Makey Makey Quickstart Guide And Introduction
| Wayne Chen
Welcome to the world of Makey Makey! A world where everyday objects are much more than they appear. Bananas are more than just a curvy fruit --- they're keys to a virtual piano. Play-Doh isn't just a child's toy --- it's the controlling force behind up/down/left/right. And your simple pencil drawings are a portal to Portal.
- Makey Makey Board
- USB Cable
- Alligator Clip Cables
- Jumper Wires
- A computer (Windows, Mac OS X, or Linux) with an Available USB Slot
- Software to Read Key Presses (e.g., Canabalt, Virtual Piano, Tetris, etc.)
- Button Material (e.g., fruit, Play-Doh, tin foil, copper tape, pencil, a friend)
- A Primed Imagination
What is the Makey Makey?
The Makey Makey is a collaborative project between Jay Silver and Eric Rosenbaum of the MIT Media Lab and SparkFun Electronics. It's an invention kit that encourages people to find creative ways to interact with their computers by using everyday objects as a replacement for keyboards and mice. With the Makey Makey, you could replace your space key with a banana, use Play-Doh to move and click your mouse, or high-five your best friend to advance PowerPoint slides.
The Makey Makey is a two-sided circuit board. On the more simple top side, the Makey Makey has six inputs: the up/down/left/right arrow keys, as well as the space bar and mouse left click:
Each of those inputs as well as the very important “Earth bar” are available in the form of what I like to call “alligator-bait” connectors. You'll use the included alligator clip cables to clip right into the hole pairs. This will all be made much more clear in the next section. For now, let's keep summarizing your Makey Makey.
If any key is activated with the "Earth Bar," an associated LED will light up next to the pad.
1.When you flip the board over to the back side, you will notice a mini-B USB connector and POWER LED. The connector is where you will connect the USB cable to a computer. The LED will light up when the board is powered.
2.You've also got access to 12 more keys via the black female headers:
- W, A, S, D, F, and G on the keyboard side
- up/down/left/right mouse movement and left/right clicks on the mouse side
The bottom header has six additional ground (aka Earth) outputs.
3.The top header is an expansion/output header. They KEY OUT and MS OUT are connected to the LEDs on the back to indicate whether you're pressing a keyboard or mouse key, respectively. This can be used to connect low-power LEDs and small motors. The RESET will reset the board when connected to ground. There are also pins for power through the 5V and GND. The last two pins (PGD and PGC) are used by the factory to program.
The pins broken out through the black female headers are all available in the form of “jumper-wire” connectors to connect male jumper wires, header pins, stripped wires, or tinned tipped wires.
The simplest Makey Makey key you can make is one that only uses your fingers. Below are instructions to make yourself into a key!
Connect a USB Cable
First, grab the mini-USB cable included with the Makey Makey and insert the cable into the connector. Connect the other end to a USB port of your computer.
Ignore Pop-up Windows
When you first insert the Makey Makey into your computer, a window may pop up. You can cancel or close out the window.
Touch the Earth bar to ground yourself. This kit comes with earth bar bracelets.
Simultaneously touch the SPACE pad. The LED above the SPACE key should light up, and a space command should be sent to your computer.
Now try leaving one finger on the Earth bar while quickly tapping the space button. Getting a feel for it? It should work just like your standard space key!
Online Apps for Makey Makey
Looking for some fun games to test out the Makey Makey? Click on the link below to try out the online apps provided by JoyLabz!
Making Your First Key
Makey Makey Key-Making Materials
To make your "standard" key with the Makey Makey you need the following:
- A connection to a Makey Makey input. This can be done using alligator clips on the the hole pairs, or jumper wires on the black connector sockets.
- Connection to a Makey Makey ground (Earth). Again, you'll connect to earth using either alligator clips or jumper wires.
- Some sort of key material. This is the fun/creative part! There's a world of Makey Makey keys out there. Anything that's even slightly conductive is just waiting to become a computer input. The classics include your fingers, bananas and pencil scratchings.
- Something to activate the key by connecting between the key material and the ground input. Your fingers work pretty well for this. Anything even slightly conductive will do, though.
Making a Key
Activating a key means creating a closed circuit. For the circuit to work, electrons have to be able to flow from the Makey Makey input key to Makey Makey's ground. Usually your fingers will be the missing link between those two:
Let's try making a bona fide Makey Makey key. First, you'll need to find some sort of key object. Dig around your house, check your fruit basket or coin purse, or grab a pencil and make a drawing to try it out.
Pick out your favorite-colored alligator clip cable, open one of the jaws, and snap it down onto your key. Clip the other end of the clip into one of the Makey Makey top-side inputs. SPACE is great for testing purposes, so we will start with that key pad:
Now, grab a second cable for the ground connection. Black is the classic "ground color", but set your own trend and pick whatever you want. Clip one end of one cable into the Earth bar and let the other end dangle for now.
Finally! Grab the dangling end of the ground cable with one hand. Make sure you're touching the metal part of the clip. Then use your other hand to touch the banana, or whatever your key might be.
Experimenting With Key Materials
Don't have a banana? Try experimenting with different materials. Some materials conduct better than others. Certain materials can also be conductive over a period of time. Try it out!
Adding More Keys!
To add more keys, simply connect another alligator clip to another Makey Makey input (e.g., arrow keys or mouse click) and connect the other end to a key material. No further ground connections are necessary as long as there is one available. Be creative and connect as many keys as you can to the Makey Makey!
What Makes a Key? Conductivity.
A material is a conductor if it allows electricity (even just a tiny bit of it) to flow. This is the magic behind the Makey Makey: most of the world is conductive! Anything metal will almost certainly conduct electricity. The "standard" conductors are copper, silver, gold, etc. But with the Makey Makey our conductor scope grows. Most organic materials --- things like human skin, liquids, foods and frog legs --- are at least a little conductive. And that's really all the Makey Makey needs.
If an object isn't conductive, it's an insulator. Common insulators include plastic, glass, ceramic and wood. You can usually tell just by looking at something whether it's an insulator or conductor. You'll have to watch out for objects like this, as they just won't work with the Makey Makey. To get around that, though, you can line them with a conductive material (like copper tape, or just regular old wire) or paint. This creates the illusion that they're conducting electricity.