By Cabe Atwell
In 2017, MIT Media Lab’s Irmandy Wicaksono created the FabricKeyboard, a keyboard made of fabric that responds to your touch and can easily be rolled up for transportation. Wanting to take advantage of new technologies in computerized knitting, Wicaksono recently designed the second iteration of the instrument called the KnittedKeyboard.
The KnittedKeyboard is made of a mix of functional fibers — conductive, thermochromic, and composite threads — and non-functional yarns — spandex and high-flex polyester. It uses a sensing mechanism based on capacitive and piezoresistive sensing technology. This allows the keyboard to detect contact touch and gestures, such as hovering or waving your hand. You can play the keyboard by applying pressure to the keys with touch and hovering your hand in the proximity of the device.
The piezoresistive layer measures the forced placed on the keyboard. There’s even a color-changing display that notes the contact and non-contact modes of play. The data picked up from the sensors is then converted to MIDI files by a central microprocessor, which can be sent to a computer via USB. Audio software, like Ableton Live, can then map the MIDI messages to the appropriate channels, notes, and controls.