New Instruments / Machines: (video)
The Audiopad is a performance instrument for electronic music that tracks the positions of objects on a tabletop surface and converts their motion into music. One can pull sounds from a giant set of samples or juxtapose archived recordings against other samples and apply digital processing all at the same time. The interface is more expressive than a laptop screen, and gives the possibility of a physical performance that is usually absent from electronic music concerts. Perhaps the only feature missing from this interface is a strap button, which would make it the best interface out there to jam with your buddies (just like the Keytar from the 80’s!). MIT graduate students James Patten and Ben Recht developed the Audiopad.
But how does the Audiopad works? Each plastic object contains a coil of wire and a capacitor, which resonate with a matrix of antennas in the sensing surface. The computer reads this resonance data, and uses it to compute the position of each object (made of plastic). The object positions are fed into a program that renders the graphics for projection on the table (the video projector can be mounted on the ceiling or attached to the table). This program also translates the movements of the objects into MIDI commands for a synthesizer. A PC running Linux controls everything.
As mentioned, the interface uses electromagnetic tracking and video projection. Physical objects on the table represent audio tracks, microphones and actions. Each track contains different samples that can be triggered by the plastic discs. Sensors trace their position (elements such as volume, tempo, melody, bass line, etc, are also controlled in the same way). Also, each track has an effect with several parameters that can be adjusted. It looks like the Audiopad has the potential of doing more complex things as well, like using its midi and recording capabilities to interact with music that is being performed in real time, or to use it in combination with other graphical and multimedia software like Max/MSP. It could be used for both pop and modern electronic music.
Click here to see a performance excerpt and explanation video (the music used in the example is probably not the best, but as the story goes, Antonio Stradivari is remembered for the instruments he built, and not for how he played them). The Audiopad is definitely worth checking out. It is currently NOT for sale.