Take a look at this here Kickstarter campaign. “MaKey MaKey” is a device that promises to allow you to turn anything even slightly conductive into a key or mouse button. The principle is fairly simple:
“Alligator Clip two objects to the MaKey MaKey board. For example, you and an apple. When you touch the apple, you make a connection, and MaKey MaKey sends the computer a keyboard message. The computer just thinks MaKey MaKey is a regular keyboard (or mouse). Therefore it works with all programs and webpages, because all programs and webpages take keyboard and mouse input.”
One inherent drawback is that if you intend to simply create and push a button (as in the above example), you must hold onto a wire or otherwise attach it to your body to complete the circuit. It’s a small thing, but it could put a damper on spontaneous interactions in a museum or science center setting (“Try this miraculous chess set piano! Wait, let me tape this wire to your arm first…”). Of course, you can circumvent this problem fairly easily with a little ingenuity, and the designers show some examples of this.
Perhaps what I like most about this concept, aside from its obvious versatility, is its simplicity. I’m pretty sure I could fix this thing if it broke, using only basic roadie troubleshooting skills. That’s more than can be said of some of the sleeker novel user interfaces out there. Exhibit malfunctions being one of life’s few absolute certainties, this is a pretty huge selling point.