Makey Makey Go

Photos provided by Joylabz.

Today, Makey Makey gets a smaller sibling called Makey Makey Go, the latest version of our favorite interface board designed to allow people to quickly take everyday objects and use them to control their computers.

The thumb drive shaped device is the second product from Jay Silver and Joylabz, who introduced the first Makey Makey exactly three years ago, heading into the 2012 Bay Area Maker Faire. The new version’s main difference is its single input and lower price — it will sell for $19 (Kickstarter pre-order starts today) and is expected to ship this November. The company plans to continue selling the original Makey Makey product under the name Makey Makey Classic and maintaining its $49 price.

“Over the past three years I’ve been thinking, Makey Makey isn’t as simple as it could be,” said Silver in an interview with Make:. “With Makey Makey Go we wanted to make something that could be always on you, be affordable, and as easy to use as possible.”

How it works

For those already familiar with the Makey Makey, you can think of the Go as a smaller, simpler, and less expensive version of the original. One end of the board plugs directly into your computer’s USB port (Mac, Windows, and Linux are all supported). From the computer’s perspective, the Makey Makey appears as a generic USB keyboard or mouse.

Makey on fridge

The magnetic backing of the Makey Makey Go allows it to hang out on the fridge.

But instead of a mouse button, the other end the Makey Makey Go offers a spot to connect an alligator clip (included) that can be attached to any conductive material, allowing that material to act as a mouse click, spacebar, or any custom key you’d care to assign it.

With three years of Makey Makey projects under their belt, there’s a deep well of documented applications, ranging from the practical to the absurd. For example, you could use a banana to trigger the sound of a digital piano, or have a strip of foil control the camera shutter on your tablet.

Placed between the USB stick and the alligator clip attachment, you’ll find two capacitive buttons on the Makey Makey Go. One of these is a play button, used to activate the board. The other button is shaped like a gear and is used to switch the type of input your computer sees.

Makey close up

Left to right you’ll see capacitive pads defined as Set, Play, and Plus.

By default, any material connected to the Makey Makey Go will be interpreted as a mouse click. A single tap of the board’s gear button will toggle the input to act as a space bar instead. Holding the gear button down puts the board into a custom input mode, allowing you to define the input as any keyboard key you like using a free Web interface provided by Joylabz.

Co-founder Jay Silver explained the decision to go with a single input on the new board saying, “It lowers the ceiling of possible inputs, but it also widens the walls and lowers the floor, so it’s easier to start.”

Still Room for the Classics

Just because the Makey Makey Go is the hot new thing, that doesn’t mean the original Makey Makey is going to crawl away anytime soon. A major advantage the Makey Makey Classic is the 12 inputs it offers (though only six are simultaneous: up, down, left, right, space, and click), compared to the single configurable input of the Makey Makey Go. Because of this input advantage, if you are looking to create a full game controller out of Playdough, or a piano keyboard out of green chilis, the Makey Makey Classic is still your best option.

Makey Makey Classic

The original Makey Makey offers six input points and is priced at $49.

Depending on the number of USB ports supported by your computer, you could plug multiple Makey Makey Gos, adding inputs as needed, but the multiple inputs of the Classic model is going to be tough to beat for $49.

A new audience

The Makey Makey Go is both a new product and a new approach. All things being equal, both models of Makey Makey will turn physical objects into digital computer input. And while some will cherish the new Makey Makey Go for its more convenient size, we suspect the most compelling feature is the $19 price tag.

From the outset of their Kickstarter campaign 3 years ago, the original Makey Makey has been a popular outlet for Makers, children, and everyday tinkerers. That said, the $49 asking price is not a trivial amount of money.

But at $19 the Makey Makey Go is a different proposition, opening up a new audience and new markets. It’s an amount that kids can reasonably save their allowance for and, more importantly, a price that educators can feel better about including in course fees for young students.

Makey Makey Card Sword

A Makey Makey Go plugged into a smartphone using a USB OTG adapter.

What will you make?

Of course, there’s no better proving ground for the Makey Makey Go’s usefulness than right here with Make: magazine’s readers. So let us know what you think, what you’d be curious to use it for, and where you think the Makey Makey Go fits in among the Arduino, the littleBits, and the Raspberry Pi.