Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Tangible User Interface Design: The Step Sequencer

I just love novel computer interfaces. Today's example is a step sequencer, which is the modern-day equivalent of the player piano or music box. Both of those instruments use a mechanically rotating spool of marks indicating notes of a certain pitch. The spacing between the marks indicates timing (i.e. rhythm). As the spool turns, whatever marks arriving over the fixed playback line are the ones that play. There are many incarnations of step sequencers, including electronic and software versions. Both replace the rotating drum with a looping playback line.

Two recent experiments involve using physical objects for the marks, and having a computer recognize the color and position of them. This computer can then playback any sound imaginable.

There's the Bubblegum Ball Sequencer by Hannes Hesse, Andrew McDiarmid and Rosie Han up at UC Berkeley:

Or this Skittles® sequencer by Kyle McDonald:

And really, all these new-fangled music games like Guitar Hero and Rock Band are variations on step sequencers. Instead of a rotating drum (moving marks) with a fixed playback line, or a grid (static marks) with a moving playback line, these games use a conveyor belt of notes flowing down to a fixed playback line that the human player must play at the right time (or risk public humiliation).

via Create Digital Music

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posted by Brian at 12:19 PM


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