Prototyping Wearables -- Station 1: MaKey MaKey

Prototyping Wearables -- Station 1: MaKey MaKey

Part of my 2-hour workshop "Prototyping New Wearable Experiences with Soft Electronics and Arduinos" at Wearables DevCon 2014 (


Pearl Chen

March 05, 2014


  1. TWITTER @PearlChen GOOGLE+ P E A R L C

    H E N M a Ke yM a Ke y P R OT OT Y P I N G W E A R A B L E S — S TAT I O N 1
  2. W h a t i s a M a Ke

    y M a ke y? 3 0 S E C O N D I N T R O • “An invention kit for the 21st century.” • Turns everyday objects into touch pads. Make + Key = MaKey MaKey • Created by Jay Silver and Eric Rosenbaum at MIT Media Lab’s Lifelong Kindergarten group in 2011. • Aimed at artists, kids, educators, engineers, designers, inventors, makers... everyone. • ~$50 for starter kit (board, clips, USB cable) Image credit: If you’re looking for technical specs, scroll down to the “Seriously, I Am a Geek, Tell Me All the Krazy Tech Stuff” section of the homepage.
  3. W h a t i s a M a Ke

    y M a ke y? 2 M I N U T E I N T R O Kickstarter campaign video:
  4. Ho w t o u s e a M a

    Ke y M a ke y? G E T T I N G S TA R T E D, O V E R V I E W 1. Connect a computer to the MaKey MaKey via USB. 2. Connect wires and/or alligator clips to the MaKey MaKey. 3. Touch objects (anything conductive) with the alligator clips. Successful electrical connections are mapped to keyboard commands. 
 e.g. Up/down/left/right arrows, return key, space bar, letters (A, S, D), numbers (1, 2, 3), etc. Image credit:
  5. C o n n e c t c o m

    p u t e r G E T T I N G S TA R T E D, S T E P 1 1. Plug the MaKey MaKey into your laptop using the Mini-B USB cable. 2. Dismiss any popups for drivers or keyboard setup. 
 The MaKey MaKey doesn’t need any drivers for regular usage. (It does if you want to re- flash firmware on it though.) 3. Open up a text editor 
 (e.g. Notepad, TextEdit) ! Image credit:
  6. C o n n e c t a l l

    i g a t o r c l i p s G E T T I N G S TA R T E D, S T E P 2 1. Connect alligator clip #1 to “Earth”. Image credit: 2. Connect alligator clip #2 to “Space”.
  7. To u c h o b j e c t

    s G E T T I N G S TA R T E D, S T E P 3 4. Use free ends of alligator clip #1 and #2 like discovery probes…
 What will trigger the keyboard? Image credit: Goal: You’re trying to “complete a circuit”. Imagine an electron originating from “Space” on the MaKey MaKey. It needs to get to “Earth” before anything can happen. If there’s a gap or a roadblock, the electron can’t get to “Earth”. The electron will try to travel through anything conductive in it’s quest to get to “Earth”.
  8. W h a t w o r k s w

    i t h i t ? G E T T I N G S TA R T E D, S T E P 3 • non-distilled water • humans and animals • plants and fruit • Play-Doh • wires and alligator clips • copper tape • tin foil • pencil graphite • paper clips Almost anything that contains metal or moisture is conductive: Note: You can chain any of these objects together.
 e.g. Two people hold the open ends of the alligator clips and joust with a metal stick.
  9. W h a t d o e s n’ t

    w o r k ? G E T T I N G S TA R T E D, S T E P 3 • rubber gloves • wool mitts • felt swatches • plastic • wood • paper Sometimes you need a layer of insulation. These don’t conduct electricity: Note: If any of these are damp, the water will conduct electricity.
 So avoid humidity, sweat, and general wet things.
  10. R a p i d P ro t o t

    y p i n g U S I N G T H E M A K E Y M A K E Y F O R : • Quickly augment software that is already written to accept keyboard commands. • Focus on software programming first (visual UX, audio design, networking APIs, etc) instead of hardware. • Involve your entire team with prototyping; no programming knowledge required. • Low cost way to experiment with new physical interactions. • Opens your eyes to look harder at everyday objects and user experiences.
  11. We a r a b l e p ro j

    e c t s R E S O U R C E S Image credit:
  12. Ti l t s h i r t + No

    t Pa c M a n W E A R A B L E P R O J E C T S Not PacMan Shirt by Dan Epstein Not PacMan by Stab Yourself
  13. B e a t b a l l s W

    E A R A B L E P R O J E C T S Beat Balls by Mathieu
  14. Fo u r-H a n d e d S e

    q u e n c e r W E A R A B L E P R O J E C T S Wearable Pokey Slappy Makey Four-Handed Sequencer by Brent Dixon
  15. E x p l o r i n g f

    u r t h e r R E S O U R C E S Image credit:
  16. G o w i r e l e s s

    E X P LO R I N G F U R T H E R MaKey MaKey can be connected to a computer via a Bluetooth adapter. Bluetooth and LiPo Add-On for Makey Makey
  17. G o m o b i l e E X

    P LO R I N G F U R T H E R • OTG adapter for supported Android devices
 ~Under $10, • USB adapter from Apple Camera Connection Kit for iPhone/iPad
 See for required firmware tweaks.
 ~$30, Connect MaKey MaKey to phones or tablets!
  18. S e n d m o u s e i

    n p u t E X P LO R I N G F U R T H E R Connect analog sensors to the female headers on the back using male-to-male (or male-to-female) jumper wires. Image credit:
  19. “A r d u i n o m o d

    e ” E X P LO R I N G F U R T H E R You can flash new firmware when you need to: • update the firmware to the latest (see • map a different set of keys (edit settings.h file)
 (Note: works on Mac but may not work on Windows.) • add new functionality* (edit makey_makey.ino Arduino sketch) To do this: • Use the Arduino IDE ( to write the firmware • Follow the “Installing the Arduino Addon” guide * Depending on what you’re doing, you might need to cut the trace on the back of the board to disconnect the large pull-up resistors.
  20. D o u b l e u p E X

    P LO R I N G F U R T H E R You can use more than one MaKey MaKey with a single computer. Image credit:
  21. TWITTER @PearlChen GOOGLE+ P E A R L C

    H E N Q u e s t i o n s ? T H A N K S !