Making music with a Mandarin using MaKey MaKey


Turn a banana into a piano, or a piece of artwork into a video game controller. Sounds too crazy to believe? It’s possible with the electrifying MaKey MaKey. This invention kit uses the internet, a few cables and general technology principles to help users create their own unique touchpads to use with computer programs. The creators behind MaKey MaKey believe everyone has creative ideas and wanted to give them a product to help them use their imaginations and express some of that creativity.

At first glance, the invention kit with its circuit board, alligator clips and cables seems somewhat complicated and scientific to really inspire creativity in anyone other than computer science and engineering majors. However, after seeing a few ways kids and other users have used these tools to create something unique, it begins to seem a little more accessible.

Makey MakeyWith MaKey MaKey, you can create a touchpad to control nearly any application that requires a keyboard or a mouse for movement. However, it appears the simpler the game or the task the better, especially for beginners. Start with a virtual piano or drum that has you press one key at a time to play a sound or a one-button game. The more complicated the game or application you want to use your creative touchpad with, the harder it will be to set up MaKey MaKey and remember which aspects of your controller control the specific aspects of the game.

Makey Makey
Makey Makey has received a great deal of buzz around it since its KickStarter campaign that was successfully backed by over 11,000 people and raised over half a million dollars. Its co-inventor Jay Silver speaks in a lively TedTalk (below) about how the world around us can be looked at in a different way, and how playing with the world around you can be both a creative and educational outlet. Jay explains “When I was seven, I taped a fork to a drill. … It had a profound effect on me. It sounds silly, but I thought, ‘Okay, the way the world works can be changed.’”

It is important to remember that MaKey MaKey works best with conductive materials, so it can limit your creativity slightly. For example, you can control a game with an apple, a banana or most fruit, but you may have trouble making your ideas work if they involve materials such as rubber or certain types of plastic. Of course when you can use items such as modeling clay, cupcakes and even people to create connections and interact with a game or other application, the fact that you cannot use a few random materials is not a big deal!

MaKey MaKey is designed to promote creativity and it certainly does. Beginners may want to start with a simple banana piano or a single-object controller. However, the invention kit is not limited to the single first idea. As users begin to understand how MaKey MaKey works, they can come up with more elaborate and creative ideas and change the way the MaKey MaKey is set up. The technology would be an excellent addition to livening up a music class (see Alexeiweb for some great ideas), gym class and of course electronics and circuit modules.