Tailored Touch - a Mouse From Touch Sensitive Pads, Fitted to You




Tailored Touch is a way to make any input device from touch sensitive pads, which can be fitted to any person.

It is great for people with shaky movements and poor motor control, such as those with cerebral palsy.

This instructable describes how to make the mouse, but we have also made a midi keyboard from the same materials, which we will also post soon.

Step 1: Get the Ingredient Parts

First you will need to gather the following items:

Starting top right, and going clockwise, finally spiralling into the centre

1. 0.1" (2.54mm) Crimp Connector Housing: 2 Pin - we need 6 of these.  Can use a different size, as long as you have enough for 12 pins total.
2. Male Crimp Pins for 0.1" Housings - again 12 total
3. Multi-core wire
4. Small washers - you guessed it, 12 total
5. USB to USB Micro cable
6. Breadboard. This size or bigger is great
7. Header pins - 3 sets of 12 pins, and 1 set of 6 pins
8. MPR121 chip on a breakout board, again by sparkfun
9. 3.3v Pro Micro - a mini Arduino board made by SparkFun
10. 5x jumper wires - different colours preferred, or single core wire can also be used.

Step 2: Get the Tools

Here are the tools I use, again clockwise from top left:

1. Wire strippers - this type is very cheap and works well for our needs
2. Pliers - toothed nose rather than smooth is best - for crimping the crimp pins.  A crimping tool here is even better
3. A "Third hand" tool for soldering (optional, but helps)
4. Paperclips to help soldering the header pins
5. Solder
6. Soldering Iron
7. Soldering iron tip cleaner - again somewhat optional, but helps

Step 3: Solder the Header Pins

First we'll solder the header pins.  Paperclips can be great for holding them in place while you solder - see photos!

Once you have 3-4 pins soldered in you can take off the paperclips to do the rest.

Solder headers onto both sides of the ProMicro, and both sides of the MPR121 Breakout board.

Step 4: Stick Into Breadboard and Wire Up

Put the two red boards into the breadboard and wire them up exactly as shown.

Simple stuff - Vcc to 3.3V with a red cable, ground to ground with a black one.  The others as shown here:

IRQ (on MPR) to A2 (on ProMocro)
SCL (on MPR) to 3 (on ProMicro)
SDA (on MPR) to 2 (on ProMicro)

Leave one row of empty holes on the breadboard next to pins 0 to 11 on the MPR chip - we'll use these later to attach our touch sensitive pads.

You're may look more like the second photo shown if you are using jumper wires.

Step 5: Print the Stencil, Get a Scalpel

Get hold of a scalpel or other cutting knife, metal ruler and cutting mat.

Then print the stencil as shown onto a sheet of A3.

This will be used to stencil (paint) the touch sensitive pads for our mouse.  The pads with letters on (L R S D) will be mouse buttons - Left click, Right click, Drag and Scroll.  The other 8 will be mouse movement directions.

Cut the 8 mouse directions out completely from the paper as shown.

Also cut around 90% of the Mouse buttons - both the letters themselves and the pads, so that they are just held into the paper at the corners, as shown in the last 2 photos on this step.

Step 6: Mount Onto Card With Spray Mount

Spray the back of the stencil VERY LIGHTLY with spray mount - just one pass of the paper from far away to begin with.  If it doesn't stick first time, then have another go, but we need to be able to peel the paper off again at the end.

Mount it onto card - we prefer white card of about 1mm thickness, but any card will work.  Preferably not black, as the paint will be black!

Then use a knife to cut the final corners around the letters, and peel out the mouse buttons leaving the letters stuck down as shown in the last image on this page.

Step 7: Make Holes in the Corners of Every Touch Pad

Use a sharp point, as that found on a pair of compasses or a circle cutter, to poke holes through the card in the corner of every touch pad, as shown.

Step 8: Cut the Wires for the Back

Choose where you want the Breadboard to stick onto the card later - we prefer above the R and S touch pads - and then measure out and cut wires to go between each hole (poked through in the last step) and each socket on the breadboard at the MPR chip.

Leave about 1-2 inches spare at this stage for good measure, depending on how precise / confident you are!

Step 9: Fit the Washers and Wires

The washers are needed to make a good electrical connection between the painted pad and the wire.

Push the wire through from the back of the cardboard, and then strip with the wire strippers as shown.

Twist the multicore next with fingers, then feed through the washer and twist back on itself.

Pull the wire back through from behind the cardboard so that the washer is right up against the hole in the card.  Then push it flat so it sits flat on the card.  This is quite important - if it isn't sitting flat try squeezing the wire flat against the washer with the pliers as shown- - also try pushing the washer down onto the card and then TOWARDS THE HOLE.  I have found this helps form a corner in the wire so the washer sits flat.

Tape the wire on the back to keep it tidy, where it will end up - ie where the breadboard will be stuck on the front.

Repeat for the other 11 wires and washers.

Step 10: Paint With Conductive Paint!

Get yourself a brush, a cup of water, and some conductive paint.

Start Painting!

Lift the washers so you get paint underneath as well as on top - then stick the washers down and be generous with the paint to make them stick down.

When it's just about dry, lift the paper stencil letter first, with a knife blade if you need, and then take off the whole stencil.

Be careful with mucky fingers - the paint can be very messy, and gets everywhere if you are not careful.

Step 11: Fit the Crimp Pins - Mouse Buttons First

First stick the breadboard down with the sticky pad that comes stuck on the back of the breadboard.

Then cut a slot in the cardboard between the pins 0-11 on the MPR chip, and the touch pads.  You might need to flip the board over and move the wires before you cut this slot, so you don't cut into them by accident.

Next feed through your first wires through the slot.  Start with the 4 mouse buttons, at each end of the slot as shown.

Cut any excess wire, strip, and then crimp the crimp pins onto the ends of the wires as shown.  Finally put the crimped pins into their housings.  These will go into pin 0, 1, 10 and 11 on the MPR chip (in the order L, R, S, D)

Step 12: Finish Remaining Wires

Feed the remaining wires through, crimp and finish them.

Our code is set up to use the wires in this order:

Up-Right  on pin 9
Right on pin 8
Down-Right on pin 7
Down on pin 6

Continue clockwise until

Up on pin 2

Step 13: Upload the Code

Upload the attached arduino code to the arduino.

You'll need to follow the instructions on the SparkFun website for how to get the drivers etc for the Pro Micro first.

But once you've got that working, just hit upload.  Remember it's a 3.3v ProMicro you need to select, not a 5V or a leonardo.

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    21 Discussions


    Interesting. As I suffer from RSI I've experimented with many alternatives to the mouse, although unfortunately most still focus on using hand/arm. Personally I'm hoping one day for the technology to be cheap enough to recognise eye movement to pointer.

    2 replies

    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    You can also lay out the pads in an arc in front of you, and we even tried using it with legs / feet instead of hands! Its definitely possible...


    5 years ago on Introduction

    Is there any way to make this work on Linux? Our school computers don't have windows and we would love to have this project running...

    3 replies

    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    Once built it plug and play straight into any windows or mac machine, and I assume into any linux machine too - do try it and let me know, but I bet it'll work straight off.


    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    Yes it works on the linux machines I tested!!

    I showed this to a local association that works with disabled children and they loved it! Great work!!


    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    Wow, fantastic! Would love to hear more about this if you don't mind sharing, either by phone or email? You can reach me at samuel [dot] jewell [at] network.rca.ac.uk


    5 years ago on Introduction

    Your ingredient list here doesn't list the key ingredients. Step 10 adds "Conductive Paint." And I still don't see how it works — does the user hold on to the other end of the wire? Where exactly is the circuit you're making?

    It's a cool project, but I hate having to click through a dozen steps to find the key bits... it'd be great if, in the future, you could give away the secret right on step 1. Barring that, at least give it away on the last step. This one ends with "upload the attached code to your Arduino," which really doesn't tell us anything about how it works.

    5 replies

    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    Every Instructable presupposes some knowledge on the part of the readers. In the case of Arduino builds, a certain amount of electronics knowledge is assumed.

    The wires go from the conductive pads to the Arduino, which detects the touches and sends the information to your computer via the USB cable.

    The program inside the Arduino converts the touch sensor data into the format required by the computer.

    For more information on Arduinos, the given Sparkfun link is a good place to start. For general information on electronics, Wikipedia is your friend.


    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    I've been working with Arduinos for years, as well as designing my own custom circuit boards, etc. Lack of electronics knowledge wasn't the problem here.

    Anyway, BareConductive, thank you for clarifying what's going on in this project.


    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    Ah, OK, I've downloaded and unzipped the source, poked through it, and found the key bit I was looking for.

    The magic in this project is done by the MPR121 breakout board, which is listed in the ingredients but not explained. This is a capacitive touch sensor chip with an I2C interface (so you can access it from Arduino using the Wire class). This board is also what drives the use of a 3.3V Arduino board. For more info, see: https://www.sparkfun.com/products/9695


    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    Yeah apologies that we hadn't put all the ingredients on the first page - we were out of time for our deadline. Cheers for your interest tho- have you done any capsensing as a result?

    Hey Joe, a bit late but just saw your question. The pads are working by capacitive touch, so unlike the MaKey MaKey you don't have to complete the circuit to trigger the sound.


    5 years ago on Introduction

    Nice mouse. It was a really good idea! I need to make one now.

    P.S. LRSD= Little Rock School District. Try lrsd.org