Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Reactable - The Coolest Musical Instrument Ever

The Coolest Musical Instrument was born by the name "Reactable". It is basically a music synthesizer that produces electro-acoustic sounds with the added features of a cool visual interface and tangible devices. It can accomodate up to four users simultaneously while it is being played. The Reactable produces sound by moving and rotating blocks called tangibles on it's glowing round table surface. By moving these objects, each represented by various components of sound synthesizers, users can create complex and dynamic music or sound effects.

The instrument was developed by a team of digital luthiers (Sergi Jordà, Martin Kaltenbrunner, Günter Geiger and Marcos Alonso), working in the Music Technology Group within the Audiovisual Institute at the Universitat Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona, Spain. They concentrate on the design of new musical interfaces such as tangible music instruments and musical applications for mobile devices. The reactable team was recently awarded with the "Premi de la Cuitat de Barcelona 2007" and the Icelandic singer Björk has been successfully using the reactable during the last year at her current "Volta" world tour.

The reactable intends to be:

  • collaborative: several performers (locally or remotely)
  • intuitive: zero manual, zero instructions
  • sonically challenging and interesting
  • learnable and masterable (even for children)
  • suitable for novices (installations) and advanced electronic musicians (concerts)

The reactable hardware is based on a translucent, round multi-touch surface. A camera situated beneath the table, continuously analyzes the surface, tracking the player's finger tips and the nature, position and orientation of physical objects that are distributed on its surface. These objects represent the components of a classic modular synthesizer, the players interact by moving these objects, changing their distance, orientation and the relation to each other. These actions directly control the topological structure and parameters of the sound synthesizer. A projector, also from underneath the table, draws dynamic animations on its surface, providing a visual feedback of the state, the activity and the main characteristics of the sounds produced by the audio synthesizer.

The Reactable is similar to the Audiopad but this is much cooler since it uses rear projection and video tracking instead of rf tags and a giant antenna under the table.

As of this posting, the team is currently launching the industrial production of the reactable and are planning to bring the instrument to the market by the end of 2008.

You can download or watch videos and view more pics of reactable here.

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