What happens when you cross drones with music?

Well – some seriously complex routings, for one. Stay with us:

A touch-sensitive quadcopter that sends information to a Linux machine running ROS–the Robot Operating System–that then sends information over a network to a macbook running Ableton Live 9 and Max. Somewhere in this chain, the information is translated to MIDI and fed into an Ableton Live drum rack. The performance is being visualized using WaveDNA Liquid Rhythm.

The upshot: shove around your hovering drone, and as it tries to right itself, it controls music. It’s a droning, hovering … beatmaker. Because, well, pads and knobs are just way too obvious.

And yes, there’s an academic paper explaining the whole process, the work of Toronto-based interaction researchers Xingbo Wang, Natasha Dalal, Tristan Laidlow, and Angela P. Schoellig. It opens with this unlikely line:

“Recent advancements in flying robotic vehicles call for the development of new methods of human-robot interaction.”

Yeah, we know what you’re really saying. You wanted to play around with your Quadcopter, didn’t you? The way this works is, enough force applied to the copter while in a hover state in a particular direction triggers an accelerometer. It maps that to notes, and then through the aforementioned chain of networked machines, eventually triggering Ableton Live. And they let WaveDNA’s Haig Beylerian play with it – he’s the grinning fool in the helmet.

Completely impractical.

Completely needlessly complicated and unnecessary.

Completely … awesome.

And sure enough, the playability is surprisingly good – the whole system works well enough to be satisfying and with low latency. So, while this may be strange at the moment, the powers of autonomous machines interacting with music could open up new ideas in the future. And in the meantime, it’s good, clean fun – well, until a drone shoots somebody’s eye out, anyway. (You knew you shouldn’t have asked for that Quadcopter for Christmas. Look at what it did to your eyeglasses.)

In other WaveDNA news – with or without autonomous flying machines – you can now install the latest version of their futuristic Liquid Rhythm software in one click, and it works with Yosemite. And you thought they were just playing with drones all day. Thanks for this!