The Kickstarter campaign finished successfully on 2 September 2013. Thanks to all the project backers whose support made it possible!
Missed the Kickstarter and want to buy a TouchKeys kit? We are currently assembling a waiting list for a potential second production run. Email me to register your interest.
Capacitive Multi-Touch Sensing on a Physical Keyboard
The TouchKeys are a new musical instrument transforming the piano-style keyboard into an expressive multi-touch control surface. The TouchKeys are touch sensors that can be added to the surface of any keyboard, measuring the location of the musician's fingers on the keys during performance.
The project was launched on the crowd-funding website Kickstarter on 29 July 2013 and successfully finished its campaign on 2 September 2013. The campaign raised funding to build sets of TouchKeys that any musician can install on their own keyboard. They shipped by the end of January 2014. Though the Kickstarter campaign is finished, the project is ongoing and we are currently exploring a second production run for later in 2014. Email me to register your interest if you would like to be added to a waiting list for the next production.
TouchKeys in the News
Here's some of the recent press coverage of the TouchKeys:
About the TouchKeys
The TouchKeys project adds capacitive multi-touch sensing to the surface of any piano-style keyboard. Sensor overlays measure the location and contact area of the player's fingers on the key surfaces, and the data can be used to create a wide range of expressive effects including vibrato, pitch bends, timbre changes and improved emulations of non-keyboard instruments. The keyboard is traditionally a discrete interface, measuring notes by onset and release. The TouchKeys let the player continuously shape each note through the subtle expressive details of their finger motion.
The TouchKeys are sensor overlays that attach to any standard-size keyboard, acoustic or electronic. Each key uses capacitive touch sensing to precisely locate one or more fingers on the key surface. Here are a few of the main features:
How It Works
The sensors work by measuring the capacitance of a collection of small conductive pads on the surface. Touching the key causes several adjacent pads to increase in capacitance. A microcontroller on the key interpolates between the values to arrive at a precise estimate of the contact location. Contact area can be sensed by observing the overall magnitude of change in capacitance.
Once each key has calculated its touch information, another microcontroller collects the data from every key and transmits it to a computer by USB. Software on the computer side generates OSC and MIDI messages that can be used by a wide variety of synthesis software. The software also uses the MIDI data from the underlying keyboard to produce a complete picture of the performer's actions.
More information on the design and operation of the TouchKeys can be found in the papers below:
The TouchKeys project reflects 2 years of development at Drexel University and Queen Mary, University of London. These videos from current and earlier generations of the instrument show some of its other capabilities: