LEGOs and rapid, hacked construction have led to the development of hardware sold to musicians; Push and Maschine each saw hacked-together versions as prototypes before the more-polished versions we see today.
So, why not use some of those toys and hacks to make something you can actually use, right now?
Apparently what happens when you let the Native Instruments development team free to play for a weekend, that’s exactly what happens.
LEGO Techno uses computer vision to allow the musician to make sequences with LEGO blocks. It’s not the first time we’ve seen this very idea – seems musicians gazing at LEGOs immediately think of patterns and sequences. (Ableton founder Gerhard Behles has called it his favorite toy; a LEGO rep was actually in attendance at the Push launch.) But the team at NI have done some fantastic implementation work to build something you could actually imagine in a club all night. Shame they have to pull it apart to get it on the plane back to Berlin; maybe we need to make more of these.
They describe the setup thusly:
OpenCV and Python process a webcam video to recognize Lego blocks through a translucent Lego base plate. This is sent via OSC to a second computer running a sequencer that sends out MIDI into Native Instruments MASCHINE. Does step sequencing, filter on an XY pad, fader for beat delay and a rotary for even more reverb.
And here is in action:
The dream team behind this is part of what makes it so much fun. It’d be great to see big music manufacturers set their developers loose like this more often – let’s make it happen.
There’s Michael Hlatky, developer. Kristian Gohlke is a developer and designer and a professor at Bauhaus University in Weimar. Bram de Jong is at NI, too, but you may know him from his work on open source software and Freesound, plus some epic plug-ins. Tobias Baumbach is head of application development at NI. These are the people creating the stuff you use.
They’re also amazingly-nice, talented guys, and it was terrific to be talking to them in the middle of the night about some shared frustrations with MIDI and OSC.
Of course, you could get to making new interfaces for tools like Maschine, too. I’d absolutely love to see more Maschine hacks, in fact. More on that topic very soon.