October 22, 2012

Can't Touch This...

by Chris Randall

"I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work." - Thomas Edison

Continuing my exploration of making a touchscreen-based recording/performing environment (that isn't on a fucking Twitter Machine... errr... I mean iPad) I decided to try a different tack this time. Since Brian Crabtree has already done a lot of the hard work on this front, I thought I'd bust out a touchscreen monome emulator, just to see how that might work.

As it happens, not so much.

While the monome is a comparatively simple device (the only things that make it special, as such, are the facts that the LEDs are decoupled from the buttons, and the extremely high construction quality and craftsmanship; otherwise, it's just a box full of buttons), as it turns out, and I think the above video proves, actually having the buttons under your fingers is somewhat important.

It was a pretty easy thing to code, just being a grid of lights, and some simple OSC messages. Rather than go through the trouble of faking the operation of the driver software, in the interests of quickly having a working prototype, I just altered mlr slightly so it could talk directly to my Cinder app and not look for a monome. I made a grid of 16 x 16 buttons (ignore the column on the left of larger buttons; those are scene triggers for Maschine, which I didn't use in the video) and it's off to the races.

While the functionality is, in and of itself, flawless, I think that the combination of mlr (and other patchers I tried) and the monome hardware is what makes the instrument. The more sensitive nature of the touchscreen sort of precludes laying in to it, and not being able to feel the buttons makes any sort of virtuosity difficult.

That said, it was a fun idea that, I think, merited exploration. But for this sort of thing, the money is better spent on a real monome, in my opinion.

Back to the drawing board.


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Oct.23.2012 @ 10:11 AM
beauty pill
This is very cool.

I use monome and arc, but have zero programming skills or proclivity and rely exclusively on the monome community's open source utilities. Even THEN I barely know what I'm doing!

Your tech prowess is impressive to me, Chris. It must feel pretty powerful to be able to have a raw concept AND be able to pursue the execution.

- c

Oct.23.2012 @ 11:04 AM
My favorite part of Moldover's rig is that there's a big aluminum rotary switch at the top left, and he switches between songs with it. There's something kind of clunky and endearing about it. It should make a loud 'thunk' noise when he switches it.

Oct.23.2012 @ 12:11 PM
I saw the first video when you posted it, but I figured it was the preview of a brand new version of audio-video de-syncing software: Jive 9.

Oct.23.2012 @ 6:08 PM
any chance you might commandeer some hardware to replace the touchscreen?
like a novation launchpad (not built like a monome, but not a total POS either) or an AXIS (link [www.c-thru-music.co...]) or even a disused midi keyboard, used solely for the purposes of midi triggering?

dont know. just a thought.

Oct.23.2012 @ 8:00 PM
The two big issues for performance seem to be, can you look at (and hopefully engage) the audience while you play it, and can the audience watch you manipulate the thing your playing? Both are an obvious problem with laptop performances, but the first is probably the real killer.

Most ipad apps suffer from the same problem, you have to look at them to use them and all the action is happening really small on the performers side of the screen.

Things like the Tenori-on and this monstrosity link [www.youtube.com] (warning: possibly the most annoying youtube video ever) try to address the second problem by displaying the screen on both sides, but it seems like it would still be hard to engage the audience with either. I bet if you built a touchscreen instrument that a blind guy (or gal) could use, you'd have it licked.

Oct.23.2012 @ 9:35 PM
Chris Randall
I saw that hot mess at NAMM this year (the DJ thing.) I hadn't yet had my Touchscreen Epiphany, so I just looked at it like it was, a hot mess.

But as you say, a blind guy. That's my chief problem with my monome emulator (and everything I've done to this point, really): you need to direct your visual attention to what's on the screen. And why a real monome works: you can actually feel the buttons, and thus virtuosity is possible, like with any other instrument. (It isn't any more complicated, intrinsically, than a guitar, and in fact far less so in some respects.)

The iPad is just douche-tastic on stage. There's no arguing that. For music in general the environment is terrible. And I say this as an iOS audio developer.

My thinking, right now, is that if the screen is of a certain size (22.4 to 24, so you can easily cover it without too big an arm movement) and the controls are simple and full-surface, and the UI is designed so that you can, in general, use your peripheral vision, then I think we're on to something. Otherwise, the screen itself needs ridges or something, which kind of defeats the purpose. (However, not impossible at all. Could easily make ridges with a clear epoxy.) So, some more thought needs to be applied to the process. In general, you're correct, though, IMO.


Oct.24.2012 @ 8:28 AM
Jason Duerr
What kind of watch are you wearing?

Oct.24.2012 @ 8:49 AM
Chris Randall

Oct.24.2012 @ 8:56 AM
Chris Randall
Tangentially related:

In my last post on this subject, I complained at length about the monitor I bought, and several options were batted around. It appears that Dell just announced (inexplicably, during Apple's press conference on new iShit) a 10-touch capacitive screen 24" monitor.

link [accessories.us.del...]

I'll wait for some reviews before jumping on it, but this is, best I'm aware, the first large capacitive screen that doesn't cost multiple thousands of dollars. May change things a bit.


Oct.24.2012 @ 3:15 PM
re the ridges of clear epoxy..
How about selling software and matching silicon grids to hang on/stick to the screen?
I'll leave it to you to sort out the minor details...

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