Some of us move freely between the real and virtual dimensions, can make dubstep basses just by moving our spine, and shoot flames out of our hands naturally. For everyone else, there’s this.

Ryan Challinor, whose day gig is as a developer working on Dance Central, apparently just couldn’t get enough Kinect hacking at his desk at Harmonix. He’s spending his evenings do yet more, with a tool he calls “Synapse for Kinect.” It’s free and open source, and merges performance of visuals with music. And it should please Quartz Composer fans, to boot. He writes:

This is sort of a Kinect hack on steroids. It’s easy to install on anyone’s computer, it’s open source, and it gives you a user-friendly interface to control music and visuals in Ableton Live and Quartz Composer fully through Kinect input. More directly, it allows you to do things like play with a dubstep theremin while you have fire shooting out of your hands.

(Sadly, he really means “dubstep bass.” “Dubstep Theremin?” Now that might rekindle my waning interest in the genre. Make it so.)

See the video at top for a demo, and explanation below. And he has hopes that the wider community of artists will become involved, too — this isn’t just about one guy showing off a cool demo. He explains:

I want to get a lot of visibility for this project, to get it in the hands of talented musicians and artists so they can create awesome stuff. [Visit], where people can find more information about the project and download everything they need to run it on their own computer. Thanks!

Have at it:

I saw yet another Kinect music demo last week here in New York; I feel a round-up coming on. And yes, the tech has its limitations: it’s not a low-latency system, it lacks tangible feedback that you get from physical controls (try a Theremin), and some of the analysis can be challenging. But there’s still potential, within some of those restrictions, potential that is increasingly being realized in functioning projects. If you have some you’d like to see in our round-up, let us know in comments or via our contact form.

And yes, this is a bit late. I’m a human, not a virtual robot. Yet.

  • I've got another similar patch (uploaded the same day as Synapse actually!) on the site -&nbsp ;
    Feedback is welcome!

  • I have one really dumb question: do you need to have an Xbox to use the Kinect sensor this way (i.e., using Quartz Composer and an MBP)? 

    and great work, Ryan!

  • Nope, no Xbox necessary!  Just plug your Kinect into a USB port on your computer, and you're good to go!

    An addendum: I also recently added a Jitter external (works on Mac only, unfortunately) for getting the depth image from Synapse, so if QC isn't your bag, you can scratch the Jitter itch now.

  • Yay! That little piece of information is actually something of a game changer (pun not really intended)!

  • Awesome..another great free tool for this stuff..especially since this is so easy to get up and running.

    As an addendum there is the awesome QC only Tryplex toolkit for kinect skeleton stuff in QC that needs a mention sometime:'s got a ton of good examples/ a puppet maker, but the install process is much more involved

  • For tryplex users, we're going to implement synapse support in the next update!

  • ?

  • Bmweeman

    my kinect and synapse project here :