Touch on devices like the iPad is functional, but limited in its expression – there’s no pressure or tactile feedback. That’s why we’ve enthusiastically followed Randy Jones’ “continuous capacitive sensing” technology on the Soundplane for some time. Sensing pressure, it behaves more like an acoustic instrument might – that is, if such an acoustic instrument were possible beyond the imagination of the digital realm.

As advertised, it “transmits x, y and pressure data for every key continuously at 12 bits of resolution and about 1000 samples per second, letting players move beyond the ADSR envelope model of synthesis and articulate each note individually, as on an acoustic instrument.”

While Randy has a patent pending, he still encourages people to follow his documentation of the technology to build their own. But if you’d like one nicely built for you, the Soundplane is now available as a US$1695. There’s even a bundled version of Madrona Labs’ wonderful Aalto patchable modular software synthesizer for your computer, especially customized to work with the Soundplane. (And dig those nice three-dimensional visualizations of pressure in the video.)

There won’t be many of these first units out in the world: the first run is limited to just 30 units. Of course, if it’s successful, I’d expect to see more. And you could have something special in the first-available hardware (I’d jump if I weren’t saving my pennies!)

Our own Matt Earp is working on an interview with Randy, so here’s your opportunity – what would you like to ask Randy about his creation?

If you happen to be in California, Randy is putting together a West Coast US tour. Dates and description below.

And for more pictures, see below.

Robotspeak, San Francisco, Saturday Nov 5, 4pm
CNMAT, Berkeley, Monday Nov 7 (unconfirmed — check back to for info)
UCSB, Media Arts and Technology Seminar, Tue Nov 8, 5:30 pm
Calarts Seminar, Thur Nov 10, 6:30pm

Some of the events may differ slightly from this Robotspeak description, says Randy, but this gives you an idea – I love the thesis here.

Multitouch interfaces: beyond the tablet.

Madrona Labs and Robotspeak are happy to present this seminar on music and multitouch interface. Thanks to smartphones and tablet computing, multitouch interfaces have been a common topic of discussion over the past few years. Phones and tablets are general-purpose tools that have their pros and cons for music making. As multitouch technology becomes specialized for music performance, what will future hardware and software look like?

Madrona Labs has one answer in the form of the Soundplane, a new instrument designed specifically for computer music performance, shipping in limited quantities this Fall. Randy Jones, the Soundplane’s inventor, will present a prototype, demonstrate some of what it offers to musicians, and make it available for hands-on time by attendees.

Other visions of multitouch will spring from DIY efforts and maker culture. Capacitive sensing is a simple technology that makers can easily integrate into new designs. Randy will show how to make touch sensors with little more than some foam, tinfoil and an audio interface, and discuss the benefits as well as the limitations of these devices. More hands-on play and quite possbily a cacophony of bleeps will result.

  • This looks very exciting!

    I always marveled at the expressivity Vangelis got out of his CS-80, with its ability to individually and continuously modulate each separate key.

    This looks like it not only finally gives us this ability with modern day technology, but also takes it further!

    Dare I say, that just as was the case with Buchla VS Moog, the first one to market this with a more traditional black and white piano-like key arrangement will be the one to reap the financial benefits of the new technology?

  • rsdio

    Yes, the CS-80 was designed with polyphonic aftertouch, which only a few expensive keyboards have. The Soundplane has polyphonic aftertouch plus two more dimensions of "after" touch.  It is possible to vary up to three parameters per note with the Soundplane.

  • Graham

    wow, im feeling the excitement. Ill be looking for the tour, seems like a new way to voice expressions.