Musical keyboards with digital interfaces (MIDI), no matter how big or small, expensive or not, are rigid structures that can be very heavy. Irmandy Wicaksono from MIT’s Media Lab turned to user-friendly textiles to create an interactive textile-based musical interface, laid out in 88-keys, just like a full piano keyboard.
The prototype KnittedKeyboard II utilizes digital knitting technology, utilizing intarsia, interlock patterning and a collection of functional (electrically-conductive and thermoplastic) and non-functional (polyester) fibers. The keyboard’s five-octave range not only interacts like a piano, it also offers a variety of other expressive sonic interactions.
Inspired by a theremin’s expressive controls and the soft and deformable tactile properties of knitted textiles, the KnittedKeyboard II combines both discrete controls from the conventional keystrokes and expressive continuous controls from the non-contact, theremin-like proximity sensors by waving and hovering in the air. But it also has unique physical interactions enabled by the integrated fabric sensors, such as squeezing, pulling, stretching and twisting.
In addition to the keyboard providing new interactions and tactile experiences for musical expressions, it can be folded or rolled up and packed in luggage or a backpack, or just worn as a scarf.