applewatch

Apple Watch could be the first in a new wave of wearable technology for musicians.

The idea isn’t new. We’ve seen various notions involving wearing extra controls for music. In fact, the whole category of alternative interfaces is deeply indebted to Michael Waisvisz, who helmed STEIM for many years and whose interface The Hands inspired generations of musical gloves and gestural interfaces. Guitarists have had various rings to wear; IK Multimedia is currently experimenting with rings that aid in gestural control of iOS.

Apple Watch may not become the accessory the iPad and iPhone have for music, but – partly due to the success of those platforms – it’s ripe for experimentation. And since I can already prepare Traktor sets with my iPhone and plug my guitar through an iPad, music companies already target iOS as an additional platform (atop Windows and Mac).

Those developers should see Apple Watch alongside the iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch developer tools soon. Apple is promising that you’ll be able to use their wrist-born iOS gadget for notifications and information, with “fully native” apps (presumably iOS apps with a different screen size and hardware capabilities) “later next year.” So, figure notifications first, full apps later. Even the former will be useful, but putting those two categories together, imagine this:

Visual notifications while you play. BPM, cues in songs, uh… lyrics, if you’re especially bad at remembering them.

Remote controls. Transport controls and the like are a logical app. Think of a simple app with wireless Mackie Control for transport information.

Touch. The iPad and even iPhone offer larger touch surfaces, but you do get something out of the Watch. There’s reportedly pressure sensitivity, and “Taptic” provides haptic feedback. Now, you wouldn’t buy an Apple Watch for these features, but you can bet some developers will try hacking creative musical applications with them anyway. The new touch sensing tech could be something we see on iOS devices later, too.

Easy-access controls. Even the “Digital Crown” looks useful. Imagine a metronome on your wrist, turning this dial to change the tempo up and down precisely.

Wireless and Bluetooth provide a connection with your computer, so as with iPhone and iPad controllers, remote control is a likely application.

But I could see a KORG tuner or metronome on the Apple Watch, too, or an Ableton transport.

Copy and paste the above observations to Android-powered watches, or other wearable tech, too, of course, but there’s reason to wait for Apple to run this headline. I think the Apple Watch has a particular shot in that so far Android watches have been fairly disappointing in their design, and that iOS, unlike Android, has proven a viable platform for music developers to actually make money, reach customers, and find a single platform that’s easy to develop for and test. Even at companies that are giants of music tech, there simply aren’t big budgets for testing on a lot of different devices, and so critical mass has very logically shifted to iOS. (A reader called this a “monoculture” last week. Hardly – AAX, VST, AU, OS X, Windows, Linux, 32-bit and 64-bit and different OSes on top of embedded and DSP chips… this industry has enough platforms, so one mobile OS may be enough.)

Apple Watch is mostly a teaser at this point. We should know more as Watch Kit shows up in the developer tools. Apple’s increasingly liberal policy on developer NDAs should also mean we get to talk about it sooner.

Now, I’m very skeptical as I’m sure you are about whether I personally need such a thing – that’s $350 that could be spent on an entire synthesizer, which is more fun than a watch. (I like watches, the old-fashioned kind.) But I bring this up in part because I imagine the Apple Watch could serve as a platform for new ideas. It’s possible (and often desirable) to prototype synth hardware on the iPad. And the very presence of the Apple Watch on the market may reinvigorate a decades-old discussion about just what sorts of sensors and instruments you would want to wear. (McRorie, again, ahead of his time – the musical utilikilt may always beat the watch.)

And because many DIY solutions can be constructed for far less than $350, there’s no reason you can’t go off and make your own, non-Apple wrist-worn creation today. That’ll fill the time.

But whether it’s made by Apple or not, I’m fairly confident that the cultural impact of Apple’s creation is that wrists will go naked no more.

http://www.apple.com/watch/technology/

  • Eshefer

    How about BPM sync to heart beat?

    • Eshefer

      I can see in my mind the future of DJing. literally running to get the tempo up, and taking a nap for chilling out the crowd.

    • Jakob Penca

      yea pretty sure every music dev on this planet had this same silly idea some time in the last few days ๐Ÿ˜€

      • eshefer

        yup ๐Ÿ™‚

        • Ha! Well, the HealthKit/WatchKit thing should be interesting.

          Every time I type that, I want to type HeathKit.

      • papernoise

        you can do heart beat to bpm with an arduino and a simple pulse sensor. and will only cost you 30 bucks.

    • djhokey

      Or have the users in the crowd sync their average heart to the DJ to help out with the set

      • Jakob Penca

        and those who are creatively inclined will be able to control LFOs with dick pics

    • lala

      I can’t dance to his ^^

      • Lala

        This

    • mercury

      Normal resting heart rate is about 60-100 BPM, so how do you suggest that would work?

      • eshefer

        “how do you suggest that would work?”

        very badly, of course.

        joking aside, and the original idea WAS intended as a joke, there might be ways around this.

        it doesn’t have to be a 1:1 transition, 1:2 would bring a range of 120 – 200 which is a bit on the up tempo side, but doable in a dj set environment. another option would be to use only changes in heart beat as indicators to slow or speed up the BPM.

        but still, I’m not sure this would be applicable in a traditional DJ set, however… it WOULD be useful for training, for example matching the next track that would play on the iPhone according to the heart beat, or exercise profile (which can be determined by analysing heartbeataccelerometergyro data).

        • mercury

          it wasn’t a bad joke, i have always thought this would be interesting, just don’t know how it would be done practically. observationally, in some tribal societies, the beat starts to march the exercise heart rate during ritual chants.

          • Frank

            Hi,

            interesting, could you please post some links on this topic?

            ” in some tribal societies, the beat starts to march the exercise heart rate during ritual chants.”

  • Eshefer

    How about BPM sync to heart beat?

    • Eshefer

      I can see in my mind the future of DJing. literally running to get the tempo up, and taking a nap for chilling out the crowd.

    • Jakob Penca

      yea pretty sure every music dev on this planet had this same silly idea some time in the last few days ๐Ÿ˜€

      • eshefer

        yup ๐Ÿ™‚

        • Ha! Well, the HealthKit/WatchKit thing should be interesting.

          Every time I type that, I want to type HeathKit.

      • papernoise

        you can do heart beat to bpm with an arduino and a simple pulse sensor. and will only cost you 30 bucks.

    • djhokey

      Or have the users in the crowd sync their average heart to the DJ to help out with the set

      • Jakob Penca

        and those who are creatively inclined will be able to control LFOs with dick pics

    • lala

      I can’t dance to his ^^

      • Lala

        This

    • mercury

      Normal resting heart rate is about 60-100 BPM, so how do you suggest that would work?

      • eshefer

        “how do you suggest that would work?”

        very badly, of course.

        joking aside, and the original idea WAS intended as a joke, there might be ways around this.

        it doesn’t have to be a 1:1 transition, 1:2 would bring a range of 120 – 200 which is a bit on the up tempo side, but doable in a dj set environment. another option would be to use only changes in heart beat as indicators to slow or speed up the BPM.

        but still, I’m not sure this would be applicable in a traditional DJ set, however… it WOULD be useful for training, for example matching the next track that would play on the iPhone according to the heart beat, or exercise profile (which can be determined by analysing heartbeataccelerometergyro data).

        • mercury

          it wasn’t a bad joke, i have always thought this would be interesting, just don’t know how it would be done practically. observationally, in some tribal societies, the beat starts to march the exercise heart rate during ritual chants.

          • Frank

            Hi,

            interesting, could you please post some links on this topic?

            ” in some tribal societies, the beat starts to march the exercise heart rate during ritual chants.”

  • Eshefer

    How about BPM sync to heart beat?

    • Eshefer

      I can see in my mind the future of DJing. literally running to get the tempo up, and taking a nap for chilling out the crowd.

    • Jakob Penca

      yea pretty sure every music dev on this planet had this same silly idea some time in the last few days ๐Ÿ˜€

      • eshefer

        yup ๐Ÿ™‚

        • Ha! Well, the HealthKit/WatchKit thing should be interesting.

          Every time I type that, I want to type HeathKit.

      • papernoise

        you can do heart beat to bpm with an arduino and a simple pulse sensor. and will only cost you 30 bucks.

    • djhokey

      Or have the users in the crowd sync their average heart to the DJ to help out with the set

      • Jakob Penca

        and those who are creatively inclined will be able to control LFOs with dick pics

    • lala

      I can’t dance to his ^^

      • Lala

        This

    • mercury

      Normal resting heart rate is about 60-100 BPM, so how do you suggest that would work?

      • eshefer

        “how do you suggest that would work?”

        very badly, of course.

        joking aside, and the original idea WAS intended as a joke, there might be ways around this.

        it doesn’t have to be a 1:1 transition, 1:2 would bring a range of 120 – 200 which is a bit on the up tempo side, but doable in a dj set environment. another option would be to use only changes in heart beat as indicators to slow or speed up the BPM.

        but still, I’m not sure this would be applicable in a traditional DJ set, however… it WOULD be useful for training, for example matching the next track that would play on the iPhone according to the heart beat, or exercise profile (which can be determined by analysing heartbeataccelerometergyro data).

        • mercury

          it wasn’t a bad joke, i have always thought this would be interesting, just don’t know how it would be done practically. observationally, in some tribal societies, the beat starts to march the exercise heart rate during ritual chants.

          • Frank

            Hi,

            interesting, could you please post some links on this topic?

            ” in some tribal societies, the beat starts to march the exercise heart rate during ritual chants.”

  • itchy

    i was gunna trash the watch but the syncing to the heart thing is def awesome. i think as this evolves in the years to come it will be the ultimate life device.

  • itchy

    i was gunna trash the watch but the syncing to the heart thing is def awesome. i think as this evolves in the years to come it will be the ultimate life device.

  • itchy

    i was gunna trash the watch but the syncing to the heart thing is def awesome. i think as this evolves in the years to come it will be the ultimate life device.

  • griotspeak

    My concern is latency. A few endeavors of mine have been stymied by unacceptable latency recently.

  • griotspeak

    My concern is latency. A few endeavors of mine have been stymied by unacceptable latency recently.

  • griotspeak

    My concern is latency. A few endeavors of mine have been stymied by unacceptable latency recently.

  • gunboat_d

    i’m certain the crown won’t allow for “precise” level of control just because of the size and the motor control of people in the middle of a live set. and if it’s impolite to look at your watch when you eat dinner with the in-laws, just wait until some artist spends most of the gig fiddling with his/her watch. the best idea of control is just to his start/stop on the backing track. cueing and performing with an iwatch seems like a terrible idea since there is no tactile feedback. at least with a set of pads or a keyboard, i can *feel* for the button i have to push.

    • I’m imagining it more as a metronome control… because of the size of a watch, still worth having one physical control. But I wasn’t out in California so haven’t touched it yet – I suppose a crown on a conventional watch isn’t so easy to grab.

      And yes, the iPad is still better at these tasks… (or any number of pieces of controller gear). Convenience here likely assumes you’ve already got the thing.

  • gunboat_d

    i’m certain the crown won’t allow for “precise” level of control just because of the size and the motor control of people in the middle of a live set. and if it’s impolite to look at your watch when you eat dinner with the in-laws, just wait until some artist spends most of the gig fiddling with his/her watch. the best idea of control is just to his start/stop on the backing track. cueing and performing with an iwatch seems like a terrible idea since there is no tactile feedback. at least with a set of pads or a keyboard, i can *feel* for the button i have to push.

    • I’m imagining it more as a metronome control… because of the size of a watch, still worth having one physical control. But I wasn’t out in California so haven’t touched it yet – I suppose a crown on a conventional watch isn’t so easy to grab.

      And yes, the iPad is still better at these tasks… (or any number of pieces of controller gear). Convenience here likely assumes you’ve already got the thing.

  • gunboat_d

    i’m certain the crown won’t allow for “precise” level of control just because of the size and the motor control of people in the middle of a live set. and if it’s impolite to look at your watch when you eat dinner with the in-laws, just wait until some artist spends most of the gig fiddling with his/her watch. the best idea of control is just to his start/stop on the backing track. cueing and performing with an iwatch seems like a terrible idea since there is no tactile feedback. at least with a set of pads or a keyboard, i can *feel* for the button i have to push.

    • I’m imagining it more as a metronome control… because of the size of a watch, still worth having one physical control. But I wasn’t out in California so haven’t touched it yet – I suppose a crown on a conventional watch isn’t so easy to grab.

      And yes, the iPad is still better at these tasks… (or any number of pieces of controller gear). Convenience here likely assumes you’ve already got the thing.

  • Mr. October

    Yeah, remote in studio would be great. Get into the live room behind the drum set and hit record and the other transport functions. Would also be cool for tap tempo.

  • Mr. October

    Yeah, remote in studio would be great. Get into the live room behind the drum set and hit record and the other transport functions. Would also be cool for tap tempo.

  • Mr. October

    Yeah, remote in studio would be great. Get into the live room behind the drum set and hit record and the other transport functions. Would also be cool for tap tempo.

  • Best Legs

    heartbeat into midiclock?

  • Best Legs

    heartbeat into midiclock?

  • Best Legs

    heartbeat into midiclock?

  • MrBim

    It could be used to concert physical gestures to controler data. Which could give it a use in making live performance’s more dynamic without the artist looking at their wrist all the time.

  • MrBim

    It could be used to concert physical gestures to controler data. Which could give it a use in making live performance’s more dynamic without the artist looking at their wrist all the time.

  • MrBim

    It could be used to concert physical gestures to controler data. Which could give it a use in making live performance’s more dynamic without the artist looking at their wrist all the time.

  • Jaybeeg

    No. Simply no. Think about using a watch as a transport control: using it requires *both* hands – your left arm has to be held steady in an orientation where you can see/access the watch face. Your right hand is required to tap/swipe the face. To make matters worse, you’ll most likely have to glance at the watch while you’re doing this.

    The most likely use is as a precision gyrometer or accelerometer to control Synth parameters – think of it as a one-armed version of Imogen Heap’s setup. Not terribly convinced that will be a killer music app, though. Still, could be fun for 99ยข.

  • Jaybeeg

    No. Simply no. Think about using a watch as a transport control: using it requires *both* hands – your left arm has to be held steady in an orientation where you can see/access the watch face. Your right hand is required to tap/swipe the face. To make matters worse, you’ll most likely have to glance at the watch while you’re doing this.

    The most likely use is as a precision gyrometer or accelerometer to control Synth parameters – think of it as a one-armed version of Imogen Heap’s setup. Not terribly convinced that will be a killer music app, though. Still, could be fun for 99ยข.

  • Jaybeeg

    No. Simply no. Think about using a watch as a transport control: using it requires *both* hands – your left arm has to be held steady in an orientation where you can see/access the watch face. Your right hand is required to tap/swipe the face. To make matters worse, you’ll most likely have to glance at the watch while you’re doing this.

    The most likely use is as a precision gyrometer or accelerometer to control Synth parameters – think of it as a one-armed version of Imogen Heap’s setup. Not terribly convinced that will be a killer music app, though. Still, could be fun for 99ยข.

  • Vitor Jesus

    Imagine an App where all your audience heart rate (at least the ones with compatible watches) is sent to a master app (mobile or desktop) that then projects some pretty bars, average BPM and graphics for the audience to see. The reaction of the crowd during the bridge and following chorus should be interesting to watch. This kind of bio-feedback can be very powerful.

  • Vitor Jesus

    Imagine an App where all your audience heart rate (at least the ones with compatible watches) is sent to a master app (mobile or desktop) that then projects some pretty bars, average BPM and graphics for the audience to see. The reaction of the crowd during the bridge and following chorus should be interesting to watch. This kind of bio-feedback can be very powerful.

  • Vitor Jesus

    Imagine an App where all your audience heart rate (at least the ones with compatible watches) is sent to a master app (mobile or desktop) that then projects some pretty bars, average BPM and graphics for the audience to see. The reaction of the crowd during the bridge and following chorus should be interesting to watch. This kind of bio-feedback can be very powerful.

  • Casey

    Maybe we will someday see a DJ doing his whole show from his watch while playing Farmville on Facebook and getting paid $100,000 a night in Vegas!

  • Casey

    Maybe we will someday see a DJ doing his whole show from his watch while playing Farmville on Facebook and getting paid $100,000 a night in Vegas!

  • Casey

    Maybe we will someday see a DJ doing his whole show from his watch while playing Farmville on Facebook and getting paid $100,000 a night in Vegas!

  • fireant

    Checkout Tapping Tempo, a nifty metronome for apple watch. http://tappingmetronome.com/