A 12-eyed music creator: the Dodecaudion music controller
By Paul Ridden
November 13, 2012
Moving around the stage while performing is a whole lot easier with instruments such as the Vortex or Kitara than with something like the mighty JUPITER-80. Innovations like Onyx Ashanti's Beatjazz hands or the Air Piano from Omer Yosha go even further, by making movement a vital part of the music creation process. Such is the case with the Dodecaudion from Polish art and design group panGenerator. When a performer places a hand, foot, head or other part of the body in front of any of its 12 IR-sensor-packing faces, wirelessly-linked processing hardware generates pre-programmed audio or visuals.
The Dodecaudion is described as a simple gestural, spatial musical interface which is suspended from the ceiling and produces sounds as a performer approaches any of the IR distance sensors pointing out from each of its 12 faces. The sensors are connected to a custom-made Arduino shield, which collects the incoming data and sends it as float variables via the unit's built-in Bluetooth modem to an external device for processing. The electronics are housed in a 3D-printed skeleton featuring laser-cut aluminum elements.
A bridge program running on a Mac, PC or Linux system translates the incoming sensor data as open sound control (OSC) messages, which can then be used to produce sound or visuals in realtime applications.
"This OSC signals may be interpreted by various audio applications – MAX/MSP, Ableton Live ( via Max for Live ), Reaktor 5 etc. and transformed into a sound," original concept designer Jakub Kozniewski told us. "How Dodecaudion sounds and what are the functions of particular faces depends only on how audio app is configured, so it's an extremely flexible and open setup."
At a recent TED talk in Warsaw, for instance, the system recorded a performer's vocals and split different parts of the recording across the various sensors. As the artist danced around the Dodecaudion, different sounds were brought into play. Pre-programmed tones and sequences can also be used to great effect, as demonstrated in the video below.
The core members of the Dodecaudion development team are Kozniewski (every aspect of design and development), Piotrek Barszczewski (electronics, programming and construction) and Krzysztof Cybulski (sound design and programming). Assistance in producing CAD designs and help with the fabrication techniques came courtesy of Przemyslaw Sieminski, and Aleksander Janas and others from Hedoco helped lay the groundwork for production as a consumer item.
In common with many circuit adventures, the Dodecaudion began with breadboard experiments. The pace of development increased following a cash injection from the folks at Hedoco early in 2011, and the first fully operational prototype was finished by September. It's hoped that the creation might serve as an inspiration to others in the emerging Polish hackerspace.
"The original concept and design, as well as the initial electronics, have been developed by panGenerator, but the current version you can buy was co-produced with Hedoco," said Kozniewski. "We are still developing this project to make it more affordable and easier to assemble as a DIY version. In the future versions there will be an integrated Li-pol battery with charger. We're also planning to design a special stand, since hanging Dodecaudion by strings may look nice but it's not so practical in real-life performance."
An 8.3 x 8.3 x 8.3-inch (21 x 21 x 21 cm) commercial version of the Dodecaudion is now available direct from Hedoco for US$1,288. It features an Atmega328-powered Arduino Uno board and a housing made from aluminum and polymer composites. The open source code and design schematics are available under Creative Commons to folks who might want to build their own.
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