As an addendum to yesterday’s teaser of the Evolution multi-touch keyboard, readers send along a couple of other examples. Andrew McPherson has a terrific example of an add-on, multi-touch, capacitive surface that can go on any keyboard (so, basically the same idea).


This video demonstrates a set of capacitive touch sensing piano key tops which mount on top of any existing piano or MIDI keyboard. The key tops sense up to three touches each by position and contact area, letting the performer continuously and polyphonically shape every note in multiple dimensions. The system connects to a computer by USB and uses OSC for flexible communication with a wide variety of synthesis software.

See also the paper published on the design, and of course, the video. (Thanks, Andrew! Nice work – will we see more?)

From Vol 14, No. 2 Summer 1990 issue of Computer Music Journal, none other than Bob Moog joins Berklee’s Thomas L. Rhea to evaluate keyboard instrument design, and specifically refers to touch overlays on the keys (via resistive, not capacitive sensing).
“Evolution of the Keyboard lnterface: The Bøsendorfer 290 SE Recording Piano and The Moog Multiply-Touch-Sensitive Keyboards.” (A PDF is available, albeit not a … legal one. Thanks for the tip, Dan!)

And as for the Evolution, the release date will be Wednesday, November 23. Simon Kemper explains, “In just 2 days we will answer all your questions. Also there will be some more videos and tutorials. We also offer a software to control and individualize the evo. It is called “COMM” and makes everything between MIDI and OSC possible. So mapping the evos touch sensors to poly-AT, and so on, is also no problem.”

There are definitely some skills to pick up here, but that’s true with any alternative instrument. I’m eager to try one of these out.

  • noisetheorem

    I really just want to know how much it will cost.  I would love to have this in my studio.  Ive got lots of synths that recognize Poly-AT, but nothing that transmits it. 

  • Jamsire Ernoir

    I just love this!

  • griotspeak

    "Thomas Rhea"

    Good dude. Great, actually.

  • griotspeak

    shenanigans. I can post when i am NOT logged in.

  • nate

    so this overlay is still just a work-in-progress or research project??  i definitely think this is the way to go.  you can put it on your already owned favorite controller and not have to buy some new gizmo.  

  • Jon Starr

    If you're looking for a good poly-at keyboard you should check out the Infinite Response VAX-77. A keyboard with poly-aftertouch and the capacitive overlay would be pretty amazing. 

  • What if you have your thumb on the C and your index finger on the E flat, and you want the maximum on the C and the minimum on the E flat? My point is it seems like it would only be truly playable in C major/A minor. 

  • GTZ

    Ergonomics are a valid concern. Ultimately, that's the challenge of any instrument. To some degree, you'll develop new techniques to suit the controller. To a larger degree, the strengths of a controller will gently guide your creative decisions. There is definitely a path of least resistance, and some keys will be easier to perform in than others.

  • @nate: Hopefully coming soon to a Kickstarter page near you! There's a certain flexibility to adding it to existing keyboards (including acoustic pianos), though there's also a lot to be said for the Evo approach. One of the biggest challenges, I find, is giving the keys the right feel. The laminate on the top can't be too thick or the sensor resolution is poor, and recreating the right surface texture on top of a PCB isn't easy. Looks like the Evo has a clean solution to this.

    The ergonomics can be pretty flexible, especially when you consider motion relative to the initial touch. Just as easy on the black keys as the white, with a little planning. What you miss on the black keys is the ability to move side-to-side: there's just no room! To some extent the ability to do multi-finger gestures on each key can make up for that, though that has different ergonomic limitations. Best, maybe, to let each player choose their own favorite mapping.

  • kconnor9000

    There's nothing more beautiful than a real prototype actually doing the stuff that people are otherwise just talking about. Good show!! The tracking and interpolation look great.

    I don't think I'll be messing with overlays, but I do wish you great success in getting this licensed to a keyboard manufacturer, or starting your own business!

    I like the choice of 'relative to first touch' approach, for larger modulations. I'll assume that absolute position is also available, for use with sounds where the modulation/changes are in a very limited range, and a bit of initial position error won't make much difference.

  • amoebaSIX

    fantastic! i want this NOW.

  • Patrick Richardson

    Wonderful to see your still work is moving along strongly. You're making our MET-lab proud !

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  • Innovation is always good, but I've never had any use for after touch, and am quite contented with a velocity trigger mechanism.  That's just me though, people love controllers, and advancement in that arena is probably worth while and marketable.

  • mediawest

    this is the greatest thing i have ever seen … when i first saw the yamaha cd80 poly strip…. but this, holey moley the control surface is now three dimensions…. I WANT ONE NOW.

  • Dan

    @Peter: it's just a detail, but the Moog invention really did use capacitive (not resistive) sensing, as I mentioned to you in the comments from the previous post … you might want to fix this in your post above just for accuracy.



    ps. I've done some work (though I'm not allowed to say much about it) on a prototype for a keyboard in which the keys themselves can be "wiggled" in 3 dimensions via a sensor at the base of each key – in my opinion the best of all possible solutions (for example, the black keys are easily sensed when moved side-to-side as well as in-and-out, there is no difficulty getting the right texture on the key surfaces since the sensors are inside keyboard, etc….)

    However, this wiggle sensing solution is unfortunately not a "retrofittable" method, and as such would require the commitment of a large keyboard manufacturer such as Fatar ( they make most of the keybeds for all the big name companies).

  • Dan

    @Andrew: great stuff – I hope you find the time to do a Kickstarter!

  • blubber

    Tom Rhea is my favorite.

  • manoo b

    i want 1 !!!!!!!!