The Touch Board is a tool to make your projects interactive, responsive, smart or just fun. Use the Touch Board to change the world around you by turning almost any material or surface into a sensor. Connect anything conductive to one of its 12 electrodes and trigger a sound via its onboard MP3 player, play a MIDI note or do anything else that you might do with an Arduino or Arduino-compatible device.
The Touch Board is designed as an easy-to-use platform for a huge range of projects, whether it’s painting a lightswitch on your wall, making a paper piano or something nobody’s thought of yet. Make sure to take a look at our video above and check out the information below. If you’ve got a question, get in touch and we’ll get it up in the FAQs. We hope you’ll support the Touch Board. We can’t wait to see what you will build on top of this powerful platform!
- Touch sensing – The world is your interface!
- Distance sensing – You don’t need to touch your sensors to use them!
- No programming required – Unless you want to!
- Arduino-compatible – Easy to program and works with popular shields
- Works great with Electric Paint – Or any other conductive material
- MP3 Player / MIDI device – Make a symphony of sounds!
- MicroSD card socket – Change the sounds just by changing the card
- Standard 3.5mm audio jack – Works with headphones and speakers
- Lithium Polymer (LiPo) – Stand alone projects that recharge via USB
- HID capable – Turn the Touch Board into a keyboard or mouse
We’re a small design studio founded in 2009, based in London, UK. We’re known for our electrically conductive paint and cool kits. We believe in making electronics accessible to everyone whether it’s through new materials like our Electric Paint or through hardware like our kits and the Touch Board. The story of the Touch Board began last year when we saw the amazing graphical interfaces that people were creating with our Electric Paint. They asked us for a piece hardware that would make it easier for them and we’ve responded with the Touch Board. Click on our full bio to the right for more information.
The possibilities are limitless and that’s why we’ve tried to show a range of projects in our video. But, we’ve only scratched the surface. We’re hoping that you’ll build on what we’re showing here to create things that none of us could have expected. Throughout the campaign and after we’ll be posting tutorials showing you how to make the projects from the video and more. It’s our job to put the tools in your hands. It’s your job to create with them, so get started!
As shipped, the Touch Board will be pre-programmed to turn touch into sound. Touch electrode #1, hear track #1. Touch electrode #2, hear track #2, and so on. We’ve decided to ship the Touch Board pre-programmed and with a microSD card loaded with sample sounds so that you can focus on getting the Touch Board into your project. All you need to do is power up your Touch Board with a battery or USB, put your sounds on your microSD card and connect a speaker.
You could paint some instruments on a piece of paper, make a book interactive, create your own alphabet wall or even build an awesome cardboard boombox like the one in our video. The boombox was so much fun to make that we’ve decided to offer it as a reward so check out the images at the bottom of the page or the reward info to the right and get rockin’.
One of our favourite projects is the alphabet wall in our studio, made possible with a bit of Electric Paint, a Touch Board and a willing participant. The letters were painted onto the wall with Electric Paint and connected to the Touch Board with a set of painted traces. To make the project a bit more magical we covered the traces with white house paint. After changing the sounds in the microSD card all we had to do was get out the crayons and the kid! Sophie had a great time playing with the wall and left wishing it was on her wall instead of ours.
Nothing amazes studio visitors more than when we show them how the Touch Board can act as a distance sensor. The distance sensor is actually just a SUPER sensitive touch sensor. By uploading the distance code (which we’ll release upon shipment of the boards), you’ll be able to make a sensor that you can interact with from up to 20 cm away.
The image above shows how the Touch Board can infer your distance from a sensor. You could hide this sensor with a non-conductive piece of material (like a piece of paper or glass) and it would still function. It’s pretty amazing stuff and we can’t wait to see what you do with it.
But of course the most important question is what would you do with such a super sensor? In our video we showed you a few applications including a drum set, a cookie jar alarm and a wall that detected a whole person. All we did was upload our distance code, put some drum sounds on the microSD card and we were away. Sadly the magic of the Touch Board did not make us good drummers…
From the very beginning of this project we knew that the Touch Board needed to be Arduino-compatible. We wanted to make sure that any hardware we developed would be easy to use and would sit inside an existing universe of devices.
The Touch Board is Arduino-compatible, which means that it can be programmed just like an Arduino and it works with most popular shields and accessories (see Technical Specifications for more information). Our video shows three different projects which use existing shields to create exciting interactions: a set of wireless doorbells using XBee shields, an actual bell powered by a motor shield and (our favourite) a lightswitch made possible with a relay shield and some Electric Paint.
Using a Touch Board, a relay shield and a bit of Electric Paint we painted a lightswitch directly on our wall. When you touch the pad of paint, the Touch Board opens or closes the relay on the shield, turning the light On or Off. Programming the Touch Board to work with the relay shield was quick and easy. Trust us when we say that EVERYONE likes playing with this cool lightswitch. We’re offering a lightswitch kit as one of our rewards so make sure to check it out!
Nope! We want it to be super easy for anyone to get started using the Touch Board. The board will ship pre-programmed and pre-loaded with sounds on the microSD card. All you need to do to begin is connect a USB cable or battery, plug in some headphones or speakers and you’re ready to go. Touch any one of the 12 electrodes and you’ll hear a sound. If you want to change the sound, all you need to do is to replace the MP3 files on the microSD card.
Yep! The Touch Board can be programmed just like an Arduino. If you want to change how the Touch Board works, it’s easy. We will be releasing a range of different sketches that can be installed via the Arduino programming environment. But of course, if you want to write your own programs, do it, and share your project with us! The Touch Board works with most popular Arduino shields and Arduino-compatible accessories, so the possibilities are endless. We can’t wait to see what you come up with.
Anything conductive! The Touch Board project began as a way for us to create interfaces with our Electric Paint (as you’ve seen in the video), but it can do a whole lot more. You can also connect tin foil, copper, conductive thread, Squishy Circuits, and more straight to the board. The list is long, but with 12 electrodes, you’ll be able to do plenty of experiments.
You’ll notice a performance difference between different materials and even different sensor shapes, so get creative. We’ll be releasing more guidance on different sensor types when we begin shipping the boards, but we encourage you to experiment and share what you discover.
You might be wondering how the Touch Board can work with so many materials. The answer is, “capacitive sensing.” Don’t know what capacitive sensing is? No problem. Capacitive sensing is a technology that’s widely used in consumer electronic devices like trackpads and smartphones. The Touch Board is a simpler version of what’s going on in these devices, but instead of buttons on a screen, the Touch Board lets you put buttons on a table, a chair or even a shirt. Still have questions? Get in touch or ask us in the FAQs, we can’t wait to hear what you’re curious about.
- Arduino compatible (recognised as an Arduino Leonardo in IDE)
- Atmel ATMega32U4 Microprocessor
- Freescale MPR121 dedicated touch interface
- VLSI VS1053B audio processor
- Arduino Shield Compatible (check pins available)
- 32 KB of Flash Memory of which 4 KB is used for bootloader
- 5V operating voltage (automatic voltage selector for USB or battery operation)
- Built in LiPo battery charging with onboard boost circuit for 5V operation
- 16 MHz clock speed
- Can be powered and programmed over USB
- 20 digital I/O pins (3 used for Touch IC and 5 for MP3 IC – can be disabled)
- 7 PWM channels
- 12 analog input channels
- 12 Touch electrodes of which 8 can be configured as extra digital inputs or outputs with PWM capability
- 84mm x 62mm foot print with maximum height of 10mm (audio connector)
- On/Off switch when powered from battery
We wanted the Touch Board to have all the features needed to make a truly awesome development board for your projects including the ability to use existing Arduino-compatible shields. We made all the pins used in the MP3 decoder/MIDI chip jumper enabled/disabled. You can turn this feature On and Off by adding or removing solder from the jumper pads. We left the MPR121 permanently connected to pins 2, 3, and 4 so these are now permanently assigned to the chip. However, this doesn’t mean you have to use them in every project.
You will still have access to 11 analog input channels, 17 digital IO pins, 6 PWM channels. We have made sure that it is compatible with as many of the awesome shields out there. Pins 2 and 3 are permanently connected to the capacitive touch shield for I2C communication, but this doesn’t stop you using them to talk with other devices using the same protocol.
The core of the Touch Board is the Atmega32U4 processor clocked at 16MHz and running at 5V – the same as the Arduino Leonardo. It has 32kB of flash program memory and 4kB of RAM – plenty for most programs you might want to write. This is connected to the micro USB socket on the board. This allows the board to appear to a computer as a serial port (CDC) or a keyboard / mouse (HID).
The touch sensor is a Freescale MPR121 dedicated touch interface. It has 12 sensor electrodes that can detect touch and proximity. Additionally, 8 out of the 12 can be repurposed as extra digital inputs and outputs in code. The electrode outputs are connected to the large pads down the top edge of the board as well as a row of 2.54mm (0.1″) header pads down the right edge.
The MP3 playback functionality is provided by a VLSI VS1053B audio processor. It is connected to the Atmega32U4 and the microSD card socket. It can play MP3 files directly off a microSD card in the socket. By changing a couple of solder links on the board the VS1053B can become a MIDI player instead. This allows you to send polyphonic note data from the Atmega32U4 to the VS1053B and have it play the result for you. The output from the VS1053B is connected to both a 3.5mm headphone socket and to 2.54mm (0.1″) header pads near the headphone socket. You can connect headphones or powered speakers to these connections – normal HiFi speakers will need an amplifier with an AUX input.
The board can be powered either by the USB socket or via a 3.7V LiPo battery. When powered by the cell, the board can be switched On or Off via the slide switch to save battery when it is not in use. An onboard boost circuit steps up the LiPo voltage to the required 5V automatically when run from the battery. When USB is connected at the same time as the battery, the battery will charge from the USB power. Both USB and battery inputs are protected by a 500mA resettable fuse.
Bare Conductive thrives on values of open source hardware and software. We have always aimed to build a platform around our products and are producing the Touch Board in accordance with all appropriate Open Source licensing. Eagle files, schematics, and parts list will be available for download. We will also be providing sample code and library support.
As you can probably tell, we’re super excited to get moving, but we’ve been careful not to get ahead of ourselves. As of the launch of this campaign we’ve made 5 different Touch Board prototype runs (an average of 4 boards per run). For the first four rounds we placed components in house, but the latest prototypes were made out of house and they turned out great, giving us the confidence to move forward with this campaign.
The production Touch Board will be produced in the UK by several well-established manufactures whom we have worked with throughout the prototyping process, helping us to iron out bottlenecks and potential problems.
During the campaign we will be continuing to tweak the board design and continue developing code. Approximately three weeks after completion of the campaign we will begin production of Touch Boards and place orders for the reward components from each supplier. While the boards are in production we will be working on packaging and organising order fulfilment. We anticipate that Touch Boards and other rewards will begin shipping in late February of 2014.
- November 2013 – Kickstarter campaign finishes to roaring success, final sign off of production files, development of Touch Board test rig.
- December 2013 – Touch Boards ordered, component purchasing for rewards, completion of Touch Board test rig
- January 2014 – New Years party, packaging design, final code development, testing & validation of initial Touch Boards from production run.
- February 2014 – Receipt of Touch Boards, receipt of packaging, lots of testing and packing, begin order fulfilment
- March 2014 – Sending rewards to our AWESOME backers!
- April 2014 – Amazing projects fill the world.
In order to make the Touch Board a reality we need two things from you. We need you to back our campaign, but we also need to you make some killer projects with this board. The Touch Board is the next chapter for our studio and we want you to join us in the adventure.
The Touch Board began as a response to our community, where we saw some incredible projects being created with our Electric Paint. But we see the board as even more, as a platform for anyone to engage with. It’s your support, ideas and projects that will fuel this campaign, so join in!
We’ll be using funds raised from this campaign to finish the final round of pre-production prototypes, finalise software development and fund the first production run of Touch Boards! Join us, lets make this happen together.
Impress your friends and win our undying love with your support! The Electric Paint Goodie Bag will feature a custom designed, USB-powered fireworks display. We’re including a screen printed card, an Electric Paint Pen, LEDs and a 9V battery too.
The Touch Board! We’re offering three different rewards for the Touch Board, Super Early, Early and Regular. Each Touch Board will include an Electric Paint pen and microSD card. Get ’em while they’re hot!
Want your Touch Board to come with a few more bells and whistles? Add a bit more to your pledge and get a micro USB cable and/or a LiPo battery. See the reward details on the right hand side for more information.
Want to start inventing? The Inventors Kit is right for you. We’ve packed together all the essential Touch Board accessories so that you can build the project of your dreams! The Inventors Kit comes with a Touch Board, a microSD card, Electric Paint Pen AND Electric Paint Jar, 12 alligator clips, micro USB cable, universal USB power supply, rechargeable LiPo battery and mini speaker.
Liked the lightswitch in the video? Great! We put together this kit so that you can make your own lightswitch in your home or office. The kit includes a Touch Board, a microSD card, Electric Paint Pen AND Electric Paint Jar, micro USB cable, universal USB power supply, relay shield and three light switch stencils. This kit involves wiring up high voltage so make sure that you have the necessary skills and experience before selecting it. If you’re not ready for the lightswitch, why not check out the amazing boombox below.
The Boombox Kit will get the party started. After we saw how popular our cardboard boombox was with our friends, we had to give you the chance to get one too. We’re designing a one off cardboard boombox inspired by the one featured on our video and screenprinted with our Electric Paint. Choose your tunes and you’re ready to rock! The BoomBox kit comes with a Touch Board a microSD card, Electric Paint Pen, 12 alligator clips, micro USB cable, rechargeable LiPo battery, mini speaker and an awesome screen-printed cardboard die-cut boombox!
TIME FOR A HACKDAY! Want to run an awesome Touch Board powered Hack Day? We’ve put together five Inventors Kits to give you plenty of kit to build something incredible as a group, or a bunch of individual projects.
TOUCH BOARD WORKSHOP! Ready for some crazy creative chaos? We’ve put together a pack of ten Inventors Kits so you can run a workshop with ALL your friends and colleagues. Perfect for maker spaces, hackdays, prototyping sessions and more!
Want to run a workshop with us? We want to run one with you! We’re happy to come to you with tons of stuff and lots of ideas. You tell us what you want, whether it’s a crazy hackday, a prototyping session or brainstorming about the future of electronics. The cost of our travel isn’t included in the reward, but our enthusiasm is free!
Thanks to our friends at Sidekick Creatives who helped us make this amazing video. Thanks also to our friend Jude at Design Modelling who made the coolest (only) cardboard boombox we’ve ever seen! Thanks also to Sophie for showing everyone how to play with an Alphabet Wall.
We’ve been working together as a studio for almost 5 years so we’re good at making and sending stuff to people, but that doesn’t mean things always go perfectly! We’ve worked hard to understand the production and fulfilment of Touch Boards for what will (hopefully!) be a successful campaign. We’ve tried to think of everything from the details of component sourcing to making sure we have plenty of coffee to keep us going. But despite our best efforts, we’re sure to run into some road blocks. We’ll deal with them the way we always do. Lots of lists, plenty of phone calls and a bunch of hard work. We’re confident that we’ve set ourselves reasonable goals and have laid the foundation for something great.