MaKey MaKey

An Invention Kit for Everyone



by Jay Silver and Eric Rosenbaum of the MIT Media Lab's Lifelong Kindergarten

What's MaKey MaKey?

MaKey MaKey is an invention kit for the 21st century. Turn everyday objects into touchpads and combine them with the internet. It's a simple Invention Kit for Beginners and Experts doing art, engineering, and everything inbetween:



The kit will include everything you see above: MaKey MaKey, Alligator Clips, USB Cable.

What Can I Make?

That's up to you! First, load up a computer program or any webpage. Let's say you load up a piano. Then, instead of using the computer keyboard buttons to play the piano, you can hook up the MaKey MaKey to something fun, like bananas, and the bananas become your piano keys



Or let's say you Google for an online Pacman game and draw a joystick with a pencil:



Then you can play Pacman by touching the drawing.

Or you could load up facebook or gmail and send a message on a custom-made of alphabet soup keyboard:



How Does it Work?

Alligator Clip two objects to the MaKey MaKey board. For example, you and an apple.



When you touch the apple, you make a connection, and MaKey MaKey sends the computer a keyboard message. The computer just thinks MaKey MaKey is a regular keyboard (or mouse). Therefore it works with all programs and webpages, because all programs and webpages take keyboard and mouse input.

Make + Key = MaKey MaKey!

Who is MaKey MaKey For?

Artists, Kids, Educators, Engineers, Designers, Inventors, Makers... Really it is for everyone. Here is a photo of some 8-year-olds using MaKey MaKey in a Maker Space:



She invented a "knife-and-log" interface for cutting virtual wood in an online game.

We ran a workshop in February 2012 with some professors and grad students who specialize in interaction design. One grad student made this beachball game controller:



Another grad student made this working pressure sensitive switch by layering Play-Doh under a spring:

The workshop took place at Queen's University during a conference.

With MaKey MaKey, kids can start inventing right away, and experts can make working prototypes in minutes instead of days.

What materials work with MaKey Makey?

Any material that can conduct at least a tiny bit of electricity will work. Here are some materials people have used in our workshops including Ketchup, Pencil Graphite, Finger Paint, Lemons, etc.:



Other materials that work great: Plants, Coins, Your Grandma, Silverware, Anything that is Wet, Most Foods, Cats and Dogs, Aluminum Foil, Rain, and hundreds more...

Why Are You Creating MaKey MaKey?

We believe that everyone is creative, inventive, and imaginative. We believe that everyone can create the future and change the world. So we have dedicated our lives to making easy-to-use invention kits. We believe that the whole world is a construction kit, if we choose to see it that way.

We are inspired by the Maker Movement. We want to help people start to think of themselves as Makers and agents of change. When you have the "Maker's Mindset," you know you can change the world.

Before we created MaKey MaKey we worked on other creative tools and invention kits such as: Drawdio, Singing Fingers, and Scratch.

Have You Prototyped This?

Everything in the video is real, running on either the first or the second prototype. Two years ago, we created the first prototype for MaKey MaKey at the San Francisco Exploratorium:



Then we built the second prototype from 2011 to 2012, which looks like this:



Our third prototype was just made, and looks like this:



Right now, we are designing the kit a fourth time.

What Does the Back of the Board Look Like?





The back of the board has hookups for 6 keyboard keys, and mouse control. It also has the open hardware logo, a link for help getting started, and an area for using the board in Arduino mode.

Wait... Is this thing an Arduino?

You could say this board is 2 in 1. MaKey MaKey runs on top of Arduino. You can start using your MaKey MaKey board in "Arduino mode" at any time. This would allow you to spin motors, turn on LEDs, or anything else that an Arduino can do. If you want to learn to use Arduino or other electronics, but want to start without any programming or breadboarding, MaKey MaKey is a good starting point. There's no need to understand Arduino in order to use MaKey MaKey.

Seriously, I Am a Geek, Tell Me All the Krazy Tech Stuff

MaKey MaKey is a printed circuit board with an ATMega32u4 microcontroller running Arduino Leonardo firmware. It uses the Human Interface Device (HID) protocol to communicate with your computer, and it can send keypresses, mouse clicks, and mouse movements. For sensing closed switches on the digital input pins, we use high resistance switching to make it so you can close a switch even through materials like your skin, leaves, and play-doh. We use a pull-up resistor of 10-50 mega ohms. This technique attracts noise on the input, so we use a moving window averager to lowpass the noise in software, saving money on hardware filtering. There are six inputs on the front of the board, which can be attached to via alligator clipping, soldering to the pads, or any other method you can think of. There are another 12 inputs on the back, 6 for keyboard keys, and 6 for mouse motion, which you can access with jumpers via the female headers. If you wish to use a different set of keys, or otherwise change the behavior of your MaKey MaKey, you can simply reprogram it using the Arduino environment. By cutting a trace on the back of the board, you can disconnect the large pull-up resistors if you want to, which would be necessary in a small minority of Arduino projects. Have more geeky questions? Post them in the comments and we'll answer them.

Can we get our hands on one of these somehow?

Keep an eye out for MaKey MaKey. We are working on making it widely available!