Category: Computer Accessories General

DIY Use the MaKey MaKey to make DIY assistive technology for computer access

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The MaKey MaKey for computer access is designed for use by individuals with limited upper and lower extremity movement and coordination as a result of a spinal cord injury, cerebral palsy or stroke.

Technical Specifications: 

Step 1: Overview of the process:
1. Learn about the MaKey MaKey and how to use it.
2. Find out what the user wants to do.
3. Find out what the user can do.
4. Design or choose an interface that lets the user do what they want using what they can do.
5. Build a prototype of your interface.
6. Work with the user to test the interface.
7. Think about how to improve the interface.
8. Make the world a better place by sharing your work online!

Step 2: Learn about the MaKey MaKey:
The MaKey MaKey is an innovative circuit board that anyone can use to create their own keyboard and mouse interfaces on any computer, without ever learning how to program or get into electronics. Essentially, the MaKey MaKey lets you use common objects (like fruit, plants and aluminum foil) as though they were computer mice or keyboards. You can connect a banana that hits the space bar for you when you touch it.

Step 3: Try out the MaKey MaKey:
Plug the MaKey MaKey into your computer with the included USB cable, then take an alligator clip wire and clip it onto one of the Earth connections. While touching this wire, use your other hand to touch the bare metal of one of the MaKey MaKey’s functions. See if you can make it do a Left Click or hit Space for you.

Step 4: BONUS: BacKey for MaKey MaKey:
Turn the MaKey MaKey over - see all those four black walls sticking out of the back? Those let you plug in bare wires (included in the MaKey MaKey box) to access even more functions, instead of using alligator clip wires. Next to each of the holes of these black walls is a little icon or note telling you what function it is connected. Sometimes working with bare wires to access to the functions on the back of the MaKey MaKey can be a little frustrating, so the author designed a kind of “backpack” for the MaKey MaKey that makes it easy to access everything with alligator clip wires. The BacKey for MaKey MaKey clips onto the back of the MaKey MaKey and allows you to access every function of the MaKey MaKey using just alligator clip wires. Not only does this make it easier to use while tinkering, but it also makes for a more durable and reliable system.

Step 5: Identify the needs of the user:
Find out what the user needs or wants to do on the computer. Work with the user to identify simple and practical tasks, and try to specifically think of things that can be easily broken down into keyboard and mouse actions. Good examples of actions include:
- Moving and clicking the mouse to navigate their computer.
- Using WASD to move a character around in a video game.
- Using the arrow keys to move the cursor around in a document, or to play simple games.
- Opening and closing programs.
- Pressing a combination of keys to launch a more complex script or system function.
- This step can be a little challenging, but you should try to break down ideas into very simple keyboard and mouse actions. For your own understanding, try writing down all the actions that you take to do common tasks like check your e-mail or play music on your computer. What kinds of things do you do with your keyboard and mouse that your user is not able to do? Can you figure out how to accomplish the same tasks (or parts of the tasks) with just the MaKey MaKey?

Step 6: Identify the capabilities of the user: Print out the Body Mobility Chart attached to this step and work with the user to identify their specific physical capabilities. Your goal is to find out what types of movements the user is able to perform without difficulty, so that you can build an interface around those movements. Take short notes about the user’s specific abilities, and ask the user to rate how hard or easy it is to perform certain movements.

Step 7: Choose or design a solution for the user: Here’s where things really start getting fun. Now that you know more about your user you can start getting creative and finding ways to let them use what they can do to do what they want to do. Remind yourself of what the user can do.
Grab your filled-in Body Mobility Chart from Step 6 and take a close look at what the user is able to do, and how difficult certain types of movement may be. Think of ways to use materials and objects with the user. Remember the different materials that you may have tried in Step 3 when you were playing with the MaKey MaKey and try to imagine where you could place those materials or objects so that the user can easily touch them. Consider that the user will need to touch and move away from the object for it to be detected by the MaKey MaKey, and make sure that the user's natural resting position is not in contact with your materials. Include the user in the design process. If you are having trouble sketching or designing an interface purely on paper, go and chat with your user and include them in the process! Maybe they have some good ideas for things to try, or have used or seen something similar that you can gain some inspiration from. Sometimes two heads are better than one! It doesn't matter how good your interface is if the user isn't excited to use it! Try using aluminum and cardboard with the user to test out ideas for where to put contact points, and make simple sketches and notes so you don't forget what works and what doesn't.

Step 8: Make a prototype: Using your design as a guide, gather all of the parts you need and put together a prototype. This can be crude and ugly, as long as it gets the job done. Sometimes as you’re making a prototype you find obvious problems or improvements that were not obvious on paper, and you need to buy other stuff to make it work, so don't invest tons of money too soon.

Step 9: Use the prototype with the user: Meet with the user and show the prototype interface to them. Demonstrate and explain it before you install it with the user, and have the user play with it (if possible) to become more comfortable with it before it is installed. Ideally the user helped you design the interface in the beginning, and has been aware of what you have been working on for them already.

Step 10: Improve the prototype: Once you've built and tested your interface, I encourage you to think about how you could improve it in the future to make it more comfortable. There are a lot of things you could try, such as:
- Upgrade the materials
- Cardboard and aluminum foil are great for hashing out prototypes, but may fall apart quickly during repeated use. Your first upgrades should probably involve more durable conductive materials. Here are some that are worth the investment:
- Aluminum/copper tape - won't rip as easily as foil, and has an adhesive backing so you can secure it to structures more easily. Commonly found in the ductwork aisle at any hardware store, or in the gardening section. Aluminum tape looks like this, while copper tape looks like this.-
- Conductive fabric - actual fabric with metal strands woven into it.
- Conductive thread - sewable thread that conducts electricity.-
- Conductive paint - literally paint contact points onto nearly any surface.
- Conductive foam - often used to protect electronic components during shipping. This material is great for making very comfortable and functional interfaces, and is readily available from a variety of sources.

Author: jasonwebb


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DIY Use the MaKey MaKey to make DIY assistive technology for computer access