Trackmate LusidOSC Sequencer Application from Adam Kumpf on Vimeo.

Want to interact with your computer musically using physical objects and other fancy-schmancy, science-fiction-y interfaces? Don’t want to rely on Microsoft or wait until 2019? You’re in luck. It’s like Christmas for DIYers and interactive futurists.

Enter LusidOSC, a set of protocols, libraries, and useful code, and Trackmate, a clever and cheap-to-build system for tangible interfaces. Together, you’ve just got a bunch of tools to help you start playing with blocks — erm, experiencing new spatial interfaces.

  • LusidOSC, the library maps “spatial input devices” – really, any tangible devices or sensors in the real world – to applications, like live music or live visuals. It uses the network-savvy OpenSoundControl protocol. The library is available now for Processing, with Java, Python, Flash, and C++ in the works.
  • LusidOSC, the apps/code: a set of Processing utilities to get you started includes a basic example app, command launcher, playlist mixer, and a MIDI sequencer. You can build on these for your own Processing apps.
  • Your own input device: Tags? Sensors? Markers? Regions? Fingertips? If it’s in physical space, you can map it via LusidOSC. Or, if you want a place to start, try:
  • Trackmate: A project of MIT’s Tangible Media Group, Trackmate lets you affix tags to any objects you want and use them as an interface.

LusidOSC is just the protocol; it’s physical applications like Trackmate that get really interesting. In these economically-challenged times, Trackmate gives you tangible interfaces for next to nothing. All you need is a computer (Mac, Windows, or Linux), and a camera (even a webcam will do). Print out randomly-generated tags in the free and open source software, stick them on stuff you want to use, and go to town.

You can make your own Trackmate surfaces out of hardwood or plexiglass for as little as $40 in parts. There’s even a Processing-based simulator app so you can experiment without the physical objects. (Good for troubleshooting on the bus or plane, I imagine.)

Trackmate is just one project, though; LusidOSC promises to support other interface ideas, too.

LusidOSC at Sourceforge, the work of “many research institutions and companies.” (Which, I wonder?)
Trackmate at Sourceforge, a project of the MIT Media Lab Tangible Media Group

Alternatives: TUIO, the protocol used in the Bjork-endorsed Reactable project marches forward, as well. And as both projects are open source, there could be some cross-pollination. I hear a revised TUIO is coming, and in the meantime, LusidOSC acts as a gateway to TUIO.

  • I just spent 20 minutes or so playing with this, and I have to say – it's exceptionally cool and fun! The simulator app is a great idea for this kind of thing; without it, I would probably not be as willing to try it out. As it was, I spent about 10-15 minutes getting the packages downloaded, library installed in Processing, and figuring out how to make the sequencer play sounds (the trick is to click the blocks and assign notes in the very nicely-done step sequencer).

    The step sequencer they've built is, itself, a bit of a revelation – a real, workable sequencer inside Processing, that knows how to speak OSC and MIDI! I can see all kinds of fun uses for that piece of code…

    Nice work!

  • Eric

    Wow, this comes in very handy. Seems to be just the thing I need.

  • thalia

    I you have a closer look at the provided "alternatives" you will find that this kind of DIY environment is exactly what the reactable software toolkit and some other tools from the NUI community already have been offering for many years. All this is open source software that has been used for many musical or other tangible projects.
    Go to youtube and look for "reactivision"

  • Machines

    I have a love/hate relationship with posts like these. I love the material being covered. But I hate it at the same time because it makes me feel stupid. I grabbed all the packages, have no clue how to do anything with them.

    Perhaps a little step by step of what you went through, Bill Van Loo? You know, for dummies…lol.

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  • ballpein

    @ machines

    so you've downloaded processing, the lusidosc processing bundle, and the lusidosc simulator

    1. run the simulator
    2. run LusidOSC_BasicApp.pde from the lusidosc processing library. This should launch a processing app. click the little play button at the top. A new window should open up – now if you go back to the simulator and drag some objects onto the "screen" the lusidosc_basicapp should respond. Now you know it's working.
    3. quit LusidOSC_BasicApp.pde and open LusidOSC_Sequencer.pde – now the simulator will send info to the sequencer. in the sequencer, click on any of the objects to set up their sequences.

  • Machines

    Thanks, ballpein. I will give this a try.

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  • Armando Cajide

    I wonder what kind of blocks the reactable uses. Anyone find some useful tangible blocks that are a bit better then the wooden blocks?

  • Armando Cajide

    I just bought a PS3 cam off ebay for 30 bucks + free shipping new :D… they're scattered all over the place.