Introducing Interactivity: The MaKey MaKey

Introduction to the MaKey MaKey

The MaKey MaKey is a project developed by Jay Silver and Eric Rosenbaum of the MIT Media Lab and Sparkfun Electronics. The MaKey MaKey is an “invention kit” that creates a bridge between the physical and the digital by enabling any conductive object such as a banana to act as a keyboard or mouse. The MaKey MaKey is one of the most basic microcontrollers available right now and is fun for beginners and experts alike. It’s a great tool for learning basic electronics and how to work with microcontrollers such as the Arduino. Since it’s relatively easy to get started, the MaKey MaKey is a pathway to creating a variety of interactive projects where you can turn any object that you see into something far more!

MaKey MaKey Example Projects

One of the core strengths of the MaKey MaKey is its versatility. Because of this there are a whole variety of example projects. The MaKey MaKey is used by beginners and experts alike, and there are likely many projects using the kit that you may not have considered! Here are some highlights to look at for some inspiration:

This is an interactive exhibit that youth in Austin created for their TEDxYouth@Austin event. The room is able to be played like an instrument and is powered entirely by MaKey MaKeys kits!

The MaKey MaKey can be powered by human contact as well! Here are two interesting examples of this concept:

There are several projects using fruit and vegetables to trigger sounds. Here is one example of a pepper piano:

This idea can be expanded into a collaborative project as well:

Here is a really inventive performance of Teardrop by Massive Attack. The performer, J-Viewz, uses a MaKey MaKey to trigger several sound samples.

Using the MaKey MaKey

There is a wealth of tutorials and information on the MaKey MaKey homepage. Basically what you need to know to get started is that the MaKey MaKey plugs into the USB on your computer and then you connect conductive objects to the board in order to control various letters, direction pads, spaces, and clicks. One of the best ways to learn is to experiment with it, but here are some quick links that will help you get started:

If you find that you need some additional help after going through that page, make sure to ask program staff! You should try to get started on the Drum Machine Activity listed below pretty quickly, so if you’re stuck and have tried problem solving, please let someone know!

The MaKey MaKey Kit

When working with the youth, it’s recommended to build the good habit of keeping all the kit contents together. Here at DHF, youth are encouraged to not take single items from the kits in order to prevent parts from being lost.

Contents:

  • MaKey MaKey board
  • Alligator clips
  • Jumper cables
  • Red USB cable

[box type = “info”]The color of the wires/cables doesn’t matter. Any will do. [/box]

Conductive Objects

Materials such as copper are conductive, which means that electricity can flow through. Materials like rubber are insulating, which means that electricity can’t move as easily through.

Some objects that you may not have considered as conductive are fruits and vegetables. While fruits and vegetables don’t produce electricity themselves, they contain liquids that are conductive, such as electrolytes.

There are many online resources for conductive materials, but in this module you’ll be working with a MaKey MaKey, an invention kit that lets you create interactive projects by experimenting with a variety of conductive objects that you may not otherwise have considered. Here are some examples:

  • Fruits and vegetables- experiment to see which work!
  • Copper and other metals.
  • Some plants (as long as they aren’t dried out)
  • Play-Doh and other modeling clays (as long as they aren’t dried out)
  • Graphite from a pencil, but you’ll need to experiment with the thickness
  • Aluminum foil
  • People!

This is not a complete list of conductive objects. If some of these objects surprise you, conduct some research to discover what makes certain things more conductive than others. One of the strengths of the MaKey MaKey is that through exploring and discovering conductive materials, you’ll be able to more fully take advantage of the interactive nature of the kit because you’ll not be limited to just using foil and other metals.

MaKey MaKey and Scratch

MaKey MaKey and Scratch pair perfectly together, and are two of the most common combinations in youth projects. Both Scratch and the MaKey MaKey are straightforward enough to allow for immediately satisfaction, but contain enough depth that youth are able to truly develop games/projects where they can have a strong degree of ownership due to the level of customization possible.

While the games you’ve worked on so far are interactive in the sense that they require player input, the inclusion of the MaKey MaKey takes it to the next level. You can now create custom controllers that match the theme of your game! This is one of the things that our youth are encouraged to consider while working on their game, and this element of physical interaction is what makes interactive game design truly unique as it takes the skill building and development beyond the digital screen.

Once you’re ready, move on to the first MaKey MaKey project!

Additional Resource Links:

Related Posts