Funded! This project was successfully funded on January 6.

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PALETTE is the first FREEFORM hardware interface that offers hands-on control of your favorite software.

Introducing Palette: The First Freeform Controller

Palette with a Matte Aluminum finish
Palette with a Matte Aluminum finish
Palette arranged to complement a designer's tablet
Palette arranged to complement a designer's tablet
Every Palette module comes with built-in RGB LEDs you can control.
Every Palette module comes with built-in RGB LEDs you can control.

Palette empowers you to build a physical interface customized to your personal needs. It's a hardware platform made up of a variety of modules. Each module has a single physical input, like a button, dial or a slider. You snap together modules like Lego. No coding or soldering required!

With Palette you can have a tool that is personalized, increasing your experience and productivity. It's a tactile interface that you can feel without looking, and that excites the senses.

As seen on:

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(New) Hands on videos:

- Check out our hands-on demo with Engadget!

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Palette Stretch Goals:

For $150,000 or more: We plan to upgrade the power modules.

For $125,000 or more: We plan to upgrade existing modules.

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How does it work?

Palette is designed with ease of use in mind. To create your own Palette:

1) Plug in the Power Module (included in every kit) to your computer's USB port

2) Connect as many modules as you'd like in any shape or size. The Palette Desktop App detects these modules on the fly as you add and rearrange them

3) Use the Desktop App to easily assign module inputs to software functions, using presets or mapping them individually.

It's simple. Now you have a professional tool that is personalized, will increase your productivity and it even looks great.

What makes Palette so different?

Feature 1: Modularity and Customization

You are unique. Create an interface that fits your workflow and style. An expanding lineup of modules gives you plenty of input options as your needs grow.

DJs and Music Producers

  • MIDI mode lets you use your favourite mixing software
  • Start small and add more modules as you progress, instead of always buying and selling your old gear
  • Ever wanted just a few more sliders or dials? Add Palette to compliment your current equipment
  • LED halo light for status and visualizations in the dark
Palette designed by a DJ
Palette designed by a DJ
Pro Kit: plain and simple
Pro Kit: plain and simple
Pro Kit: unique and extreme!
Pro Kit: unique and extreme!

Photographers

  • Faster editing and retouching with a hardware interface made for the job.
  • Replace mouse dragging and awkward keyboard shortcuts with sliders, dials and buttons at your fingertips - never take your eyes off your work.
Palette designed by a Photographer. Re-touching photos just got a whole lot easier and fun!
Palette designed by a Photographer. Re-touching photos just got a whole lot easier and fun!

Designers

  • Use physical inputs to replace on-screen menus, showing your work in full screen
  • Compliment your current tablet and stylus setup
  • Reduce awkward and hard to remember keyboard shortcuts with comfortable buttons, dials and sliders
Palette made by a designer to fit around her tablet, and keyboard.
Palette made by a designer to fit around her tablet, and keyboard.

Everything Else

Palette is not a fixed interface. It's freeform hardware that can be used for your favourite applications.

We really see Palette as a platform; an interface that can be used for any software program. Imagine being able to use it as a Skype controller. Build yourself a gaming controller. Control your media library, and even pan through Google Maps. There are limitless possibilities with an interface you can actually customize.

Calvin designed this Skype controller for his grandmother.
Calvin designed this Skype controller for his grandmother.
Design a Palette that helps you crush your enemy in Starcraft!
Design a Palette that helps you crush your enemy in Starcraft!

There are some really cool use cases we want to explore, but we can't support all these applications ourselves, which is where we need you help. In the near future, we plan to release an SDK that will allow all you hackers and developers to contribute, build and release support for more third party applications such as the ones mentioned above!

Feature 2: Powerful Desktop Application

Operating System Support:

The Palette Desktop App does all the hard work. It recognizes software that is installed on your computer, and automatically pulls functions that you can map to the modules. There will be support for an eco-system of plug-ins, scripts, and third-party software. 

Out of the box, we are looking to support the:

  • Adobe Creative Suite
  • DJ software such as Traktor and Abelton
  • Any applications that already support keyboard shortcuts, like Spotify, Skype, and more (send us your ideas!)
The Palette Desktop App displays a pop-up menu that lists functions that can be mapped from Adobe Lightroom
The Palette Desktop App displays a pop-up menu that lists functions that can be mapped from Adobe Lightroom

Feature 3: Tactility and Finish

Palette in beautiful hard wood
Palette in beautiful hard wood
More gorgeous and warm hard wood
More gorgeous and warm hard wood
Close up on the wood, look at that grain! :D
Close up on the wood, look at that grain! :D

The wood finish is something we are very proud of and feel that it offers so much more than a cold glass touch screen. As designers, we love its warmth, texture, aesthetics, and even the smell.

Each of the wood pieces are cut precisely on a CNC mill, then they are sanded smooth by hand and then finished with Danish oil, also done by hand. We know you will love the way it feels as you use it day to day.  

Technical Details

  • Works as a HID controller: control any application that already uses keyboard shortcuts (e.g. dial turns to emulate arrow keys) using the Desktop App
  • Works as a MIDI controller: use your favourite audio software, out-of-the-box
  • Modules are hot-swappable, physical layout changes are automatically detected on the fly
  • The system remembers the function assignments of the modules and will follow the mappings even if they are disconnected and rearranged

The Power Module

  • Comes with a USB cable that connects to your laptop or PC
  • Has an OLED screen that displays the current application Palette is configured to, such as Lightroom or Photoshop

The Input Modules

  • 3 types at launch: button, dial and sliders (faders)
  • A user controllable RGB LED halo for indicators and cool visualizations
  • Unique ID so that software functions follow the module when rearranged

The Desktop App

  • Apply preset profiles to map all the modules at once, or configure them individually
  • Automatically detects the physical module layout, on the fly
  • Compiles a list of possible software functions based on installed applications
  • Remembers the functions of each individual module, even if disconnected and rearranged

Rewards

Palette Aluminum Edition
Palette Aluminum Edition
Palette Wood Limited Edition
Palette Wood Limited Edition

Expansion Plan

Our Vision for Palette
Our Vision for Palette

The modules offered with the Kickstarter kits are just the beginning! We plan to add everything from motorized faders, joysticks, jog-wheels and custom buttons. There are endless possibilities and we want to be able to provide all of them to you post Kickstarter. So please help us get there!

US and International Backers:

We are one of the first Kickstarter campaigns to launch from Canada! It is also one of the first projects to start collecting campaign contributions in Canadian Dollars (CAD). The Canadian dollar is slightly lower than the US Dollar (USD), which makes the rewards cheaper.

Please make sure to add the amount stated to your pledges, so we can ship to the US and Internationally!

The Team

Calvin Chu & Ashish Bidadi hanging out in North Beach, San Francisco
Calvin Chu & Ashish Bidadi hanging out in North Beach, San Francisco

Palette is made up of two hard-working engineers: Calvin Chu and Ashish Bidadi. Both share a passion for industrial design and human-machine interaction. They met while studying Mechatronics Engineering at the University of Waterloo, in Canada. Calvin worked on the mechanical design and electronics for Palette while Ashish worked on the software and website.

Our Amazing Support Team

Chris Tsang - Graphic Designer and Branding

Paul Detjen - Cinematographer at PCD Productions

Sean Po - Web Developer

Aditya Sharma - Product Launch

Story of Palette

The idea of Palette started when Calvin wanted to create a modular MIDI controller. Then he realized that so many other hardware interfaces share the same common elements (buttons, dials, sliders, etc). Earlier this year, Calvin and Ashish decided to explore this problem further. The team understood that creative professionals need a tool that offers the flexibility, feel and precision, crucial to getting the job done!

It all started with Proto 1. Way back in Nov 2012 :)
It all started with Proto 1. Way back in Nov 2012 :)
Developing Proto 2. When we explored the idea of a modular controller further with a tray design.
Developing Proto 2. When we explored the idea of a modular controller further with a tray design.
We got rid of the tray from Proto 2. Back to the breadboard to test out a new type of freeform architecture.
We got rid of the tray from Proto 2. Back to the breadboard to test out a new type of freeform architecture.
Proto 3 looks and works beautifully with the new PCBs. One step closer to our vision of building the first freeform controller.
Proto 3 looks and works beautifully with the new PCBs. One step closer to our vision of building the first freeform controller.
3D printed some new housings. Got our first shipment of Aluminum housings. OOOoo check out that beautiful halo :D
3D printed some new housings. Got our first shipment of Aluminum housings. OOOoo check out that beautiful halo :D
Our development timeline laid out on one gigantic table. Everything from our first prototype, hundreds of parts we tested, to our finalized production ready designs.
Our development timeline laid out on one gigantic table. Everything from our first prototype, hundreds of parts we tested, to our finalized production ready designs.

Where are we now?

We have finalized the design and functionality. We have been hard at work developing Palette for more than a year.

Calvin in front of HQ Mart in Shenzhen, China The Electronics Capital of the World.
Calvin in front of HQ Mart in Shenzhen, China The Electronics Capital of the World.

In July we were accepted into the premier hardware accelerator program called HAXLR8R. We have been working out of Shenzhen, China, establishing relationships with manufacturers and suppliers. 

We pressed and clicked A LOT of buttons at the electronics in Shenzhen to find ones that feel the best.
We pressed and clicked A LOT of buttons at the electronics in Shenzhen to find ones that feel the best.
Come on, how could you not love looking at 6 floors of LEDs!! @ SEG Market in Shenzhen
Come on, how could you not love looking at 6 floors of LEDs!! @ SEG Market in Shenzhen
At the HAXLR8R Office in Shenzhen. Go Hardware!
At the HAXLR8R Office in Shenzhen. Go Hardware!

With the help of the amazing network of mentors, manufacturers and access to some of the best electronics suppliers in the world, we have been able to refine our product. With your help and support we can start the manufacturing process to get Palette into your hands!

From a prototyping shop in China. They had motivational banners placed all across the facility. The staff was very friendly and informative.
From a prototyping shop in China. They had motivational banners placed all across the facility. The staff was very friendly and informative.
Visiting an injection molding factory and seeing how plastic dial caps are made. We didn't like how they felt and decided to go with metal CNC machined dials.
Visiting an injection molding factory and seeing how plastic dial caps are made. We didn't like how they felt and decided to go with metal CNC machined dials.
Visiting a PCB manufacturing facility.
Visiting a PCB manufacturing facility.
Long nights developing our freeform technology
Long nights developing our freeform technology

How will the funds be used?

PALETTE IS POSSIBLE ONLY WITH YOUR HELP. The Kickstarter funds will be used to begin production of the kits and to continue developing and refining our software to support all these awesome tools.

Risks and challenges Learn about accountability on Kickstarter

We spent the early part of the year talking to people like yourselves who told us how they would want to use Palette. With their guidance and feedback, we have spent the last few months in Shenzhen, China working on refining the product. We are proud to say that we have finalized the physical design of Palette and its modules. We have spoken to manufacturers and are ready to begin production in Feb 2014.

We have purposely set the ship date to June 2014 to ensure that we manufacture, test and package your Palettes as we envisioned them. We have done our best to foresee potential hurdles on our roadmap. We have a strong grasp of the challenges ahead, and we are very excited to face them.

In addition to the physical product, we are determined to build a powerful software application. We have proven out the software with Lightroom, and with DJ tools such as Traktor. We are building our software team to support more applications. This takes time, but we are confident we can do it before we get Palette into your hands.

FAQ

  • Palette connects via a standard USB cable on the Power Module. At the moment, wireless connectivity is not supported but possible for future versions.

    Last updated:
  • Yes! The Palette Desktop App allows anyone to easily assign software functions to the modules and it will be compatible with Mac OSX (10.6 and above), Windows (XP, Vista and above), and Linux.

    Last updated:
  • Yes! Palette can output in two modes: MIDI and HID (the common protocol used for keyboards, mice and joysticks).

    Last updated:
  • Unfortunately, the structure of Kickstarter limits the ability to order modules individually. We did our best to provide sets that fit many different uses. After Kickstarter, the Palette web store will provide much more flexibility in ordering your own sets and add-ons.

    Last updated:
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    WE LOVE YOU! THANK YOU! Get the insider's view of our project, from our Kickstarter campaign, to when we start shipping! We'll add your name to our "WALL OF FAME" on www.palettegear.com. We wouldn't have been able to do this without all your amazing support. Thank you!

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    Amazing, you are one of our biggest supporters! We invite you to take part in our creative process as we look into the future, to make Palette the first freeform controller of choice for ANY application. We will connect with you and bring you up to speed about the current state of the product, and look to incorporate your feedback, and technology, into future iterations of Palette after Kickstarter.

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