November 19, 2010 at 12:20 pm

Video: Wave Your Hand to Affect Music

One of the most impressive sights this reporter has seen in his odd line of work took place at Boston Music Hack Day in October, mere days after the launch of Evolver.fm. (While we’re on the topic of us, we’d like to note that you’re currently looking at the alpha version of this site; the beta version will be launching soon.)

Hundreds of hackers, thinkers, and doers gathered at Microsoft’s NERD Center to create functional music apps ranging from the simple to the complex in a mere 24 hours, teaming up with each other in true crowdsourced contest style. Netflix and others have tried this contest approach, with great results. What makes the Music Hack Day series so neat is that rather than taking years to generate workable ideas, this all happens during one day — and one caffeine-fueled night.

We shot a video of one of these creations — the Toscanini Gestural Interface — in its early prototype stage at Boston Music Hack Day, when it was already quite impressive. In a magnificent blend of complicated technology and one of the simplest interfaces imaginable — a watch that straps to your wrist — their creation has all sorts of applications, not only for hobbyists, but potentially for serious musicians and dilettantes alike.

At its core, the Toscanini Gestural Interface is about turning motion and acceleration of the user’s hand into Max/MSP software commands. Nevermind the acronym if it’s unfamiliar; basically, this means that various tilts and hand motions can be turned into sound or sound effects, once the motion data is sent to the computer.

Robby Grodin and Lindsey Mysse, the creators of the watch, uploaded a new video showing the finished version of the Toscanini Gestural Interface (so named for the great conductor), as well as some charts about its inner workings. It’s even more impressive now that they’ve had more time to work on it:

With any luck something like this will form the basis not only of Air Guitar videogames, but consumer-friendly music-making products — like Beamz but without the lasers.