San Francisco-based startup Sensel has launched a crowd-funding campaign for a new type of touchpad, and has already smashed its modest original goal.
Traditional touch interfaces typically take two forms: there are the kind that you use with your fingers and usually lack pressure sensitivity, and there are the kind that you use with a stylus and boast multiple levels of pressure sensitivity. There has been work of late to combine the two, such as with Apple's Force Touch system, but Sensel's Morph goes a step further: it can differentiate between different objects touching its surface, making it the closest yet to a universal input device.
The company's pitch is simple: the Morph is a trackpad stroke graphics tablet which is compatible with USB and Bluetooth connected devices and which can even be used with microcontroller platforms. It boasts more than 20,000 sensors, and it's here that things get clever: they're sensitive enough to detect the bristles of a paintbrush, giving digital artists a brand-new tool for their arsenal. That's not all it's compatible with, either: stylii, fingers, even drumsticks for the musically inclined can all be used with the Morph.
To further tempt users, the Morph system includes support for customised rubber overlays. Placed on top of the Morph, these offer anything from a traditional QWERTY keyboard to the keys of a piano, with the company pointing out that it would be simplicity itself to produce a range of overlays for popular software packages featuring customised shortcuts and controls.
'Ever since I started using computers, I’ve been frustrated by how limiting all the interfaces that we use daily are. Keyboards, mice and touch screens are unable to capture the creativity or the expression of our hands,
' claimed Ilya Rosenberg, Sensel co-founder and chief executive, at the launch. 'With Sensel, we wanted to build a new interface which captures all the nuance of human touch and makes this available to any application – from painting or playing a musical instrument, to sculpting virtual clay.
The Sensel Morph crowd-funding campaign has already smashed its modest $60,000 goal, raising an impressive $137,000 at the time of writing with 44 days still to run. More information is available on the project's Kickstarter page