At present, the tech world is putting a lot of effort into exploring the ways we might interact with our digital devices. From Oculus Rift’s virtual reality headsets to Knocki’s ability to turn everyday objects into virtual controls, we are no longer restricted to poking at touchscreens. You could say that the Sensel Morph, a touch-sensitive pad made by a four-person startup, is one of the less ambitious interfaces around at the moment. But the ingenious simplicity of its design is precisely what makes it a compelling new product.
The Morph is very much like a regular graphics tablet to look at, and it functions in a similar way. It sits on your desk, relaying news of any pressure it senses to your laptop or mobile device via a wired USB connection, or low-energy Bluetooth. You can use brushes, pens and pencils to draw on this surface, but it is coated with a rubbery layer, because it was made for fingers to press down on.
The purpose of the Morph only becomes clear when you start placing overlays on its top surface. These are squishy covers with extruding buttons, which turn the otherwise featureless pressure-sensitive surface into an array of controls. Sensel has already developed a few useful examples, such as a QWERTY keyboard, a MIDI piano, drum-pads, and a magnetic overlay which allows makers to create custom interfaces that are printed on paper. Sensel is also working on a drag-and-drop interface editor, which will give you the opportunity to 3D-print and use your own overlays.
Having launched on Kickstarter in search of production capital, the Morph has already blitzed past its funding goal with more than a month to go (at the time of writing). Backers can pre-order the tablet for $249, making it comparable with the more limited mid-range competition. This price includes three overlays, with shipping scheduled for June 2016.