If you want squidgy keys, ROLI’s Seaboard MIDI keyboard controllers are great, but can you wrap them round your neck and use them to keep warm in winter? No, no you can’t.
Remarkably, the same can’t be said of the KnittedKeyboard II, the product of a research project by Irmandy Wicaksono at the MIT Media Lab in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Created to take advantage of “the soft and deformable tactile properties of knitted textiles,” this is an expressive keyboard that can also be played like a theremin and, yes, worn like a scarf. It’s also fully rollable, making it easy to transport.
The prototype uses “digital knitting technology and explores intarsia, interlock patterning, and a collection of functional (electrically-conductive and thermoplastic) and non-functional (polyester) fibers to develop a seamless and customized, 5-octave piano-patterned textile for expressive and virtuosic sonic interaction.” Keys can simultaneously sense touch, proximity and pressure.
So, you can play it like a standard keyboard - with the benefit of also being able to squeeze, pull, stretch and twist the keys to affect the sound - or by moving your hands above it.
The sensing mechanism is based on capacitive and piezo-resistive sensing, with data converted into MIDI messages by a central microprocessor.
All of which sounds great, though we’re assuming it wouldn’t cope too well with being run through the washing machine, even on the wool setting. You can’t have everything, though.