MIT Media Labs Fabric Keyboard

This fabric keyboard responds to touch, pressure stretch, proximity and electric field! Thanks to Irmandy Wicaksono for sharing this with us, Via MIT

We are from Responsive Environments Group, MIT Media Lab
would like to show our new project in the area of sensate media, musical
controller using smart textiles. Please check it out and let us know what
you think!

The FabricKeyboard is an exploratory project at the intersection between engineering, design, fashion, and music. Inspired by the current developments of textile sensors and the stretchable nature of knitted fabrics, we designed and implemented a new generation of keyboard-related, fabric-based, deformable musical controller. Based on our selections of both common and electro-active textile materials and our multi-layer design, each key, as well as the bulk fabric of the keyboard could detect touch, proximity, pressure, stretch, and coupled electric field simultaneously. The combination of both discrete controls with conventional keystrokes and rich continuous controls with unique physical interactions enabled by the fabric results in numerous novel interactions beyond touching and pressing, such as squeezing, pulling, stretching, and twisting, as well as non-contact gestures, such as waving and hovering. Additionally, to complement the fabric keyboard, other fabric interfaces such as ribbon controllers and trackpads were also built. These fabric interfaces are modular and can be snapped to the main keyboard controller. Our seamless design separates the soft-circuits (intelligent fabrics) from the rigid-circuits (read-out electronics), allowing performers to interact with freedom and express themselves with the FabricKeyboard. This enhances the relationship between the physical interaction and the music, as the fabric deeply embodies the sound it resonates. Supported by MIDI protocol, the fabric keyboard can be connected to any audio synthesis or sequencer software and mapped to essentially any instrument, sound, or effects. Note that most of the expressive keyboard interfaces till date rest on a rigid and heavy structure; a keyboard made out of fabric, besides providing new interactions and tactile experiences for musical performances, can be easily folded,
rolled up, and packed in our luggage like a pair of socks or a scarf. It can also be wearable, which extends the functionality of such fabric-based media not only as a musical instrument, but also as a fashion statement. The nature of this project that combines multiple emerging areas, such as in intelligent textiles, sensor networks, and digital music technologies represent our vision towards the future of seamless, self-aware, and washable media. Therefore, we are excited to share this work with you.

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