Turn any object into a touchpad with the MaKey MaKey invention kit

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A pair of graduate students from MIT Media Lab have taken to Kickstarter to fund a project designed to turn anyone into an inventor. The MaKey MaKey invention kit allows an individual to turn just about any everyday object into an interactive touchpad.

The system works by using alligator clips to link the MaKey MaKey to virtually anything. The front of the unit features a directional pad and two buttons; a space bar and a left mouse click button. On the back of the circuit board are even more keyboard keys, additional mouse support and the ability to use the board like an Arduino.

The cool thing about the MaKey MaKey is that it requires no programming, no breadboarding and no software – it just works. Simply connect the device to a USB port, link the clips to whatever you want to turn into a touchpad and you’re set. Note that you will also have to either hold a clip in your hand or somehow connect it to your body to complete the circuit.

Some of the examples that MaKey MaKey demonstrates are pretty creative, such as using bananas as piano keys and balls of Play-Doh stuck to a notepad as a gamepad to play Super Mario Bros. The kit will work with any object that has at least a little bit of electrical conductivity. If it doesn’t work, you can apply a strip of copper tape or spray it with water in order to create a conduction path.

Software-wise, MaKey MaKey works with any “modern” computer with a spare USB port. The team says they have tested it on Windows XP, Vista, 7 and Mac OS X.

As of writing, there are seven days left in the campaign and over 8,500 backers have pledged $423,404 – mind you, the target was only $25,000 so this project will be funded. A donation of $35 gets you a full kit that works out of the box. Units are estimated to start shipping in August.

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