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FabricKeyboard – Stretchable fabric (sensate media) as a musical instrument

Created by the Responsive Environments team at the MIT Media Lab, the ‘FabricKeyboard’ explores the concept of stretchable fabric “sensate media” as a musical instrument. The work is a response to the current developments of textile sensors, stretchable nature of knitted fabrics, and vast growth of new digital music instruments.

FabricKeyboard is sensor-rich, multi-modal, novel physical interaction media based on fabric, developed by using both common and smart textile-based materials. Based on our multi-layer design, each key, the bulk fabric, and its extensions could detect touch, proximity, pressure, stretch, position and coupled electric field simultaneously, resulting in an expressive, and stretchable musical controller.

The development of the FabricKeyboard required rigorous textile sensors characterisations and integrations of system-on-textile. The multi-layer fabric sensors in a keyboard pattern were embedded and machine-sewn on a stretchable, base knit fabric. The layers include combination of common knit fabrics, conductive fabrics, piezo-resistive fabrics, connected to the main circuitry by using conductive threads through machine-sewing. Their current hardware uses MIDI protocol to connect “plug and play” style to audio workstations but they are also exploring the application of OSC protocol for wireless mode. In addition, the team have also designed and explored several possible musical mappings based on their rich sensing modalities – see video.

For more information on their project, please refer to their paper that includes more technical details about FabricKeyboard.

Project PageResponsive Environments