A sheet of this smart fabric can transform any table into a giant trackpad

Ever think that the twitchy computer trackpad on your laptop does not give you enough space to work with? Smart materials maker Madison Maxey is here to help. Developed with Brooklyn’s New Lab and Autodesk’s Pier 9 workshop, Maxey has created a Textile Touchpad that looks a bit like a tablecloth but is, in fact, a giant touch-sensitive surface.

“We created the textile trackpad as an early sample that can help designers, the disabled, and the elderly comfortably use a trackpad by expanding the size of the interface,” Maxey, who is founder of the smart fabric startup Loomia, told Digital Trends. “Imagine a designer having an intimate canvas, or shaky hands being able to navigate a computer with a palm instead of a finger. Fabric is a strong platform for large surface-area technology because it can fold into a small space to carry, and expand to cover a table when it’s needed. We decided to build this textile trackpad to show that smart fabric can be more than workout shirts and light up dresses — but can also be a functional part of our experience with the digital world.”

Unfolded, the material measures 30 by 36 inches. Aside from the difference in form factor, though, it works much like any other touch surface and even boasts some smart vibration motors which provide haptic feedback to show that users’ gestures have been picked up.

If you are wondering how much you will need to give Maxey to get hold of one of your own, however, don’t sweat — it’s free. Well, almost. You need to buy components, such as the Adafruit Flora micro-controller that gives it its smarts, but Maxey has made the whole design freely available on Instructables so you can build your own.

“This project was started at Autodesk and there’s a strong open source community there,” she continued. “We decided to open source the prototype instructions so that makers can start to think of smart fabric as a tool for creation, and to align with Autodesk’s philosophy.”

You can check out the Instructables page here.