Makey Makey
Makey Makey

This Kit Turns Anything That Conducts Electricity Into a Game Controller

Makey Makey
Makey Makey

From joysticks to touch pads, the controllers we use to play our favorite games have evolved a lot in the past 40 years. Now, a new product from two MIT graduate students allows players to make controllers out of familiar objects you can find around the house, WIRED reports.

Makey Makey is a kit that consists of a circuit board, alligator clips, and a USB cable. It doesn't look like much when you first take it out of the package, but by assembling all the pieces, you can transform anything that conducts electricity into your personal game controller. The clips connect to different computer keys, and attaching them to conductive objects creates interactive buttons. A pencil drawing of Pac-Man can be used as the right cursor, while a banana can stand in for the space bar. In addition working with food, plants, water, and even Play-Doh, the kit can even be used with parts of the player's own body.

Jay Silver and Eric Rosenbaum came up with the kit at the MIT Media Lab. They wanted to design a product in line with the maker movement that encourages kids to get creative with how they interact with technology. "Makey Makey is a device for allowing people to plug the real world into their computers," David Ten Have of JoyLabz, the product's manufacturer, told WIRED. "We want people to be able to see the world as their construction kit."

Versions of Makey Makey can be purchased online starting at $24.95. To see how the kit can be used to make a banana keyboard or a Play-Doh Super Mario controller, watch the video below.

[h/t WIRED]

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Arthur Shi, iFixit // CC BY-NC-SA 3.0
The New MacBook Has a Crumb-Resistant Keyboard
Arthur Shi, iFixit // CC BY-NC-SA 3.0
Arthur Shi, iFixit // CC BY-NC-SA 3.0

Soon, you won’t have to worry about ruining your Macbook’s keyboard with muffin crumbs. The 2018 MacBook Pro will feature keys specifically designed to withstand the dust and debris that are bound to get underneath them, according to Digital Trends. The keyboard will also be quieter than previous versions, the company promises.

The latter feature is actually the reasoning Apple gives for the new design, which features a thin piece of silicon stretching across where the keycaps attach to the laptop, but internal documents initially obtained by MacRumors show that the membrane is designed to keep debris from getting into the butterfly switch design that secures the keycaps.

Introduced in 2015, Apple’s butterfly keys—a change from the traditional scissor-style mechanism that the company’s previous keyboards used—allow the MacBook keyboards to be much thinner, but are notoriously delicate. They can easily become inoperable if they’re exposed to dirt and debris, as any laptop is bound to be, and are known for becoming permanently jammed. In fact, the company has been hit with multiple lawsuits alleging that it has known about the persistent problem for years but continued using the design. As a result, Apple now offers free keyboard replacements and repairs for those laptop models.

This new keyboard design (you can see how it works in iFixit's very thorough teardown), however, doesn’t appear to be the liquid-proof keyboard Apple patented in early 2018. So while your new laptop might be safe to eat around, you still have to worry about the inevitable coffee spills.

[h/t Digital Trends]

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iStock
A New App Interprets Sign Language for the Amazon Echo
iStock
iStock

The convenience of the Amazon Echo smart speaker only goes so far. Without any sort of visual interface, the voice-activated home assistant isn't very useful for deaf people—Alexa only understands three languages, none of which are American Sign Language. But Fast Company reports that one programmer has invented an ingenious system that allows the Echo to communicate visually.

Abhishek Singh's new artificial intelligence app acts as an interpreter between deaf people and Alexa. For it to work, users must sign at a web cam that's connected to a computer. The app translates the ASL signs from the webcam into text and reads it aloud for Alexa to hear. When Alexa talks back, the app generates a text version of the response for the user to read.

Singh had to teach his system ASL himself by signing various words at his web cam repeatedly. Working within the machine-learning platform Tensorflow, the AI program eventually collected enough data to recognize the meaning of certain gestures automatically.

While Amazon does have two smart home devices with screens—the Echo Show and Echo Spot—for now, Singh's app is one of the best options out there for signers using voice assistants that don't have visual components. He plans to make the code open-source and share his full methodology in order to make it accessible to as many people as possible.

Watch his demo in the video below.

[h/t Fast Company]

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