About this project
To see some articles that we've been featured in, go to sensel.com/press.
The Sensel Morph offers a new generation of multi-touch interaction, powered by our patented Pressure Grid technology, in the form of an input device that allows people to interact with computers and programs in a whole new way.
With its high dynamic range of force sensitivity, The Morph can detect not just your fingers but any object, from a paintbrush to a drumstick.
The Morph works out of the box with many applications, and it’s also hackable for those more technically-inclined. You can connect it to your computer via USB, to your iPad via Bluetooth, or to your Arduino via developer cables.
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. 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!
Best of all, you can use the same device in each of these areas. People today have many hobbies and interests- isn't it time you have a device that literally "Morphs" with your activities?
You can use various Overlays, all which are automatically detected, for each supported use case. The Overlays are optional "physical apps" made of a thin, flexible layer that you can place over the device to provide a visual "map" and tactile feedback for each mode’s unique functionality. 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.
Unlike your typical single-use input device, the Morph is an extremely versatile product. Here are some use cases that we’ll be supporting out of the box:
Check out some video footage of people using the Morph! Watch Josh Ellingson digitally paint with real brushes, Adriano Clemente, the director of Dubspot Labs, create an original track, Ray Kampmeier control a robot arm, and Joshua Davis create responsive art!
The Sensel Morph comes to life through the use of various overlays - thin, magnetic, flexible, and fully customizable surfaces that turn the device into virtually any tool or instrument imaginable. As you may have already guessed, the name “Morph” came from the realization that each overlay allows the device to morph into a new physical, tactile interface. Using unique magnetic identification codes, the sensor automatically detects each overlay and makes switching modes completely seamless.
With each device that we ship, you’ll be able to choose three overlays out of eight options including: (1) a QWERTY keyboard, (2) music production controller, (3) piano, (4) drum-pad, (5) art overlay, (6) gaming overlay, (7) the innovator’s kit, and (8) one additional overlay which will be chosen by our Kickstarter backers via the Overlay Contest.
We’re developing a simple 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 design your own overlay without having to do any coding. You will then be able to print them on paper (for use with the Innovators Overlay), or 3D print the overlays yourself. Pretty cool, huh?
One of the most exciting things about Sensel - maybe even more exciting than the Morph itself - is the community we plan to build. Users will not only be able to create new, custom interfaces for themselves using the simple drag-and-drop interface, but they will be able to easily share these interfaces with the entire community of Sensel Morph owners and talk to one another about what they’re creating with the Morph.
After developing early prototypes, we partnered with frog, a world-class design firm, to turn our early concepts into a device that’s ready for consumers. We worked with frog to refine and test core use cases for the Morph. We ended up with a design that is both sleek and functional.
The size of the device is similar to an iPad, which was purposefully done to make the Morph and the overlays easily portable. We found that these dimensions are ideal for two-handed interactions with the device, as well as for many art and music applications. The size is also convenient if you want to use the Morph alongside a tablet.
One of our favorite things about the Morph is that you can combine multiple devices. Below is an example of how we extended our piano -- you can even put four Morphs together to create an instrument with 96 keys -- more than a grand piano!
Beneath the smooth outer surface of the device are approximately 20,000 individual sensor elements at a spacing of 1.25mm (that’s less than 1/16”). We call them “sensels” for short, hence the name of our company.
You may be asking yourself: How can Sensel possibly fit 20,000 individual sensors into a device this compact and why has this never been done before? The reason is that it required three major innovations and a whole lot of elbow grease to make this technology possible - innovations in materials, manufacturing, and electronics. Our team worked closely with a material scientist to custom-formulate a highly-tuned polymer layer which gives each individual sensor element the ability to sense force. This material enables the product to have high sensitivity and a high dynamic range. In other words, it can detect anything from a feather-light tap to a hard push and everything in between (with over 4,000 detectable voltage levels).
Next, we created a new structure that allowed us to take advantage of advanced lithographic manufacturing processes (similar to how circuit-boards and semiconductors are built). In contrast, most force-sensing arrays available on the market today are screen printed (typically on a Mylar™ film), and thus cannot achieve high resolution or consistency, in comparison to Sensel’s process. This process allows us to create a very high resolution array of sensor elements on the same circuit board as the rest of our electronics, hence the 20,000 individual sensor elements.
Every sensor needs electronics to power it, read out signals and interpret those signals. The third major innovation is a new, patented electrical drive scheme and electrical circuitry that allows us to read this high-resolution sensor with commonly available electronic components, quickly and efficiently. This allows us to drive an exceptionally high-resolution sensor at high speed (>125 Hz), low latency (< 8 ms), and low power consumption at an affordable price point. We’ve also thrown in some extras like an accelerometer, LEDs, and Bluetooth LE support (along with a rechargeable battery) for those of you who can’t stand wires.
We also worked with expert mechanical engineers at Hive Design to design an aluminum housing for the Morph which is thin and lightweight, yet provides rigidity (necessary for when you’re really jamming on your device). It also holds the magnets which are used for overlay attachment and looks beautiful alongside your other devices.
We've received questions from our backers about things like compatibility with various art software (such as Photoshop), what it's like to perform music on the morph (in terms of sensitivity and ability to pitch-bend), and about what kind of objects the Morph can pick up. Here are a couple of video responses we've put together to answer some of these questions:
Kickstarter is a place where we know we’ll find people who are always on the lookout for the next big thing, and we think we just might have it. We're excited to see what you do with the Morph with the use-cases we've developed so far, but we're even more excited to see what you come up with on your own. The moment of inexplicable excitement we experience when we see someone create a new tune, new piece of art, new game, new controller, or (best of all) something we'd never have imagined with our technology -- that's why we chose the Kickstarter Community.
Risks and challenges
There are many risks associated with bringing a brand new technology to market, and we understand the challenges that lie ahead of us. The Sensel founders have nearly 20 years combined experience in developing various force-sensing solutions/products, and we’ve designed our Pressure Grid technology with manufacturing in mind from day one. We use all standard manufacturing processes to make sure that production goes as smoothly as possible, and we’ve already completed several builds of the device to fine-tune the design and manufacturing process.
However, when building any hardware device, unexpected issues may pop up (manufacturing, sourcing, shipping, etc). We’ve had experience dealing with these types of challenges in our past work. In addition, we have an amazing group of advisors supporting us, many of whom have shipped Kickstarter projects before.
We believe in being completely transparent, and promise to keep backers updated on our progress every step of the way. We’ll alert backers if we run into unexpected hurdles, and likewise announce when we’ve achieved any major development milestones. As a backer, you’ll get a full behind-the-scenes view into how we’re progressing here at Sensel as we start production of the Morph.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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