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.