Free software, a webcam, and some stickers printed on an inkjet can turn any object into a real-world controller. That’s what Paul Rose of Institut Fatima and his team did with a soccer ball (translation for the civilized world: football). The software is powered by the same framework used for the reacTable, but in this case there’s no table and no projector: just a ball.

Institut FATIMA uses a Fussball as (des-)controller for triggering drumsamples. The camera detects the symbols on the ball, kicks numbers into the sequencer, the sequencer matches goals. The goal is always music. Software used is reactivision and ableton live. Do it at home.

As it happens, reacTIVision just got a significant update, with more improvements planned. You can read up on the full details on Create Digital Motion:

Free Tangible Tracking: reacTIVision 1.4 Here, TUIO2 Coming Soon

Martin Kaltenbrunner, co-creator of the framework (and the reacTable), has some tips for working with tangible interfaces and music, and where to find more inspiration.

In addition to TUIO, reacTIVision also has an alternative MIDI mode, where you can map the appearance of fiducial symbols to note ON and OFF events, as well as their X,Y and rotation angle to a control channel value. Quite a few people have been using this for the creation of cheap web-cam based MIDI controllers.

Using TUIO, you have more alternatives though, you can currently use Max/MSP, Pure Data, Quartz Composer, Processing, Java, C++, C# and so on to receive the object & finger tracking data. Here are a few cool musical projects, that have been built using reacTIVision:

Patrick H. Lauke (patch pictured, from Flickr) has a video on YouTube that shows some of the basic workflow for combining the free patching environment Pd with TUIO and reacTIVision. He cautions:

this may not be pleasant from a musical point of view, but it only serves as a first test for further experimentation.

Hopefully this gives folks some ammunition if you’re getting involved in the tangible interface hackday! [Project site | on CDMu]

  • rat

    Funny! ๐Ÿ˜€

  • usernamesarepoop

    I'm sure glad other people are messing with this stuff so I don't have to, and I mean that genuinely. I know it's *going* to be really cool what you'll be able to do with tangible interface designs, but so far they're still at the phase where they (mostly) seem to be goofy, distracting hoops through which performers force themselves to jump in order to make it more difficult to make music.
    In this footage, for example, the guy is taking several steps backward so that he can trump up a technical reason to visually involve a soccer ball in his act (and then go back to a "real" interface when he really needs to get stuff done), and he actually loses musical effectiveness for the sake of being able to go, "look! A ball!"
    It can seem really counter-productive watching people eschew existing interfaces which exist for physical reasons which in turn make intuitive sense (a very simple example would be that a horn sounds the way it does because of the way it is shaped) in order to go out of their way to create new, harder-to-utilize and completely arbitrary interfaces which they must then learn to work around to the best of their ability for seemingly no gain in the present ("gah! It's that guy with the blender again!"). It makes me feel like I now know what it must have been like to have been a conventional instrumentalist or composer back when computers were first beginning to see use as musical tools and to have seen a handful of weirdos go through all the trouble to dick around with their Ataris in order to make laughable music when they could just pick up a guitar or a synth and have at it.
    I'm looking forward to seeing what sorts of subtle and amazing control systems result from this type of experimentation in the future and, though I may often laugh or even scoff at what I see in the present, I'm grateful to see people doing the blocking-in work right now.

  • Brilliantly put, usernamesarepoop. I've seen more people than I can even count now wet their digital panties about some new, hacked-together, half-working interface, almost always claiming that it will to "totally change the way we make music" and rarely, if ever, do these interfaces ever survive the rigors real-world hardware and software performance situations. Interface hacker-developers, by and large, REALLY need to develop their ideas and products more thoroughly before publicizing them because stuff like this basically comes off as gimmickry.

  • rhowaldt

    you guys got a point. but isn't there a point also to the point that fun is a very important aspect of all creation? i think it's equally important to be serious about your work as it is to be able to not be serious at all about it. i don't mean to judge at all when i'm saying that whoever is making remarks about this sort of stuff should watch out to avoid this air of superiority that can sometimes pop up its ugly head in these matters. if its good for laughs, generally, its good enough.

    that said, i cannot wait to see/hear what you guys will be doing with these tangible interfaces when the clowns have finished exploring the limits. and i absolutely do not mean that in a bad way.

  • usernamesarepoop

    Oh, hell yes, fun is paramount.
    Blase? Yes. Superior? Nope. These guys are musically doing a hell of a lot more than I am to begin with ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • em ess

    this article makes me think twice about how sometimes i see ideas on this blog that irritate me because they seem like pointless farting around (like integrating twitter into performance… "ugh" i muttered)

    But using a soccer ball as a control interface made me imagine someone using this to make realtime music during an olympic event or a world cup match, or it finding its way into a really cool Nike commercial, and suddenly this esoteric farting around is something new and exciting that is enchanting an audience of millions…

    One has to be motivated and inquisitive to find new places to go, and the rest of us have to be open to the possibilities that may be there. 99.9 percent of the time it's going to be a dead end, but that other 0.1 percent of the time some pretty great stuff can happen.

  • hey, cheers for the mention ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Right — the project is obviously intended as whimsical, so criticizing it for being whimsical makes no sense. I will also say, I think this technique could stand up to the rigors of actual performance, because the thing is so simple. You can easily run a backup (another machine with the free software), and the only potential point of failure is the camera. Have a second camera as a webcam and have enough light, and I think it could be pretty reliable. In Patrick's example, he actually says it's a tech demo and not a musical application.

    I mean, this would be like listening long enough to let a guitarist tune, then walking out because you've said you've heard it all before, before he gets a chance to play. ๐Ÿ˜‰

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  • thank you for putting that up! Yesterday we won the champions league, that's what I call Kairos!
    Obviously the soccerball with reactivision is not a controller that will replace your keyboard. It has a huge latency and is more like a random-input-toy. That's why we call it a "des-controller". You can use it to generate patterns that would be boring and impossible to write. I also could just do som cluster chords on a keyboard, but this would not be as half as fun and noone would like to look at it. Also it has a kind of surprising effect while you perform with it and this forces you into creative interaction with the chaos you generate.
    We will be performing with the ball on the sonar festival in Barcelona on thursday 18th, and the ball will be displayed and you can try it on the exposition on the festival.

  • chopstickkk

    ugh @ the phrase – 'soccer ball'
    yayy @ the inclusion of the disclaimer '(translation for the civilized world: football)'

    it just sounds so alien.

  • Actually, I should really have used football across the board, as less than half the readership of the site is in the US.

    Let's just say, I enjoy all sports involving kicking balls.

  • i liked "soccer", because it sounds like "sucker".

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  • what is so special about this ? that they are using a ball? reacTIVision midi has been used for the last two years 2007 – the ball is the only new thing i see – just saying ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Matthew Steel

    I wonder if I could use that in my amateur matches, the ideas I wrote about in my article. I’m not sure if my website can be seen if I placed it in the website box, so here it is: