The University of Southampton

Rediscovering touch to make music in the world online

Published: 
24 August 2011
Illustration

ECS researchers have developed a new free way to generate music through controlling computers.

"Grab a block and add a base beat, turn a block to speed up the high hat - and we have a new way to generate music through controlling the computer," says Dr Enrico Costanza of ECS-Electronics and Computer Science, who is launching his Audio d-touch system tomorrow (Thursday 25 August).

Audio d-touch is based on Dr Costanza's research into tangible user interfaces, or TUIs - providing physical control of the system in the immaterial world of computers. Using a standard computer and web cam and deploying simple computer-vision techniques, physical blocks are tracked on a printed board. The position of the blocks then determines how the computer samples and reproduces sound.

"As more of our world moves into the electronic - vinyl and CDs to mp3s, books to eBooks, we lose the satisfying richness of touching physical objects such as paper and drumsticks," says Dr Costanza.

"Audio d-touch allows people to set up and use tangible interfaces in their own home, office or recording studio, or anywhere else they like," he adds. "This is the first time that anyone has developed a free application like this."

A video of the system and the software is available: http://d-touch.org/

Audio d-touch has been devised for more than the simple pleasure of generating sound in a novel way. Tangible User Interfaces are an alternative to virtual worlds and researchers in the field of Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) are investigating ways to move away from the purely digital world online and to rediscover the richness of our sense of touch.

Dr Costanza has developed Audio d-touch over several years. "Our aim is to advance the field by gaining insight into how tangible interfaces can be used in the real world," he comments. "We are keen to have more people download Audio d-touch and provide us with feedback that will help improve the system."

To try Audio d-touch, all you need is a regular computer equipped with a web-cam and printer. The user creates physical interactive objects and attaches printed visual markers recognized by the Audio d-touch system. The software platform is open and can be extended for applications beyond music synthesis.

Dr Enrico Costanza is a member of the Agents, Interaction and Complexity research group at ECS-Electronics and Computer Science at the University of Southampton.

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For further information on this story contact Joyce Lewis; tel.+44(0)23 8059 5453.

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