Sensel Morph touchpad knows what's touching it

— 9:41 AM on August 26, 2015

Your touchpad isn't big or fancy enough anymore. What you need now is a Sensel Morph, the centerpiece of a just-launched Kickstarter project. It's a large, pressure-sensitive touchpad that's purportedly capable of identifying various objects that touch its surface. On top of that, the Morph can be used with 3D-printed overlays like a piano keyboard or audio control surfaces.

The Morph has 20,000 sensors spaced at 1.25-mm intervals, and it can track the position of touches with a claimed accuracy of 0.1 mm. Each sensor can resolve 4,000 voltage levels, which are translated into values of 5 g to 5 kg of pressure. There's also a configurable LED strip at the top. The real trick lies in the software, though, as touch surfaces with force and object detection are hardly a new thing, particularly in the music world. Sensel says that "highly tuned algorithms on the device" are what enables the Morph to translate touches into locations and shapes.

Besides fingers, the Morph is supposedly able to distinguish between brushes, sticks, and other objects. Several overlay types will be available in addition to the ones we've already mentioned, like an audio control surface, a gaming controller, or just a plain ol' keyboard. Sensel will also be providing web-based software for users to create their own overlays. The Morph will detect those automatically via magnets, and several Morph pads can be combined for an even larger touch surface.

Other features include a rechargable battery and Bluetooth LE support for wireless operation, an accelerometer, and MIDI output for music applications. The Morph supports all major operating systems, and developers can use Sensel's SDK and a special serial I/O cable for creating touchy-feely apps.

Sensel is aiming for a release in Q2 2016, and prospective backers will hopefully get their hands on a unit for $249 if the Kickstarter project is successful.

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