The future happens gradually — and then by the time you’re sequencing a Web browser using Rubik’s Cubes, you might barely notice.

But Sweden’s most inventive producer is back yet again with his latest novelty, this time turning one of the world’s best-selling toys (hundreds of millions of units) into a usable sequencer.

Håkan Lidbo (concept and sound design) teams up with Per-Olov Jernberg (programming & visual design) and Romeo Brahasteanu (game board). The clever conceit here is to swap black for one of the colors, thus creating a foreground and background. Make a 4×4 grid of these cubes of 4×4 each, and you have a very usable sequencer – in fact, one more flexible than a lot of hardware sequencers out there, I might add. (It also bears some resemblance to my favorite drum machine of the moment, iOS’ Elastic Drums.)

The design is simple. And the functionality, like other computer vision-powered sequencers, is reasonably straightforward.

A camera and led lights are mounted over a game board painted in matte black.
A color recognizing algorithm built in a web sequencer for Chrome playing back sounds. Each color represent one musical instrument, totally 6 different instruments. Each position horizontally represents a beat in a 4/4 loop. Each position vertically represents a key from low pitch closest to the player and high pitch further up.

But, wait a minute — remember that what made Rubik’s Cube so popular is that it’s a puzzle. As it happens, making this work as a sequencer is intentionally, and possibly entertainingly, challenging:

The setups can be any sound you put into the sequencer but in the demo film, this is the set up: White is drums, green is bass, orange is percussion, red is synth 1, yellow is synth 2, blue is synth 3.In order to compose, the played have to place the right cube in the right box and then twist the cube to get the desired combination. This is quite complicated as it is but when changing one instrument it effect other instruments. So composing music becomes a puzzle. A very difficult puzzle. But why does it have to be easy? Most of today’s electronic music tools have a low learning curve. But the Cube Sequencer is not easy. Just like learning how to play the violin or chess – or to solve the Rubik’s Cube, this takes time to master.

Welcome to the game of sequencing.

Fun stuff.

(Note: as spotted in comments, this appears to be Rubik’s Revenge, specifically.)

cubesequencer_bigbild

CubeSequencer2_bigbild

More on the project:

http://hakanlidbo.com/archives/3892

If this all seems too mechanical for you, check out Hakan’s last project, which tends in a different direction entirely – tunnels that sing back to you, based on pitch recognition.

  • Io

    The second cube’s pattern does not correspond to what is shown onscreen (or what is heard): the second hit on the cube is one square later compared to the screen.
    Are we to assume this is all done in playback?

    • chap

      The pattern is indeed not well recognized by the computer, but i don’t hear anything wrong between the computer’s screen and the sound produced.

  • Io

    The second cube’s pattern does not correspond to what is shown onscreen (or what is heard): the second hit on the cube is one square later compared to the screen.
    Are we to assume this is all done in playback?

    • chap

      The pattern is indeed not well recognized by the computer, but i don’t hear anything wrong between the computer’s screen and the sound produced.

  • Io

    The second cube’s pattern does not correspond to what is shown onscreen (or what is heard): the second hit on the cube is one square later compared to the screen.
    Are we to assume this is all done in playback?

    • chap

      The pattern is indeed not well recognized by the computer, but i don’t hear anything wrong between the computer’s screen and the sound produced.

  • wetterberg

    That sequencer is really dope on a conceptual level, but – apart from obviously being INCREDIBLY difficult to program for non-RUBIKS guys, isn’t it kind of… not very tight? Or is it just me?

  • wetterberg

    That sequencer is really dope on a conceptual level, but – apart from obviously being INCREDIBLY difficult to program for non-RUBIKS guys, isn’t it kind of… not very tight? Or is it just me?

  • wetterberg

    That sequencer is really dope on a conceptual level, but – apart from obviously being INCREDIBLY difficult to program for non-RUBIKS guys, isn’t it kind of… not very tight? Or is it just me?

  • Will

    Ha ha. I love every nerdy/creative thing about this so hard but that has got to be one of the most inpenetrable music sequencing systems ever created. “I really want a C and G to follow each other BUT I CAN NOT GET THE FUCKING CUBE IN THE RIGHT POSITION!!!”

    Similar yet-approachable system could be created with colored markers and card grid templates. Or back-lit table with 4 differently shaped hole punches. Or colored magnets. Or, whatever, this is awesome. Go humans.

    • Will

      Gah, commented before reading his comment on the relative ease of electronic music making. I love it even more now.

    • chap

      Question is : are there some guys being at the same time good musicians AND rubiks genius ?

  • Will

    Ha ha. I love every nerdy/creative thing about this so hard but that has got to be one of the most inpenetrable music sequencing systems ever created. “I really want a C and G to follow each other BUT I CAN NOT GET THE FUCKING CUBE IN THE RIGHT POSITION!!!”

    Similar yet-approachable system could be created with colored markers and card grid templates. Or back-lit table with 4 differently shaped hole punches. Or colored magnets. Or, whatever, this is awesome. Go humans.

    • Will

      Gah, commented before reading his comment on the relative ease of electronic music making. I love it even more now.

    • chap

      Question is : are there some guys being at the same time good musicians AND rubiks genius ?

  • Will

    Ha ha. I love every nerdy/creative thing about this so hard but that has got to be one of the most inpenetrable music sequencing systems ever created. “I really want a C and G to follow each other BUT I CAN NOT GET THE FUCKING CUBE IN THE RIGHT POSITION!!!”

    Similar yet-approachable system could be created with colored markers and card grid templates. Or back-lit table with 4 differently shaped hole punches. Or colored magnets. Or, whatever, this is awesome. Go humans.

    • Will

      Gah, commented before reading his comment on the relative ease of electronic music making. I love it even more now.

    • chap

      Question is : are there some guys being at the same time good musicians AND rubiks genius ?

  • CRZ

    These aren’t Rubik’s Cubes – I believe they are in fact Rubik’s Revenges

    • Checked based on images – I think you’re right. 😉

  • CRZ

    These aren’t Rubik’s Cubes – I believe they are in fact Rubik’s Revenges

    • Checked based on images – I think you’re right. 😉

  • CRZ

    These aren’t Rubik’s Cubes – I believe they are in fact Rubik’s Revenges

    • Checked based on images – I think you’re right. 😉