Omer Yosha has created a beautiful, elegant interface that uses infrared sensors to control music applications. Touch-free interfaces, of course, date back to the Theremin, but Omer is trying some new things here, creating an invisible matrix of controls in the air. And I love the way the physical object looks. He writes to tell us about the details:

I’m an Interface Design student from the FH Potsdam (near Berlin), i have a musical background, and the idea to create an AirPiano developed as i was playing around with the Arduino board, Processing and some IR sensors in my free time. It was fun controlling MIDI through moving my hands in the air, so i eventually found a way to set it all up in a way that makes sense and that is easy to control.
The concept behind the AirPiano is having a matrix in the air, with virtual keys & faders. The location of each key must be very clear for the user and easily learnt. The AirPiano is therefore only one example of an application that could adopt this concept. Since it is only the first prototype i built, it features at the moment a matrix with 3 layers, 8 keys for each layer. As long as a key is triggered, a note plays and an LED underneath the virtual key turns on (unfortunately it is hard to see it on the videos). The LEDs give the user additional feedback. The device is connected through USB and communicates with the AirPiano Software, which allows the user to assign each key/fader with a Note/Controller number, Channel and Velocity as well as transpose and save/load presets. The AirPiano Software can communicate with any MIDI instrument/sequencer. It is of course a polyphonic controller.
The AirPiano is not only fun to play, it also invites to experiment, to explore endless arrangements and develop new playing techniques. It might be useful for DJ performance, as a music therapy instrument or as a toy.
I’m at the moment trying to look for investors and people that could help me take this idea further. I presented the prototype two months ago in the Hannover Messe and received very good feedback. The concept is protected as a Provisional U.S. Patent Application.

If you can help him, chime in! I’d love to see what develops.

Here it is controlling Ableton Live:

More photos and another video to give you a sense of how this works (it’s particularly clear once you see the software interface):

Finally, here’s a video of a melodic application — not quite as convincing, I think, as the controller application (I’d rather have a Haken Continuum for actually playing, I think, and I do like tactile feedback). But it’s still really provocative as a design.