The Sensel Morph was voted one of the best Kickstarter campaigns of 2015. As they approach release more details and more demos are emerging that show the potential of this touchy-feely device. One new feature is the ability to design and print your own overlays.
What is The Morph?
The Morph is a touch-sensitive input device that looks a lot like a over-large trackpad. It works via pressure and so can detect any type of object, from fingers, pens and pencils to paint brushes, elbows and grapefruit – anything that applies pressure. With over 20,000 pressure sensors, detecting up to 40,000 levels of pressure and up to 16 contact points it offers a very high resolution of control. The idea is that you can overlay a flexible panel which dictates what it’s being used for. So a you can overlay a QWERTY keyboard for typing or a musical keyboard for playing notes. It can morph into anything you want, hence the name.
The Kickstarter last year showed an MPC style overlay with pads, virtual knobs and sliders which looked very interesting indeed but that is by no means the only thing it could do. The pressure nature of the Morph immediately brings to mind Multidimensional Polyphony Expression (MPE) which is found in the ROLI keyboards. MPE enables per note pressure to be mapped to expression controls on a virtual instrument. The Morph could certainly cope with that.
Roll your own controller
The point that Sensel are trying to get across is that the Morph can be anything. Whatever you want to do, whatever you want to control, can be done with the Morph. To that end in a interview at the Summer NAMM last week product marketing lead Stephanie Chedid revealed how this will work (video below). She said that you can literally design your own overlay with whatever controls or guides on it that you want – presumably in some sort of template. They will then 3D print it for you for around $15-$20. Or you can download the design and print it yourself.
That’s pretty extraordinary. How the design side works is not very clear. Presumably you can create regions and specify how the generated data is used and mapped to MIDI or other protocols. These things will hopefully become clear.
In some ways it’s like designing your own controller on a multi-touch screen or tablet using Emulator Pro or yMIDI but the pressure element gives it a more tactile experience. It’s also pretty robust and sits there as a separate piece of hardware rather than getting all your fingers over your DAW. Although that can also be a plus point of multi-touch. There’s potential here for something very interesting although it all comes down to finding creative ways to use it that don’t all end up being just a large XY pad.
The Sensel Morph is available for pre-order for a limited time for $249.99 with an overlay of your choice. They have 10 overlays available on the website, each for $24.99 ranging from keyboards to the MPC controller, art pads and gaming pads.
More information available on the Sensel Morph website.