Adam and I

Keyboard Pants

by hoeken, published

Adam and I
Keyboard Pants by hoeken May 10, 2009

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Keyboard Pants by hoeken is licensed under the GNU - GPL license.

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Today was Fashion Hacking day with Diana Eng at NYC Resistor and I've wanted to make these keyboard pants for a long time. The basic idea was to take a flexible silicone keyboard and somehow integrate it with some pants (or shorts). I had they keyboards laying around for a while and I ran down to the Conways to get some jeans for about $8 (Yay fulton mall!)

This was inspired by a cool project I saw a long time ago on the hypernets: http://www.engadget.com/2008/04/23/keyboard-infused-pants-make-it-okay-to-grab-your-crotch/


Now, the question was how do I attach the keyboard to the pants? Well, the first step was to cut the keyboard in half. I could've tried to put it somewhere different, but I wanted it to be in a place where it was convenient to type... which is right in the middle of your thighs.

Once I had cut them in half, I inspected the circuit to see just how hard it would be to solder the traces back together. Unfortunately it was impossible to solder traces on, and it was equally hard to use conductive thread to join the traces. After a bit of fussing, I abandoned the idea of having a fully functional keyboard and just went for style points. Interestingly enough, the left side of the keyboard still works (its attached to the USB cord still)

My basic process for making these was simple:

  1. Scan the keyboards in on a desktop scanner.
  2. Import the images into Inkscape and trace vectors around all the keys.
  3. Open the SVG into Corel Draw for lasercutting. (power to 85, speed to 70)
  4. Lasercut the jeans with a piece of wood between the layers so it only cut the front.
  5. Sew around the edges of the keyboard to attach them to the jeans. The edges were just silicone which was really easy to sew through.
  6. Sew a patch behind the keyboard so that its not silicone directly on your skin (gets a bit sweaty)

It was a fun afternoon build process, and I really enjoyed combining hacking and clothing (and fashion?). Sewing was actually pretty fun, but so is everything else that involves dangerous objects. I also really enjoyed the physical object -> digital design -> physical object from using the scanner as the initial data input.

Oh, and even though the keyboard just barely functions, here's a video of me kicked back playing Tetris on them:


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I saw these on a YouTube channel called Vsause. But the company who announced this never followed through with selling them. I wish someone sold these! Oh, and could you possibly re-upload the video of you playing tetris? I would like to see these in action.

This is brilliant! Could you explain what you found inside the keyboard that makes it unable to be connected once you open it up?

The internal circuitry is some sort of silkscreened conductive ink on a flexible plastic layer which is separated by a thin die-cut plastic sheet. The problem is that the traces were very close together, and any attempt to solder to them would melt the underlying plastic layer.

I tried to use conductive thread, but the needle was too big for the traces and would either bridge or short or destroy the trace. There were about 15-20 traces to connect as well.

Basically my skills and patience were not up to the task. To do this properly, you'd have to design a new keyboard
that was split, or possibly use wire glue.

Do this again with some scripting software to use it like this keyboard:

IIRC, all you need to do to access the other side of the keyboard is hold space down while typing the "mirror" key. It's very easy to get used to it!

You could do this equally well for the right-handed side, and could integrate your new wearable into one or both sleeves to allow one-handed typing input..

I thought it was a girl wearing the pants in the first photo so now I'm very disappointed.

Amazing, now I can use a nice keyboard with my PSP :)


There are many keyboards with the PCB on the other side... (Here in Hungary I've found them only with the PCB on the right side.) Get one and you'll have a fully functional keyboard! :)
I want one!

how about attaching the keyboard to a skirt or a skort or an apron? then you wouldn't need to chop the keyboard in half :-P

LOL! I already get funny looks wearing keyboard pants. Wearing a keyboard skirt is a bit too far for me. A couple of the girls at NYC Resistor were interested in that though.

Try to find a silicone keyboard with the USB port on the OTHER side, then you can have both sides working easily without joining together the traces.

Otherwise awesome mod, I'd get a pair of these to use with the laptop :)

It'd be nice if we can put in a bluetooth/wireless keyboard into it.. then you dont even have to plug it in :)

if you can get the other side working id totally geek it up in a pair of these

if you can attach 2 keyboards to one PC, you could just hide half the left(?) one inside the pants.

yeah, I'd think you could make the left hand side keys on the right pant leg unpressable, somehow, and then link the two keyboards up via a cheap USB hub on the belt or fly. There is still the issue of washablity. DONT_KNOW

Step 1: Neat, that looks rather nice.
Step 2: Oh, he laser-cut the jeans to let the keys thru from behind, nice!
Step3: Oh, wait, the keyboard still works??????
Step4: Pick jaw up off the floor.