A group at the Music Technology Group of the University of Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona, Spain, might have discovered the future of music.  (More videos after the jump)

They came up with a concept that is simply amazing – and then developed the technology to go with it. The result is the Reactable, a new type of electronic music instrument.

The reactable is a collaborative electronic music instrument with a tabletop tangible multi-touch interface. Several simultaneous performers share complete control over the instrument by moving and rotating physical objects on a luminous round table surface. By moving and relating these objects, representing components of a classic modular synthesizer, users can create complex and dynamic sonic topologies, with generators, filters and modulators, in a kind of tangible modular synthesizer or graspable flow-controlled programming language.

The instrument was developed by a team of digital luthiers (Sergi Jordà, Martin Kaltenbrunner, Günter Geiger and Marcos Alonso), working in the Music Technology Group at the Universitat Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona Spain. Their main activities concentrate on the design of new musical interfaces, such as tangible music instruments and musical applications for mobile devices. The reactable team was recently awarded with various prizes such as the “Ars Electronica Golden Nica”, the “Premi de la Cuitat de Barcelona 2007” and two “D&AD Yellow Pencils” and the Icelandic singer Björk has successfully used the reactable during her last “Volta” world tour.

The reactable intends to be:

  • collaborative: several performers (locally or remotely)
  • intuitive: zero manual, zero instructions
  • sonically challenging and interesting
  • learnable and masterable (even for children)
  • suitable for novices (installations) and advanced electronic musicians (concerts)

The reactable hardware is based on a translucent, round multi-touch surface. A camera situated beneath the table, continuously analyzes the surface, tracking the player’s finger tips and the nature, position and orientation of physical objects that are distributed on its surface. These objects represent the components of a classic modular synthesizer, the players interact by moving these objects, changing their distance, orientation and the relation to each other. These actions directly control the topological structure and parameters of the sound synthesizer. A projector, also from underneath the table, draws dynamic animations on its surface, providing a visual feedback of the state, the activity and the main characteristics of the sounds produced by the audio synthesizer.




Via reactable