Come on – you know that occasionally you want technology to respond when you slap it.

As my sister watched an episode of the television show Quantum Leap, I thoroughly enjoyed watch Dean Stockwell’s character Al give his pocket computer, looking for all the world like a 7″ tablet, little helpful smacks.

SmackTop does that for music. Yes, we hear, ad infinitum, the complaint that laptop musicians simply stare inertly at blue glowing laptops as if checking their email. Now they get to put a little skin in the game, literally. And a version 0.3 update makes this humorous novelty genuinely useful:

Imagine your laptop as a MIDI drum kit. SmackTop is an open-source application for Mac laptops which translates physical motion into MIDI messages. Through real-time analysis of the built-in accelerometer’s output, SmackTop is able to classify four different ‘smacks’. Now you can control your favorite DAW by simply tapping your computer. Slap samples, ping notes and hit record – SmackTop is the MIDI controller you already own.

Try it yourself, free:

http://code.google.com/p/smacktop/ (they miss the obvious name, “SlapTop,” but…)

Got another motion-sensing laptop that’s not a Mac and feel jealous? Maybe someone can port this.

In January, we also expect to catch up in person with developer Raymond Weitekamp and Interface LA, the awesome live performance collective in southern California. Stay tuned.

Slap that laptop, make it free!

Now, a tribute to slaps we love…

Ah… to me, this is the taste of Handmade Music New York at Culturefix. I’m going to miss you guys. Photo (CC-BY-SA) Heath Brandon.
  • DBM

    Hmmm with a n SSD sure I guess ? Am I just too old and remember a time when a bump to your computer might damage the HD as it spins and writes ? Is this not the case anymore ? 

    • peterkirn

      Check out the video. He's not hitting it that hard. ;) If you hit it hard enough to damage the HDD in its shock mount, you'd risk doing damage to the machine, too.

  • DBM

    Yeah ? The tech may in fact be a bit better today than in the past . I just wondered what the real risk is ? I myself have had 3 HD failures due to not much movement , but again this was in the past 93-96 era . One was an very light kick from a dangling swinging foot to a tower under a desk for example      

  • http://www.beautypill.com Chad Clark
    • Keith Handy

      Ha! Exactly.

  • Keith Handy

    When this is an external USB device, I'll try it. When it's the laptop itself, no thanks.

  • http://ardour.org Paul Davis

    folks, he's barely applying any more force to the machine than you would during tapping the touchpad or than some folks would while typing …

  • http://www.afrodjmac.com AfroDJMac

    Quantum Leap is one of the greatest shows ever!

  • http://Xinaesthetic.net Peter

    I did a show once with contact mics attached to a laptop, feeding into a kind of quasi-physical modelling synth. So the sound responded quite naturally with timbral variation depending on whether it was touched with soft fingertips, flicked with fingernails, hit with a pen etc. I closed the lid of the laptop so I could make eye contact with the audience and not be distracted by the interface. Fun times.

  • http://soundcloud.com/altitudesickness Altitude SIckness

    For all of those who are in the 'thank you very much, but i'm not hitting my computer' camp:

    There is a threshold slider in the application. It is set very low by default, so people don't mess up their machines. You can set it so low that simply typing will set off the 'smack'.

    It would be great to do this with a SSD – the only problem is that for the Mac Air, they took out the accelerometers :(