the game, as we wanted to use a MaKey MaKey and aluminum foil tape on the glass for game controls. We did not find a easy way to combine directional buttons with the A and B buttons, since one hand had to be in contact with ground all the time. Given the limited time, we elected to use another game, where you just needed one button a time: Pac Man.

Just some cobblestone and cables...

Just some cobblestone and cables…

In short, the incredibly innovated Pac Man bus stop consisted of a pre-cut sheet of plywood with an old computer screen, a Raspberry Pi with the retro game installed, as well as a MaKey MaKey controlled by aluminum foil tape on the glass front of the poster box. We did not give the players the opportunity to leave the game.

camera.vflip = True

camera.vflip = True

The other bus stop, we decided to transform into a photo booth using a Raspberry Pi, a PiCam and a MaKey MaKey, which we didn’t have. Without any place to get a MaKey Makey in Trondheim, and an inadequate amount of time to order online, we turned an Atmel Xplained Mini into a MaKey MaKey-ish controller.

The Xplained Mini that saved the day!

The Xplained Mini that saved the day!

Our first plan was to upload all the pictures from the bus stop photo booth directly onto our webpage; however, since the bus stop was located downtown and was open to the public, we needed some kind of moderation. The pictures were sent from the Raspberry Pi to an email address.

All the codes for the photo booth bus stop could be downloaded from Maker Faire Trondheim’s website.

All in all, this was a fun thing to do — both for us who were working with the project and for all those who played Pac Man and took selfies at the bus stop. As we imagined, there were even some commuters who chose to continue playing instead of hopping aboard the bus!

Making music with the MaKey MaKey Monome

In an attempt to create a complex musical instrument with inexpensive parts and a simple process, Maker JDeboi has developed one rockin’ device: the MaKey MaKey Monome!


The Makey Makey, as you likely know, is a printed circuit complete with an ATMega32u4 MCU that runs an Arduino Leonardo bootloader. The MaKey MaKey has been on the scene since Jay Silver successfully funded the project back in 2012, attaining nearly $570,000 in Kickstarter pledges. (For those interested, the original goal had only been $25,000.)

Now, JDeboi has utilized this platform to create a futuristic instrument that looks like it was transported back from the year 2114!

Using Makey Makey as its brains, JDeboi implemented a partnership of copper tape, NeoPixels, and cardboard to bring this monome to life. First using the NeoPixels and cardboard, she established an LED lattice that would serve as the base of the project. The Maker recommends using three different colored wires for GND, 5V, and data. “Check the label on each NeoPixel to make sure you’re always soldering the right wire to the right pad,” she advises.

Once the base was conceived, JDeboi began to affix her copper strips that would act as the touchscreen inputs. The MaKey MaKey kit translates those individual ‘touchscreens’ into sounds using Jenna’s Processing Sketch music software, which assigns a different note to each touch-square, thereby creating beautiful music with the added bonus of a light show. Once the circuits were linked, and the device was powered, she had the ability to make music with just the touch of a fingertip!

JDeboi also shares that due to the compatibility of her design, the MaKey MaKey platform can be swapped out for an Atmel based Arduino if other functionality was desired. For a full rundown on how our Maker created this dazzling design, feel free to head over to her Instructables post here.

MaKey MaKey featured at DevArt in London

Earlier this week, JoyLabz COO David ten Have reached out to us about the DevArt Young Creators project currently taking place at the Barbican in London. For those unfamiliar with the project, the event is a series of 3-week creative workshops for schools, youth groups and code clubs, led by the DevArt interactive artists Zach Lieberman, Karsten Schmidt and duo Varvara and Mar, in collaboration with Google and the Barbican.


Each session, hosted in the DevArt section of the Digital Revolution Exhibition at the Barbican in London, will introduce young Makers (ranging from ages 9 – 13) to computer coding and art. In true Maker spirit, the sessions provide attendees with a hands-on opportunity to make their very first creation with code: a digital butterfly, a piece of music, or a 3D-printed work of art.

This week, MaKey MaKey will be exploring the creative possibilities of code in an educational workshop organized by Google and led by American artist and computer programmer Zach Lieberman.

Zach Lieberman’s latest work matches musical notes from live radio around the world to the 88 keys on a standard piano keyboard. The result? Unique, ever-changing soundscapes. Featured in Lieberman’s workshop, the MaKey MaKey platform enables anyone to turn everyday objects into touch pads, and with the aid of alligator clips, a USB cable and the Internet, create just about anything.


“We believe everyone is creative, inventive and imaginative. And that anyone can create the future and change the world,” explains Jay Silver, CEO of MaKey MaKey. “It is human nature to repurpose the world, you know, leaves and sticks are used to make roofs and structures, stones to make tools… In modern day, how do you repurpose computer programs and pencils? Well it’s already possible to do! MaKey MaKey catalyzes the process for people of all ages who haven’t tried it yet. Draw a game controller with a pencil and hook it to a video game, and touch the drawing with your finger to actually play the game.”

In creating Play the World, 2014, Lieberman has used code to match the keys on an Internet-connected keyboard to musical notes sampled from hundreds of live radio stations around the world – from Nigerian sports radio to Brazilian Bossa Nova radio. And because the notes are drawn from live radio, the sound and source changes each time a key is played, resulting in a unique piece of music every time. Speakers and visual displays are arranged in a circle around the keyboard, so you can see where in the world the sounds are coming from. The effect is a celebration of the vast, enchanting, global soundscape that surrounds us.

Interested in learning more about DevArt and each of this week’s Inspiration Workshops? More details can be found here.