Labor Day Update
I hope everyone is having a great holiday weekend! It's actually cold and gray here in Roanoke, but the combination of a holiday and "inside" weather has given me a good opportunity to write another update for you all. One of biggest things is coming up in just a few weeks: Maker Faire! So, I'll start with that one.
Open Hardware Summit and Maker Faire NYC
You all probably remember that I exhibited the Keyglove at Maker Faire in NYC last year, and that it was a great experience. This year, I'm going to do it again, but it's going to be way better this time for a few reasons. First, I've come a long way in the past year in terms of development. I've got a lot more to show. Second, I've got a specific list of all the preparations I need to make and exactly what I want to have ready. I won't be scrambling for a banner, or business cards, or flyers, or hopefully anything else at the last minute. This includes the official Maker Faire group-rate hotel, which I sadly missed out on last time. I've already got a whole bunch of what I need done, and the rest is laid out on a conservative schedule. I'll go over some of this in more detail below.
Also, hopefully I won't get sick a day before the event like last time. Yikes. Here's a shot from last year:
Unlike last year, I will additionally be participating in the Open Hardware Summit two days prior to Maker Faire, running a demo booth onsite and networking with a lot of folks who will be great to meet and learn from. If you're going to be in town during the last week of September, I highly recommend checking out both events, especially Maker Faire if you can't make it to both. It's going to be an incredible event.
New Glove and Fabric Snap Touch Sensors
I've found a new base glove to use for prototyping (and hopefully kits, shortly) which is much more durable than the black cotton one I had before. It's an Ektelon Classic Pro racquetball glove. It's got a very snug thin cabretta leather front and a mesh back, along with a sturdy velcro wrist strap. It's definitely a big step up from the cotton handbell glove.
Even more important than that is the implementation of new crimp fabric snaps for 27 of the 37 touch sensors on the glove (the small ones that aren't conductive fabric). These are incredibly easy to mount with a pair of needle-nose pliers for placement and parallel-grip pliers for crimping in place. It's also simple to solder sensor lead wires to them even after they're mounted (great for troubleshooting or repair). This change from the manual "wire loops" I had been using results in a process that takes about 30 seconds per sensor instead of more like five minutes, and adds a lot of precision that is nearly impossible to achieve the old way. Here's the result of the new snap sensors on the new glove:
I'm planning to assemble five of these in various sizes (XS, S, M, L, XL) for demo devices at Open Hardware Summit and Maker Faire. Last time, a lot of the enthusiastic kids had to work with a glove that was way too big for them. Most of them did amazingly well anyway, but that's no way to run a demo booth! This time will be better for those whose hands are either smaller or larger than mine.
New Kit Board Revision and Sensor Headers
I've revised the Keyglove Kit circuit board twice since my last update, with the most recent version being better shaped for the back of the hand, more compact, and easier to mount. The pin arrangement also allows you to use the same board for either the left or right hand, just by switching around the sensor header pin connections and making a small software configuration change. The previous PCB versions had pin headers that only worked in a practical sense on the right hand; you could plug all the headers in either way, but the sensor wires had to be bent all weird if you wanted left-handed operation. Either that, or you had to plug in the USB cable on the top by the fingers, and of course that will never work. This new approach is much cleaner. I'm still waiting on the newest prototype PCBs to arrive, but here's a 3D rendering of the top and bottom:
Additionally, I've incorporated standard 0.1" headers for sensor lead attachment. Since there are 37 of them and keeping track of them individually is a gigantic pain, making each set into a color-coded arrangement of pre-assembled connectors immensely simplifies the connection process on both ends. Every wire of a given color is always in the same pin position, so if you know which finger (or thumb or palm) the bundle comes from, you'll already know which sensor it goes to. Perfect! The controller board end of one set of cables looks like this:
I'm currently working with the people at Seeed Studio to help get these manufactured a few dozen at a time, since for the moment I have to do them all by hand with strips of header pins and a crimping tool. The process isn't too bad since my wife helps (a lot!), but Seeed can do it much faster and cheaper than I can, so I'm happy to use their services.
Keyglove Manager Application
I've been working on a Windows-based GUI management application and a Linux-based console application for interfacing with the Keyglove to provide custom, tight OS integration. The regular HID interface doesn't require an application or driver to work, but since there's so much more you can do if you have one, it's important to provide that as well. My initial focus is on Windows integration, but Linux is forthcoming as well (but still ugly at this point), and I even finally bought an older Macbook for native OS X and iOS development. The Windows application supports direct API control of various applications that can benefit from true 3D input (such as Autodesk Inventor or other CAD software). Here's an early screenshot of the Windows Keyglove Manager app:
You can also check out an early video of basic API integration with Autodesk Inventor below. The Inventor integration has been much improved since this video was taken, but it demos the basic concept pretty well. I'll get a new video up as soon as I can.
New Keyglove Forums and Social Media Reminder
One more minor update: I changed the Keyglove Forums on the project website to use the phpBB system. This is a much better platform than what I had before, and for any of you who have used forums much, it should be more familiar. If you'd like to discuss anything about the project in that kind of environment, head over to the forums and speak up!
Finally, if you'd like more frequent updates on the Keyglove project, you can check out the Facebook page, Twitter feed, or Google+ page. I post short updates on these pages quite often, and although they don't have nearly as much content as what I send in the Kickstarter updates, I find that it's much easier to post them often since they're so short. If you don't already follow the project on any of those platforms, you might want to check them out. The content is usually the same on all three platforms, so you can pick your favorite.
Thanks again to all of you for your continued support, and watch for another update in a few weeks, just before Maker Faire!