Trackmate LusidOSC Sequencer Application from Adam Kumpf on Vimeo.

Want to interact with your computer musically using physical objects and other fancy-schmancy, science-fiction-y interfaces? Don’t want to rely on Microsoft or wait until 2019? You’re in luck. It’s like Christmas for DIYers and interactive futurists.

Enter LusidOSC, a set of protocols, libraries, and useful code, and Trackmate, a clever and cheap-to-build system for tangible interfaces. Together, you’ve just got a bunch of tools to help you start playing with blocks — erm, experiencing new spatial interfaces.

  • LusidOSC, the library maps “spatial input devices” – really, any tangible devices or sensors in the real world – to applications, like live music or live visuals. It uses the network-savvy OpenSoundControl protocol. The library is available now for Processing, with Java, Python, Flash, and C++ in the works.
  • LusidOSC, the apps/code: a set of Processing utilities to get you started includes a basic example app, command launcher, playlist mixer, and a MIDI sequencer. You can build on these for your own Processing apps.
  • Your own input device: Tags? Sensors? Markers? Regions? Fingertips? If it’s in physical space, you can map it via LusidOSC. Or, if you want a place to start, try:
  • Trackmate: A project of MIT’s Tangible Media Group, Trackmate lets you affix tags to any objects you want and use them as an interface.

LusidOSC is just the protocol; it’s physical applications like Trackmate that get really interesting. In these economically-challenged times, Trackmate gives you tangible interfaces for next to nothing. All you need is a computer (Mac, Windows, or Linux), and a camera (even a webcam will do). Print out randomly-generated tags in the free and open source software, stick them on stuff you want to use, and go to town.

You can make your own Trackmate surfaces out of hardwood or plexiglass for as little as $40 in parts. There’s even a Processing-based simulator app so you can experiment without the physical objects. (Good for troubleshooting on the bus or plane, I imagine.)

Trackmate is just one project, though; LusidOSC promises to support other interface ideas, too.

LusidOSC at Sourceforge, the work of “many research institutions and companies.” (Which, I wonder?)
Trackmate at Sourceforge, a project of the MIT Media Lab Tangible Media Group

Alternatives: TUIO, the protocol used in the Bjork-endorsed Reactable project marches forward, as well. And as both projects are open source, there could be some cross-pollination. I hear a revised TUIO is coming, and in the meantime, LusidOSC acts as a gateway to TUIO.