After a fruitless search for a digital controller/instrument that would allow him to get closer to his audience, San Francisco digital music performer Omni Infinity decided to design and build his own. The guitar-shaped SPACEBASS:01 prototype can house a smartphone placed in the central "spaceport" for wireless touchscreen control of music and art software on a remote computer. There's another port above that can host a variety of third party MIDI modules, a button-packed 12-fret neck and a virtual whammy bar.
Uni Sun, who performs as Omni Infinity, says he came up with the idea for the SPACEBASS:01 while living in Tokyo, Japan. It stems from his desire to break free from the confines of a keyboard player hidden behind a static rig or a DJ having to be within reach of decks.
"Digital artists today may find that there are relatively few commercially available controller options for freely roaming around on stage while performing electronic music and art," he said. "Performance-oriented MIDI controllers are somewhat rare, because most MIDI controllers are made to use on a table or stand. The 'Keytar' is possibly the most well known previous attempt at making a performance-based MIDI controller, yet there was plenty of room in the market for a new performance MIDI controller for modern artists."
Inspired by the beauty of Japan, space robots, and the pop culture of Shibuya, the SPACEBASS prototype has a Strat-like wooden body that's home to a pair of interface ports and two control knobs. One of the knobs acts as a power switch, while the other is an assignable MIDI control. Since the instrument does not actually produce sounds internally, there's no need for an audio out jack (as with the Kitara) and it connects to a computer via USB only.
Unlike the gTar, the central "dock" does not physically connect to the iOS/Android smartphone it holds. Communication between the securely-gripped device and a remote computer is handled through a Wi-Fi wireless connection. OSC or MIDI data from the smartphone can be sent on for processing using apps like TouchOSC, TouchDAW or Lemur.
A second spaceport on the upper wing of the body can accommodate various interchangeable MIDI controller modules, like the Korg MIDI module shown in the image of the prototype below.
This model also sports a 12-fret neck with six assignable MIDI buttons per fret, though there are also additional controls at the body end. The production model will host between 40 and 64 buttons, and Sun told us that he's looking into making the neck's electronics self-contained so that the instrument can be broken down for ease of transport.
In addition to being capable of interfacing with any MIDI-compatible software (Ableton Live, for example), the SPACEBASS:01 can also be used to control animated visuals through multimedia suites and allow music and visual animations to be synchronized.
Sun is planning to include an Atmega micro-controller and perhaps a couple of USB ports to allow for more MIDI modules to be connected to the instrument. He's hoping to make the production unit USB-powered, but if that's not possible then it will likely run on (included) AA-sized rechargeable batteries.
To get his creation into the hands of other digital musicians, the SPACEBASS:01 has launched on Kickstarter, where a pledge of US$1,000 or more will secure one of the first 1,000 models off the production line. The campaign closes on April 14.
The video below shows the man himself introducing his prototype.