Mountain View, Calif. startup Sensel has undertaken a Kickstarter campaign to fund production of a pressure sensitive pad that the company is betting can be a greatly improved input device.
The Sensel Morph is about the size of an iPad and has more than 20,000 sensors. The device can translate the detail, speed, expression, and power of touch with a level of precision far superior to swiping on a tablet surface, according to the company.
Ilya Rosenberg, CEO and co-founder of Sensel, said that the device was borne of his frustration with the limitations of computer interfaces. He felt that other users shared the frustration of not being able to transfer the nuances of human touch to a screen via keyboards, mice and early touchscreens.
In addition to fingers and styli, the Sensel Morph can detect any object or creative tool, including paintbrushes and drum sticks. It can be used with optional magnetic, flexible and customizable overlays that turn devices into the instrument or tool that the user chooses.
The device’s sensors feel pressure that translates into a high-resolution image of the pressure applied. Algorithms on the device take the pressure images and turn them into a list of touch locations, each with its own force and shape information.
Sensel is also releasing a series of overlays, including a QWERTY keyboard, an MPC-style MIDI controller, a piano and a drum pad. Another of the overlays is a translucent device that lets users design, print and use their own custom interfaces.
Users will also have access to a range of open source application programming interfaces created by other users, with the ability to load a new interface with a single click. The company said new interfaces and overlays will be released in the future. For now, it’s using the fundraising campaign to solicit an overlay design made by one of its backers. Submitted overlays will be voted on by users.
The Sensel Morph is compatible with Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, and Arduino. It can connect to a computer via USB, to a iPad via Bluetooth, or to an Arduino via developer cables.
Goal Already Reached
Typical applications for the Morph are art, music, gaming, embedded applications and software development. In the latter category, Sensel said its open-source API lets developers use data from Morph in numerous applications, using the product’s compatibility with C/C++, Java, Python, Unity and C#, with more languages to come.
Sensel’s partner in the project is frogVentures, the investment arm of product strategy and design firm Frog. That company’s vice president and head of venture design, Ethan Imboden, stated that the goal of the companies is to close the gap between creative intent and digital realization.
Two-year-old Sensel has five employees. Sensel’s Kickstarter campaign, launched on Tuesday, aimed to raise $60,000 for the product. As of late afternoon it had surpassed its goal, raising $72,428. Sensel is aiming to start shipping the Morph later this year.