Between conventional knobs and hardware controls and “magical” tablets, might we yet see real action in a third category of controller? Keith McMillen Instruments, makers of the SoftStep foot controller and K-Bow controller, are now venturing into fingertip territory. The QuNeo is a “crowd-sourced” project with apparently some open components, available now in preorder form on Kickstarter.

We’ve seen touch controllers that, in terms of basic form factor, followed similar design directions as the QuNeo but that didn’t take off. M-Audio (then Midiman) got only as far as the prototype phase with the Surface One; Stanton’s SCS series went into production but apparently didn’t take to the market.

The KMI design promises more, with velocity response, continuous pressure, and color LED feedback on each sensor. The addition of actual pressure/velocity sensing, and a design that gives you some tactile feedback on where the controls are, would set it apart from a device like the iPad, which has no such usable pressure response and an undifferentiated surface.

The controls themselves:

  • 251 multi-color LEDs
  • 16 square pads each with X/Y, velocity, and continuous pressure (that should map nicely to rolls, etc., or using them as melodic pads)
  • 2 rotary surfaces with position and pressure
  • 9 touch sliders, with two-finger touch
  • Switches
  • iPad-sized form factor
  • Class-compliant USB, MIDI, OSC connection

The project is labeled “open hardware” and “open source,” but as near as I can tell, that applies to the development kit for the software to connect with the hardware, not the rest of the hardware itself.

Check out the hardware sensors below.

Kickstarter here serves as a way of “crowd-sourcing” production – just the kind of preorder model for which the service was built. What I find surprising is the promised price: $200 (not including international shipping) includes the controller and some goodies, which seems astounding given the number of parts here. If they really are pulling that off, I’m very impressed.

Right now, we see only the sensor and a mock-up, but certainly the described design shows some significant promise. We’re in touch with KMI, so if you’ve got questions, fire away.

QuNeo, Multi-touch Open Source MIDI & USB Pad Controller [Kickstarter]