As computer music practice – part composition, part instrumental play – spreads, the idea of software interface as performance tool is becoming second nature. Putting those opposable thumbs and sensitive fingertips to work, multitouch controllers are growing in number, variety, and sophistication. Berlin-based artist Marco Kuhn shows off his beautiful creation, the PlayBox multitouch hardware, and its first app, PlayLive. That first software focuses on Ableton Live performance, but Live could be just the beginning – Marco has worked with Pd in the past and promises other apps to come. He’s interested in selling this device in the future, and he shares with us the tools he used to create this work for those of you doing development along similar lines.


The Project:

“Play Box” is is a User Interface for Natural User Interaction.
? allows multi-touch and object recognition (TUIO marker)
? hovering is also possible
? 22 ” TFT display , 1680 x 1050 pixel
? robust
? plug`n play

“Play Live” is a dedicated multitouch controller surface for Ableton Live.

– GUI Elements support multi-touch interaction
– easy to setup , just load the “Play” Control Surface
– you need no controller assignment
– you can control 32 tracks and 127 scenes, that are 4064 clips
– track controls are mute, solo, record, send1, send2, pan, level
– scene feedback name and state
– clip feedback color, name and state
– Transport control
– 2 Returns
– Master
– support bidirectional communication
– display track level meter, name

The whole app is coded in python.
– use Python Ableton Live API
– and libavg for the GUI and Trackingengine
– PyPortMidi receive/send Midi Messages

“Play Live” Future plans:
– FX View per Track
– subpage for abstract clip controlling

I tested it with my mac book pro, “Play Live” and “Ableton Live” is running at the same machine. It should work on all platforms (Windows, Linux, Mac OS X). That Project started with my Diploma Thesis in Applied Computer Science 1 year ago.

Everything is coded and built by myself. The GUI – elements has been designed by Gösta Wellmer.

In this work, I created a GUI-Controller Library which allow me to Develop very rapidly Multitouch Interfaces for other Audio Environments.
More Apps coming soon 😉

I [plan] to sell the” Play Box” and Apps like “Play Live” if anyone is interested.
The price is yet not specified.

That`s not my first multitouch Interface. 2 Years ago I created forfour –
– used PD, Processing, Reactivision and OGRE.
But the “Play Box” is another level;-)

For more on the project:

I hope to have video to share soon – and yeah, it’s time to plan another visit to Berlin.

  • aikah

    how do they get clip names with the Api ?

  • Mudo

    Cool! I just wonder about integrate this with Octints… (arduinome RGB)


  • hmm..nice…looks like a microwave…

    will it do easy mac warp markers??




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  • Will Marshall

    It's pretty easy to get clip names using LiveOSC or the LiveAPI in general.

  • Any ideas as to the size of the enclosure?

  • Soma


    I got to play it hands one with Marco in his studio 😀 and the table is VERY smooth. The surface is much … slicker?… than that of the Lemur. On the Lemur, the screen really is too small to make a really useful layout (IMO), and the friction is too high, but Marco's table is very open and slick. We had 4 people playing at the same time and that was REALLY interesting.

  • Gab

    Why is the enclosure so big? How is this different (as for the hardware part) from upcoming multitouch displays (PackardBell already announced its 1680×1050 20" multitouch display, to be released in October)?

    This looks perfect to control Live, I'd be glad to spend my money for the software, provided it can be used in other resolutions (to take advantage of a 1920×1200 workspace) and allow for a bit of customization — I might be a bit greedy, the software already looks great as it is.

  • Thanks for your feedback!

    The size is bigger, like the PackardBell, because it use another technology.

    With this recognition technology you can also interact with markers, touches or hovering.

    That`s not possible with PackardBell.

    Play Box is more like the Microsoft Surface or the Reactable, but also transportable.

  • Soma

    As I mentioned to Marco, I think a nice possibility with this setup is the ability to add a row of dials that can be slid and moved over the screen to control different aspects like mixing, effects, etc. (since the camera can recognize a form on the bottom of the knob)

    You would avoid mode errors that you get with controllers like the APC since location of the knobs would indicate purpose, and the surrounding screen could give contextual feedback in the same place your hands and eyes are 😉

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