Therenect – Kinect Theremin from Martin Kaltenbrunner on Vimeo.

Who says technology has to move fast and die young? Leon Theremin may have been a full century ahead of his time, before computers, before transistors, before jet engines or atomic power or rockets.

ReacTable creator Martin Kaltenbrunner has a virtual Theremin prototype built with Microsoft’s depth-sensing, 3D Kinect camera. And what he really needs is some players of the real Theremin to help develop it. Martin writes CDM:

I just finished my first musical instrument based on the Kinect controller. The Therenect is a virtual Theremin, which defines two virtual antenna points that allow controlling the pitch and volume of a simple oscillator. The distance to these points can be controlled by freely moving the hand in three dimensions or by reshaping the hand, which allows gestures that are quite similar to playing an actual Theremin.

At the moment I am getting in contact with some trained Theremin players in order to tune the application to fully simulate the behavior of an actual Theremin. We will then publish some additional videos with a more musical experience … The software has been developed using the Open Frameworks and OpenKinect libraries and will be released under an open source license when it is more mature.

On our sister site Create Digital Motion, we’ve also noted that Martin’s new library allows OSC communication anywhere, so if a virtual Theremin isn’t inspiring your Kinect dreams, you can make something else.

Kinect with Anything: TUIO Gestures from Kinect

Kinect may be popular at the moment, but lest you feel rushed, just remember – a hundred years later, people still play the Theremin. So maybe if your idea is worthwhile, you’ve got some time. (Erm, not to enable any more procrastination.)

  • Thanks for posting the project! I am actually playing as bad on the real Theremin, which means that the whole thing is quite promising 😉 I'll keep you updated once we have some more musical results …

  • this is very cool!  keep up the good work, I'm very interested to see what kind of stuff comes out with this kinekt business.

  • Not sure about the 'die young' part, but everything I've read on this site for the past few years (and I adore the CDM franchise, and recommend it to all my students) suggests that technology MUST 'move fast', and that nothing lasts. What's the most lasting technology of the last 20 years – – HTML? MIDI? I'm not sure anymore. Should we look to technology for 'permanence' of any kind?

    OK, end of mild rant. Is Kinect 'over' yet? About time! ( this is meant as a humorous comment, of course.)

  • And, ok, when I do my theremin-wanna-be-performing, I use BeBot, the fantastic singing robot! Only $3!

    (&nbsp ; ) ( me actually playing BeBot at . 

  • Peter Kirn

    Well, wait a second, Joey – really? 

    Major winners over the past few years, even on CDM:
    C/C++ (1983)
    Computer vision (1970s – and yes, Kinect is deeply rooted in that)
    MIDI (1983)
    Linux (Minix – 1991, GNU – 1983, UNIX – 1969)
    Csound (arguably really MUSIC-N, and therefore 1957)
    Multitouch (early 1980s, see for instance
    TCP/IP and LAN (1980s)
    UDP (1980)
    The sequencer (1980s)
    The tracker (early 1990s)
    The graphical user interface (1970s; the first soft synths appeared mid-1980s)
    Three-dimensional user interfaces (based on a rendering model from the 1980s, and standards that largely evolved in the mid-1990s)

    I could go on. Maybe in a separate post, I will. 

    Given that the enabling technologies were largely present in the 1970s and 80s, this suggests to me that a) actually using technologies can move quite slowly and b) cheapness and ease matter.

  • Damon

    He said thereminists. ehehehe

  • 23fx

    if the sound hasn't been realigned to vid offline, this is the first kinnekt use i see with 
    decent playable latency, cool if it can performs tracking and gesture analising with such low latency, i had serious doubts previously.

  • @23fx Notice that in that video you can't see the most challenging latency component (input-related): that between the actual gesture and the gesture "seen" by kinect.
    Indeed the latency between the seen gesture and sound synthesis is very low, but that's software-only, which is definitely less critical.