I enjoy a little April Foolery now and then – see Google.com at the moment. But I had a funny revelation about some of the April Fools’ jokes out there today: they could be real. Some even already are.

For starters, consider the EyeDJ. The video is hilarious, a spot-on parody of the hype level in digital DJing at the moment. And they tune directly into the kind of breathless sense of innovation with no real purpose, with lines like “There is no need to cart around heavy turntables or expensive MIDI controllers – all you need is a computer and a webcam and you’re ready to mix with the best.” It taps directly into the reinvent-the-wheel zeitgeist in which we sometimes find ourselves and, yes, which to which I’ll admit I sometimes (often?) contribute.

But that’s the funny thing about design challenges and unusual interfaces: often the more seemingly off-the-wall, the more you learn. When Kokoromi organized a one-button game challenge, accompanied by a gallery show I helped assemble, some of the immediate feedback was that one-button games could be essential to people who require one button interaction for accessibility reasons. And sure enough, the EyeDJ is not already possible, but already implemented. EyeWriter is an in-development project using the open source C++ cousin of Processing, OpenFrameworks, which allows legendary graffiti artist TEMPTONE (Tony Quan) to overcome ALS and continue creating tags. Check out the video:

The Eyewriter from Evan Roth on Vimeo.

It’s clear the technology could have musical applications, too. None of us knows what our physical capabilities will be tomorrow, or next week. It’s time to start thinking about different interactions, and different humans. Compose Xenakis worked with architect Le Corbusier’s Modulor, a design unit that related the Golden Ratio and the human body. I’m a fan of both thinkers, but the problem with the Modulor is that it assumes there’s an “ideal” human proportion. In fact, we’re all different.

Don’t get me wrong – and I hope I didn’t make the EyeDJ guys feel insensitive. In fact, far from it: sometimes it’s the kind of apparently-absurd thinking you get from humor or parody that can free you from the constraints of everyday thinking.

Other “jokes” got me thinking, too. Topping the list:

TechCrunch, still sore about their Crunchpad project, suggest a DIY alternative:

Introducing The Do-It-Yourself CrunchPad Kit [Video]

They may have gotten a bit overexcited, as well, as they posted it with a dateline of March 31. A kit you can buy that converts existing laptops to touchscreens? Sign me up! In fact, it’s been done.

Touchscreens.com is one of a number of vendors. Nicely enough, you can spend a small amount of pocket change and convert even a PowerPC-based Mac. It’s single touch only, but it’s not too expensive, and you even get true stylus input, something the iPad doesn’t do.


Photo (CC-BY-NC-ND) TouchKit project co-creator Addie Wagenknecht.

On the multi-touch front, research and artist group NOR_/D has their own kits, called, nicely enough, TouchKit. I’ve been working to get in touch with that crew to talk more about it. They’ll set you back ($1500, $2500 is the ballpark), but, again, truth is stranger than fiction.


Generally, I love the idea of DIY touch and gestural input kits – let’s make them.

The Moog Music Moogerfooger MF-401 “Auto De-Tune” is another Moog April Fools’ classic, especially with presets like “Original Star Trek cast member attempts to make pop music.” (Ah, but which one – with Shatner, Nimoy, and TNG’s Spiner, Frakes…)

But the idea is sort of interesting, seen abstractly: tune incoming audio, then manipulate it. There’s a Pd patch in here somewhere. Go make it.

Also, I briefly thought Moog was making some sort of vocal processor, which would also have been cool.

Bonus round: In a late-night IM session with James Grahame of Retro Thing, we began to wonder what a one-knob synth might be like. (Having just done a one-button instrument, and thinking I may actually work on it more, we could have a whole suite of stuff here.)

James also has my favorite April Fools’ joke of the year. Catch it while you can.

And the grand prize for truth simply being stranger than fiction, Novation’s faux 10×8 controller, seen on Synthtopia can’t possibly compete with the absurdity of seeing the monome 512, which is apparently not an April Fools’ joke. For the current low bid of US$2800, you can get a 32 x 16 matrix of buttons. (Brian and Kelli write that “several close friends encouraged the endeavor.” I hope there was a bet involved.)

It is very, very pretty. Time to start scratching off lotto tickets.

But what April Fools’ jokes would you like to see become reality – and anyone want to take up the challenge? (Remember, Saturday midnight is the deadline for a contest to tell us your music tech dreams.)

  • hyperkvaksha

    Read about Waldorf producing a new synth called Stromberg (or was it Goldfinger?) today. But was that really a spoof?

  • FailedSitcom

    The greatest music by a Star Trek cast member has to be Nichelle "Uhura" Nichols singing this haunting rendition of the title theme:


    Great article by the way.

  • dtr

    that eyeCanDj is ace 😀

  • Speaking of April Fools eventually becoming reality, I remember one from the early 90's on a UK TV Show called Going Live, where they showed an aparant breakthrough in electronics. You could now store your entire CD collection on one small electronic chip.

  • i love the idea of the monome 512. i see nothing absurd about it… especially if you've had any issues with paginating monome applications. you could have multiple apps running and all displayed at the same time on the 512.
    plus the thought of a 32 step mlr session sounds great to me.

  • A Different Jonathan

    The monome 512 is a gorgeous piece of design, but at that rarefied financial height, I crave specificity more than abstraction. I'd spend that money on a GenOqs Octopus.

    I understand the attraction of abstract devices. It's just that for me, one of their attractions is that they do a lot of things reasonably well at a LOW price, so I can then spend a lot of the money saved on something that does one thing really, really well.

    @hyperkvaksha The Stromberg has been a real Waldorf project since at least 2007, but so far it has never been released. Who was reporting on it today?

  • Unfortunately touchscreen add-ons are not precise enough yet for controlling music apps :-(. am still waiting for those to become as precise as a high end mouse..

    The eye writer actually reminds me of a test I went through in the 90's, used to detect the path followed by the eye when watching a picture. I believe this could easily be done, but the result might not be as expected.

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  • keats' handwrit

    @peter- You wrote, "Composer Xenakis worked with architect Le Corbusier’s Modulor, a design unit that related the Golden Ratio and the human body. I’m a fan of both thinkers, but the problem with the Modulor is that it assumes there’s an “ideal” human proportion. In fact, we’re all different."

    I've been long fascinated by the mathematical proportions in music. While much of musical taste is determined by our experiences (nurture) I agree with those who suggest that nature also plays a big role. I'm not making a straw man out of your position; but I am curious about your thoughts on the role math and other innate proportions like the Golden Mean play in music. I would assume that most techno-eltro-geeks would be partial to the whole math=music line of thinking.

  • HEXnibble

    @Peter – "you even get stylus input, something the iPad doesn’t do."

    Actually, the iPhone/iPod touch (and now iPad) has had stylus input for a while. Pogo Sketch being one example.

  • @HEXnibble: Changed wording to "true" stylus input. The Pogo Sketch is very cool, thanks for pointing that out — but it just emulates the fingertip input; it's not quite the same as the stylus-ready digitizers. On the other hand, some of those do the stylus input more precisely but aren't as good at multitouch gestures, depending on the digitizer and type.

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