At first glance, the Sensel Morph appear to be a really big peripheral touchpad. But, there’s some exciting technology inside this thing that turns it into a control platform that can be used by musicians, artists, and designers alike.
On a basic level, Morph employs the same kind of technology that Apple has implemented with Force Touch, allowing users to execute more commands by pressing harder on the pad. That’s where the comparison ends, though — while Apple’s technology can only sense the total amount of pressure being exerted on the pad, the Morph can sense varying amounts of pressure on different areas of the pad. Think of it as to Force Touch what multitouch was to the touchscreen. Morph can sense more or less pressure from individual fingers or objects (up to 16 at once) and react accordingly, expanding the number of commands that can be issued from Morph exponentially. There are 20,000 individual pressure sensors in Morph, which work together to create a pressure map that makes multi-force touch a possibility.
But why? Sensel’s answer is that creative types can get a lot of mileage out of Morph, and they’re looking to prove the concept with a few magnetic overlays that help to explain exactly how the product works. One simple overlay turns the entire tablet-sized pad into a QWERTY keyboard, but the more interesting overlays are the drum pad, the DJ controller, and the piano. Using these, musicians can actually play instruments like they would usually in order to test out new ideas. Because Morph can sense where fingers or objects are hitting the pad and how hard, music software can be developed to accommodate that, making for a much wider range of sounds that can be made. It’s not limited to fingers, either — drummers can actually use drumsticks, and Morph will be able to sense the difference by using its multiple sensors to pick up the size of the object being used.
There’s also an innovator’s overlay, which artists can use as a palette (while actually using a paintbrush). It’s more flexible than that, though — the transparent innovator’s overlay is designed to allow developers to create their own programs and controls, hence Morph being more of a platform than a mere peripheral.
The Sensel Morph can be preordered now for $250, while the overlays go for $25 each. They’re scheduled to ship in August.