Trackmate :: 5 ways to get started from adam kumpf on Vimeo.

The folks reading this site comprise an incredible worldwide community of creative musicians and technologists. So it’s always fantastic when we get to connect. Here’s our first experiment in doing just that with a one-day project starter to share. The theme: tangible interfaces.

The knob/potentiometer – when you get enough of them, plugged into the right things, in the hands of the right people – has given us some wonderful music. (Heck, see also the string.) Simple inventions + lots of people + creativity + experimentation = brilliant output.

Computer interfaces that make use of physical objects for input are nothing new. But what is new is easier tools for making use of them, plus emerging communities of people who are new to the idea bringing fresh ideas. So, as opposed to our usual behind-the-computer isolation, we’re going to get folks together for the first in a series of experiments in virtual, shared hacking.

June 6 (and in the days around it), we’ll have a shared online event, plus an in-person event in NYC at the wonderful New Work City, working with projects based on the simple-and-cheap, open-source Trackmate hardware+software, a tangible interface you can build for as little as US$50 in parts, including the essential webcam.

What you need: some cheap parts, a webcam, a computer, some objects to track, and some inclination – the tracking software is even already built for you.

What you can do: Apply stickers to track the physical objects, and turn any tangible real-world stuff into a musical interface. (Some coding or patching experience is recommended for connecting your interface to tools like Max or Pd or SuperCollider to make sounds, or for translating to MIDI for other tools.)

For musicians, I could imagine some really interesting possibilities. You can compose a wide variety of music and synthesized sound using nothing but a mouse as input; add a physical input with multiple points, and you lierally open more dimensions.

How to get involved:

On Create Digital Motion I’ve written a more detailed explanation of the event, why we’re doing it, and how to get involved:

Global Hackdays: Experimenting with Cheap Tangible Interfaces, June 6

…and I’ve been adding to a blog on this project and future hackdays, which will be updated with more resources, ideas, tests, and tutorials leading up to, during, and after our first-ever global hackday:

By the way, apologies for completely botching our livestream of Handmade Music this week. Lesson learned: you need a reliably fast network to avoid total failure. New Work City is set up as an online-connected office, and they have a plenty-fast network, and if you follow me on Twitter I’ll be testing it the week of June 1. Readers have watched CDM experiment and learn by trial-and-error, though, and I always appreciate your support.

Also, this is not to be confused with Hack-A-Day, one of my all-time favorite places on the Internet. But let’s make every day a hackday.

Online form: