Of late, I've been looking at building my own (MIDI controllers). After all, these devices are relatively simple and often used highly standardised components (membrance based switches, encoders/knobs/other, some chips, etc...). Look at the following links/teardowns and you'll notice that there is very little to distinguish between them with many components being available from your local electronics store.
I've looked at starting from scratch for hardware builds but they have proven to be prohibitively expensive for my experiment (3D printing is an increasingly viable option especially as public libraries let them out for free, public use but there are limitations especially with regards to construction. For instance, many printers will require multiple sessions before a complete device can be constructed, there are durability concerns, etc...). Instead I've been looking at using existing electronics to interface with.
For instance, finding something suitable to turn into a MIDI controller (calculators, toy pianos spring to mind). The circuitry is often very simple and basically all you need to is hook it up to an environmental control interface device with multiple sensors. A hardware interface is then used to provide electrical signal to MIDI control translation (such as an Arduino device). The other option is to analyse the electrical signal on a case by case basis. Then use this as a basis for writing a translation program which will turn the electrical signal into a MIDI signal which can be used to interface with other equipment, your existing software, etc...
Another option I've been looking at is using third party electronic devices (such as a tablet or else cheaper MIDI control devices in combination with other software) to provide emulation for often much more expensive hardware. Good examples of this include the the high end hardware controllers such as Native Instrument's Maschine, Ableton's Push, a Akai's MPC/APC series, etc... (Even when purchased second hand these devices can often fetch up to around 80-90% of their retail value. Factor in the problem that few retailers are willing to provide demonstration equipment for them (StoreDJ is an exception) and you can understand why so many people re-sell their equipment with explanations often stating that the piece of equipment quite simply didn't fit into their setup.)
There are several main options to look at including TouchOSC, MIDI Designer, and Lemur. The two I've been most curious about are Lemur and TouchOSC though. Installation and setup consist of a daemon/service on your computer, an application of some sort on your tablet, and an editor that can be tablet or computer based. Thereafter, there are often 'templates' which are basically skins and underlying software code which allows you to design a MIDI interface from scratch and interface with other equipment/software directly from your tablet.
The other thing that needs to be considered is how you should interface. In theory, wireless is a great option. In practice I've been seeing stories about consistently lost connnections. Look at a hardware USB interface if need be.
To be honest though a lot of the emulators for the Push (and other devices) aren't perfect. You lose a bit of functionality (in some cases you gain a lot of extra functionality though but the emulation still isn't perfect). It's likely going to make you want to purchase these devices more or ward you off of them completely because they don't fit into your workflow.
With the cessation of production of the iPod Classic and other high capacity music player options I've been looking at alternatives on and off for a while. Clearly, high capacity SD based storage options are extremely expensive at this stage at the high end. One alternative though is using adapter cards for inexpensive, readily available, older low capacity MP3 players which utilise hard drives. The adapters required are available for around $10-20. Obvious problems using SD based storage include regarding speed limitations, capacity limitations, high prices, etc... Moreover, some of the adapters won't fit in the case, or there needs to be workarounds. For instance, currently there aren't enough 128GB SD cards at a reasonable price locally so running multiple SD cards in RAID configuration may be the compromise that you have to make for the immediate future.
One interesting piece of information that I've come across recently is that there isn't much stopping people using SDXC cards in supposedly SDHC only card readers (either drivers or simple hardware blocks are the limitations). Basically, the primary difference between SDHC and SDXC are that the default file formats are one uses FAT32 as the default format while the other uses exFAT respectively. Clearly this limitation can be overcome with the right tools and knowledge though. For instance, Windows by default doesn't allow this so other options need to be employed.
- as usual thanks to all of the individuals and groups who purchase and use my goods and services