At its core, the Keyglove is built around the well-known AT90USB programmable series of microcontrollers from Atmel. These are among the same chips used in Arduino devices, one of the pillars of the OSHW community. Not just charging and usage but also programming and configuration of the Keyglove can be accomplished through a standard USB connection. The main controller board is built to fit into a Mini PCI Express connector, which is an open standard and easily utilized by 3rd-party developers. The controller board design also includes a standard ISP header for in-system programming using free tools.
The modular nature of the Keyglove design and availability of technical specifications and source code means that anyone can modify or extend the capabilities of the Keyglove hardware by providing your own source code, or even by substituting your own hardware into the glove’s controller board connector. The possibilities are limited only by your needs, desires, and imagination, and I encourage this kind of personalization.
The designs are placed under an OSHW-compatible license, specifically the Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike and the MIT license depending on the particular hardware or software module. While the complete design specifications and source code are not all available in a centralized location at this time (during the prototype development), much of it is accessible from this website and the Keyglove Github repository. Once the prototype design is ready for mass-production, the complete code and schematics will be made available in open formats in their entirety.
What, No Patents?
A lot of people are surprised by this decision, but it is not made lightly. I’m designing the Keyglove because I love the project. I would like to be able to finish the design, build it, sell it, and make some money on the endeavor, but that’s not my main goal. I’ve put a lot of time into researching patents and the patentability of this particular design as well as considering my personal take on intellectual property, and it all comes down to these two practical points:
- With a patent, I’m the only one who (possibly) benefits.
- Without a patent, everyone else benefits, especially those who helped make the project possible.
This is not to say that I won’t also benefit from the lack of patents. I’d say I’m already doing very well because of it. Why? No stress, no legal fees, no spending time trying to protect an ultimately unprotectable idea. And I’m not just avoiding negative things; I’m also gaining a whole lot from the community of people who have taken up interest in the very public Keyglove project and literally given me so much information that I have no idea how far behind I’d be without them. This kind of collaboration is inspiring, motivating, and just begs for reciprocation.
The Similar Devices page adequately demonstrates that my idea isn’t totally original (though it was original to me at the time I started working on it, and I believe it has a unique and useful feature set). I believe that I have a very good design, a complete understanding of it, the technical ability to produce it, and a passion to see it through to completion. With these things, I can create an excellent product with good support. I believe that these qualities also make it much more likely that someone will want to work with me instead of simply trying to copy the design.
But if someone else manages to create a better product, then who am I to keep that from anyone else? Good for them! Fundamentally, I have no right to demand money or anything else from another person simply because they are doing something that I also thought of. My only desire is that nobody else can keep me from competing in this market. What better way to do that than make the design open source? It is by definition no longer patentable in any country.
A couple of interesting articles that accurately describe my feelings about patents and intellectual property in general:
Not exactly light reading, but both are very informative and presented well. The nutshell-in-a-nutshell summary of these articles is that patents do not demonstrably help innovation, and the current concept of “intellectual property” is incompatible with a thorough application of fundamental physical property rights. There is another more recent one, written by yours truly and posted on my personal blog site:
It is a compilation of back-and-forth conversation I had about the assumptions necessary to defend IP, and why I think they are invalid. If you are interested in reading that, it helps to have read the first two linked above, but that is not strictly necessary.