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MIT Students' Audiopad Mixes Electronic Music 122

nicodemus05 writes "Grad students at MIT's Media Lab have come up with an innovative control device called the Audiopad to run their digital music studio. The Audiopad, ' a composition and performance instrument for electronic music which tracks the positions of objects on a tabletop surface and converts their motion into music.' It's practical, but more importantly it looks really, really cool."
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MIT Students' Audiopad Mixes Electronic Music

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  • Sure (Score:4, Funny)

    by minghe ( 441878 ) on Tuesday July 22, 2003 @04:57AM (#6497484)
    But can I play Chopsticks on it?
  • by Anonymous Coward
    and the sounds I got were:

    Pop, pop, pop-up, pop-up, zoooooom, flash!, pop, vrroooom, crash, thud!

    And then:
    It appears your application has crashed. Would you like to mail a copy of the dump to Microsoft?

  • by daveo0331 ( 469843 ) on Tuesday July 22, 2003 @04:59AM (#6497489) Homepage Journal
    Someone gets sued by the RIAA for arranging the objects in their cube the wrong way?
    • i wonder if i get the patent for it , can i claim copyrights on all the music pieces that could be generated using this magic device.
      • Even if this was a joke, you do have to realize how ridiculous that sounds, right? Just as you couldn't patent a guitar and then own every piece of music played by said guitar, you couldn't do it with this, either.

        But then, I've always had a penchant for stating the absolutely obvious.
  • by lennart78 ( 515598 ) on Tuesday July 22, 2003 @05:02AM (#6497506)
    I've actually seen this device in action and I was amazed. I think the way it interacts with the user/musician is something a lot of people are looking for. Let's hope some manufacturers of musical devices take note of this project and incorporate some of it's ideas in products that can be made available for a broader range of people.
    • by torpor ( 458 )
      I watch out for this stuff all the time.

      It's not always practical to apply this technology to the music-instrument market, though. The economy of the musical instrument market is a pretty tight one, sometimes - licensing things like this for incorporation into a product can make or break a product. I don't think the D-Beam or any of the other Ir-based controllers, for example, resulted in any kind of increased revenues, but they sure did cost a bundle to license.

      As far as integrating alternative-control
      • by lennart78 ( 515598 ) on Tuesday July 22, 2003 @05:29AM (#6497579)
        Excuse me for being software-minded, but wouldn't it be possible to use some of the control-functions and build a MIDI-controller to use with softsynths, or even modular software such as Reaktor?
        I think it would offer some interesting possibilities.
        • by torpor ( 458 ) <ibisum@gm a i l . com> on Tuesday July 22, 2003 @06:46AM (#6497762) Homepage Journal

          Yes, of course it would be possible, but I don't work for a software synthesizer manufacturer, I work for a hardware synthesizer manufacturer.

          We actually make money (soft synth guys don't, pity for them). This means it is more seductive for someone to require us to license something like this technology.

          We'd rather just come up with it ourselves.

          Either way though, the lesson to be learnt from MIT is that there is a loooot of room for improvement in the control surface side of things.

          (We know that already, though.)
          • I don't work for a software synthesizer manufacturer, I work for a hardware synthesizer manufacturer.

            I'd say that as a virtual analog synth manufacturer, access is both.

            • No, we only sell hardware ... (okay indigo TDM is 'soft' but you still need custom hardware to run it...)

              We dont do softsynths.
              • So there's no software in those virtual analogs, eh? Neat trick.
                • Well yes of course there is, but this doesn't make us a software synth manufacturer. The fact is, our software exists for one purpose - to make our custom-designed hardware function properly. We will never write synth softwaare for PC's or Mac's - we write synth software exclusively for our own custom-designed, modern, synthesizers.

                  We're not Native Instruments. We're a hardware synth manufacturer - one of the last 'new ones'. Not all of our products are DSP-based synthesizers, either ... our core focus
      • The d-beam did seem to add some 'gee whiz' factor to the groovebox things roland stuck it on to, which might have not directly sold many units (I own one, and mostly because of the d-beam and general knobbyness of it, to use as a portable machine to play with live, but i picked it up used so roland didn't directly make any money from me) but it might have paid off in terms of advertising/name recognition. I did a lot of my graduate work using a Very Nervous System (gestural control system using a couple ca
        • If access would like to give me one of those oh so pretty indigo2's i'd be happy to help out with some gestural control oriented patches for it. ;)

          We already have patches like that in our patch archive, but nice try! :)

          As for the D-Beam, I think its time is not yet upon us, but like so many aspects of the synthesizer industry, it may yet come one day ...
      • saw something like this at the London Architecture Association (avant-garde architecture school) in 1997.
  • They could sell a million of these. I love the sample selection interface. I didn't see any details on the FX loop, but it's still really, really cool.
  • Anyone else have problems running the .mov? Even on my iMac it refuses to run.

    BTW: That is one sick device!
  • Really, is this anything else than your regular loop arranging sofrware (read E-jay, MMM...) but with a different interface? A cool interface, I guess, and it does open up some interresting performance possibilities.

    But is it useful for other kinds of creation than synching timetretched chunks, predetermined snippets and drumloops? It seems I wouldn't have any control over the details of the music.
  • by arvindn ( 542080 ) on Tuesday July 22, 2003 @05:13AM (#6497537) Homepage Journal
    ...but since I can't access the page, I'll just say that if they can make a similar device to convert the death throes of a webserver into digital music, we could have some real fun during slashdottings :)
  • Done before? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by m1kesm1th ( 305697 ) on Tuesday July 22, 2003 @05:23AM (#6497563)
    I haven't had time to see the site in action, probably due to the slashdot effect.

    From the description, other than using a tabletop as its active surface, i'm wondering how different it is to Korg's Kaosspad in functionality.
    • Re:Done before? (Score:3, Informative)

      by radish ( 98371 )
      The most obvious difference is that the KaossPad isn't an instrument, it's an FX module. Basically you have a bunch of 2 paramater filters and an x/y touchpad to control those 2 parameters. Wicked good fun and slots nicely into a DJ setup, but in my experience only about 10 of the 50-odd presets are actually worth using. The low/high pass filters, some of the reverbs, and phasers etc sound good. A lot of the coarser echos, fx "noises" etc sound awful. The sampler is also annoyingly limited to only 5 seconds
      • The Kaoss pad 2 has some synth elements built in, and you can compose short electro jams with it. Also, the sampling time is up as well. IMHO its the best added feature to my DJ setup
    • Behind the platform-screening "Media Checker" webpages [] is a RealVideo movie [] of the KP2.
  • by jkrise ( 535370 ) on Tuesday July 22, 2003 @05:27AM (#6497571) Journal
    These days, with the DRM and the DMCA, it's tough getting a music file without DRM crap. What I'd like the MIT folks to do is this:

    Get some objects on a table to dance, based on the music! And then we can have another Audiopad to capture the music from this dance - non DRM MP3....breakthrough!

  • OK everyone, throw away your Prophet 5s, your DX7s, TB-303s, Jupiter 8s and TR-909s. This has made them all obsolete.

  • sigh. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by den_erpel ( 140080 ) on Tuesday July 22, 2003 @05:42AM (#6497618) Homepage Journal
    This is just another one of those MIT projects that makes it to slashdot. Just as you seem to have chain effect in 'peer review' processes, it's not because it is spectacular that it gets published, but mainly because it is from place X or Y.

    Loads of universities create student projects but they basically give it the attention it deserves: they are student projects; practical definately, revolutionary, not by far. Their main purpose is to give students a direct experience with real life toy projects. Real life, because in those projects, several aspects from real systems are included. Toy because students do not have the time to really do the advanced design and testing a profesional project requires.
    • Re:sigh. (Score:2, Interesting)

      by broeman ( 638571 )
      I just ended my master in interaction design among other design tasks. The idea of interaction design is to create tangible (mostly) interfaces that can connect to human logic and emotion (human computer interaction). Of course the tools looks like toy and act like a toy, simply because they are easy to use. What is the real challenge is to connect the evergrowing functionality with easy handling, and it seemes that the MIT guys, Professor Bill Verplank (the travelling lector *grin*) in northern Italy and B
    • Re:sigh. (Score:2, Insightful)

      by skirch ( 126930 )
      This is just another one of those MIT projects that makes it to slashdot.

      I'm sorry, but did you even go to the page? Did you watch the movie? It's frickin' rad!

      Who cares if this is just another one of those MIT projects. This is a useful, fun, and ingenious toy! People (i.e. me) are giving this project attention because it's interesting and unique, not because it's from MIT. Please.

    • First of all, to me this project was more about creative user interfaces than necessarily a new way of making music.

      Secondly, how many times have you done something like this with, say, three other people and no one else?

      Don't knock someone else's work needlessly.
  • Theremin (Score:5, Informative)

    by zoeblade ( 600058 ) on Tuesday July 22, 2003 @05:45AM (#6497623) Homepage

    If you want to wave your arms around [] to make music, you still can't beet a Theremin.

  • Despite the countless hours of work put into this amazing project, the team still failed the class. After finishing and finalizing their project work, the team had a party, showing off their work to friends and experimenting with their new creation. One thing led to another, and soon everyone was in a state of tripped-outness from the combinations of sound to be made. By 8 a.m. everyone was passed out or sleeping soundly, missing their project deadline. The evil Professor Prude, failing to see the contr
  • nice (Score:4, Interesting)

    by tade ( 156618 ) on Tuesday July 22, 2003 @05:57AM (#6497646)
    This reminds me of this []. It is called Mixed Reality Pong.

    Mixed Reality Pong is a mixed reality version of the classic "Pong" game. The aim of the game is to score goals by hitting a virtual ball over the other end of the game area protected by the opponent player. The game counts the goals the players have scored, and they can agree to play either for a limited amount of time, or until either of them has scored a certain amount of goals.
    The players can play the game with their hands or other real-world objects. The game physics simulate the behaviour of a real ball, except that the virtual ball doesn't slow down at all.
  • Nothing new... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ( 579491 ) on Tuesday July 22, 2003 @06:02AM (#6497653)
    Max/MSP and Pure Data have been doing stuff like this for years. The only thing "unique" here is the fact that they aren't using a mouse, and that's just a bunch of standard Max/MSP and PD externals. Bleh.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    All those "this changes music" "all instruments are obsolete" etc posts...

    There is NO synthesis in the video... it's all from prerecorded loops, that they probably didn't even make themselves.

    IE. Pure gimmick!
  • This spring, I attended a presentation by Dr. Andy Schloss. A musician who maps instruments and sounds to his three-dimensional electronic sensor that he invented in the 80s, he does quite a few live performances and has thought of many applications for his instrument outside of the music world. More Details []
  • by Tmurder ( 661223 ) on Tuesday July 22, 2003 @06:20AM (#6497692)
    As it seems the MIT site is slowly being slashdotted... here is a different site [] with a demonstration video.
  • what's really neat is the interface... being able to move sounds around in a 3d space and manipulate the samples/loops with a completely uncluttered interface. This is the main problem with vst/softsynths, being able to use them in real time w/o a midi controller. The ideas is to get as close as you physically can to the music be made and computers.Audiopad does this thru least one computer to do it's job and radio tagging of the objects being moved around the table. The reason something like this won't g
    • this in itself might not be commercially viable, but it makes an interesting case study in applications of their Sensetable, which this is based on. They've demonstrated the use of this tool in the demonstration of molecular interactions, as well as tracking business methods. it's seriously interesting HCI stuff.
  • we got it re-engineered , we would see it's just another way to play music with digits.
  • Practical (Score:1, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    It's practical, but more importantly it looks really, really cool.

    You work for Microsoft, don't you?
  • cool (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Aeonsfx ( 675982 )
    I think its pretty cool. I've always liked stuff the MIT media lab was producing, especially CSound. True, its been many years past since Barry Vercoe was an MIT grad student, but damn, it made the MIT media lab famous. Took a long time to download the demo, and while I don't think its terribly groundbreaking, its nice to see electronic instruments with 3 dimensional control of rhythm, amplitude, and timbre with such simple movements. Overall, I think its a good idea, with definite possibilities for ma
    • Amen...Don't need it to make my music but it sure would be fun to throw a party and add an Audiopad to the equation.
  • I'm not sure how modular their controllers are, but a wireless/optical synthesizer could be changed to create all kinds of controllers. For example, if you needed a controller for a security system. All you would need is the interaction table and some of those discs. If you update the system, the software shoul automatically add new options to the display/controls. If you add more cameras, the software should be able to add new control areas - you don't have to buy a whole new console.

    Lastly, the syste
  • Looks like those crafty MIT kids built a device that can slashdot a webpage by tracking moving objects on a table. :)
  • Am I right in thinking that the AudioPad table is basically a giant Wacom tablet? And if so... I wonder why they didn't just use one of those? Maybe not big enough... but with a Cintiq you could have a slightly more 'personal' audiopad experience, without the LCD projector.

    Oh, and yeah, its incredibly cool.

    • actually, it's based on
      a pair of modified commercially available Wacom Intuous(TM) sensing tablets that are placed next to each other to form a 52cm x 77cm sensing surface.
      this is taken from an article published in the Proceedings of CHI 2001, March 31 - April 5 2001. so, you're right!
  • As anyone who has seen Revenge of the Nerds knows, Louis [] and Gilbert []
    invented this thing to help the Tri Lambs win the Greek Games. I would expect everyone on Slashdot to know that one.
  • Earlier this year at a Boston concert, Tod Machover showcased Beatbugs g s.html Concert staff were telling everyone that Beatbugs would be available for sale this Christmas through a major toy manufacturer. That's great for getting music into the hands of kids at an early age and also for breaking through the classism that plagues intellectual music, but is the "music" that's being created really something that anyone (other than grandma) wants to listen t
  • Does anyone have a mirror? Oh, and if you could tar or zip one of the video files I'd be even more happy! Our proxy filters out vid and sound files.
  • I write, compose, and listen to many forms of "electronic" music now to the not so bright people who have an natural born hatred of electronic music I would just like to say 90% of the music you listen to these days is a form of electronic music, i.e. it has recorded, reorganized, and re-mastered in some electronic or digital way. Aside from that I love many forms of "electronic" music such as smooth expanding melodic "trance" and I must say the AUDIOPAD is AMAZING in the way it allows a musician or perform
    • Cool, I love trance/electronica/ambient/house/dance/experiment a l music, it offers an entirely new landscape of compositional possiblities for me as a listener and as a composer. (well if I ever finish ANY of my work... hahaha) I've come to love the unique qualities of synths that so many people don't seem to notice.

      Its good that you point out the large margins of music today that is electronic, because its so unarguably true. Almost all pop music is heavily synth-based, (although electronica, well tra

  • Looks like they've reinvented the wheel. There's nothing
    fundamentally new here.

    Avant garde composers were doing stuff like this way back
    in the 60's. The ideas, if not the technology have been
    around even longer.

    People walking around a happening triggered photocells
    wired to electronic musical devices thus creating a
    changing 'musical' event.

    These guys get a grant to do this 'research'??
    Gravy train city ... how do I get on this course?
  • Am I the only one who has realized the incredible potential to take this interface and apply it to the exciting field of mathematics known as Bistromathics []? Think about it! Instead of acrylic pucks interfacing with a synthesizer, you could have plates, teacups, and olive forks interfacing with a mathematical engine! It could revolutionize mathematics. Of course, all the mathematicians in the world may end up dying of obesity, but it will be a worthy sacrifice.
  • After watching the video I really really want to play air hockey on this thing.
  • Last year I saw a demonstration of some ixi software programs []. If you think the Audiopad is cool, check them out. The Audiopad interface immediately made me think of some of their music tools.

Q: How many IBM CPU's does it take to execute a job? A: Four; three to hold it down, and one to rip its head off.