Researchers at the University of Southampton have developed a new way to generate music and control computers. Enrico Costanza, of the university's electronics and computer science department, who launched Audio d-touch, said, “Grab a block and add a base beat, turn a block to speed up the high hat, and we have a new way to generate music through controlling the computer.”
Audio d-touch, based on Costanza's research on tangible user interfaces (TUIs), offers physical control in the world of computers. It uses a standard computer and a web cam. Using simple computer vision techniques, physical blocks are tracked on a printed board. The position of the blocks then determines how the computer samples and reproduces sound.
“As more of our world moves into the electronic---records to mp3s and books to eBooks---we loose the satisfying richness of touching physical objects like paper and drumsticks,” said Costanza in an institute release, adding, “Our Audio d-touch system allows people to set up and use tangible interfaces in their own homes, offices or recording studios,” said Costanza. “This is the first time such a free application has been developed,” he said.
TUIs are an alternative to virtual worlds. Human-computer interaction researchers are investigating ways to move away from the online, purely digital world and rediscover the richness of our sense of touch. All that is needed is a regular computer equipped with a web-cam and a printer.