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Kickstarter Launched for TouchKeys Multi-Touch Musical Keyboard

August 7, 2013

Andrew McPherson, post-doctoral researcher in the Music and Entertainment Technology Lab (MET-lab) at Drexel University and inventor of the Magnetic Resonator Piano, has launched a Kickstarter project for TouchKeys, sensors for musical keyboards that turn every key into a touchpad controller.

The touch sensors attach to a keyboard to measure where fingers contact the keys and can be used with any synth to naturally control vibrato, pitch bends, control changes and many other new sounds while playing. The TouchKeys sensors are carefully shaped to fit any keyboard with standard-width keys while the overlays cover the entire playing surface of the key, sensing the finger position in two dimensions (XY). Sensing the touch contact area means the TouchKeys can also distinguish between the fingertip and the pad of the finger. The sensors are even multi-touch as up to three simultaneous touches can be sensed on a single key. TouchKeys can be applied to a keyboard with a self-install DIY kit or is available through the limited-edition prebuilt instruments.

Below is a video demonstrating an early TouchKeys prototype:

McPherson began work on the TouchKeys project during his post-doctoral fellowship at Drexel as part of an effort to enhance the expressive capabilities of musical instruments. McPherson's fellowship was supported by the Computing Innovation Fellows program, a joint program by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Computing Research Association (CRA).

He is currently a lecturer at Queen Mary University of London at the renowned Centre for Digital Music (C4DM), where he continues to collaborate with the Expressive and Creative Interaction Technologies Center (ExCITe) to pursue new technologies for musical instruments and interfaces.

The Kickstarter effort aims to raise £30,000 (approximately US $46,000) to put the TouchKeys keycaps into limited production. There are multiple support levels available for 2- or 4-octave sets of DIY keycaps or fully configured keyboards.

For more information on this project and to contribute, please visit the official Kickstarter page.