Knobs and faders can be rigid. Fancy multitouch devices can be expensive. But for the cost of a webcam and some spare materials, you can build computer interfaces with objects around the house, thanks to the power of open source software.
In just one day, a group of artists in the CDM community, from Austria and Germany to New York to Australia, got quite a lot working with tangible interfaces. At top, Michael Schieben and Christophe Stoll experimented with using soda bottles to control software like Future Audio Workshop’s lovely Circle. (Ableton Live works, too – as does any MIDI software.) As Precious Forever, these guys are responsible for some of the best UIs in music software, from FAW to recent Native Instruments designs, so it’s lovely to see them experimenting with this idea.
As you add more people to the mix, you get ideas you might otherwise never have imagined, from a game involving blocks of the Tokyo skyline to an interface built into floor toms.
We also got a lot of real-world data on what works, what needs work, and what causes trouble for beginners, which we’ll be documenting. (Adam and Martin from the Trackmate and reacTIVision projects, respectively, were both tuned in to see progress and provided lots of help – and are also collecting that data to improve their own documentation and libraries.) More commentary on all these side benefits, as well as a discussion with visitors from Argentina on the scene around the world, at Create Digital Motion.
We also got some really helpful tips for working with the free, powerful, tri-platform synthesis tool SuperCollider:
Charles Martin wrote up an easy SC test script for receiving Trackmate messages (and also had the clever idea of using a floor tom)
And for connecting Trackmate to MIDI and working with Processing, lots of tips are available on Michael Schieben’s noisepages blog:
So, what’s next? You can join discussion and brainstorming for how to proceed, and how to get in on another hackday (formal or ongoing), even if you missed the first. Stop by the Tangible and Multi-Touch Interface group on noisepages:
Tangible + Multi-Touch noisepages Group
Our noisepages community is still in “alpha” state, but it’s usable – we’ve just fixed avatar uploading, which was the biggest problem. We’ll have more features, functionality, and improvements down the line, as well as more extensive documentation for how to get started. But if you’re a bleeding edge sort of person, join up free and give us some advice on what you’d like out of it.
I look forward to more work on these projects. Stay tuned for more, including some additional documentation (I’m developing some stuff around my own project).