MAX MSP / LEAP MOTION
WHAT IS IT?
This project is currently a work in progress, with an eventual plan to release as a free OSX application.
Created as part of my final project during my MA at Kent, the Leap Sample is a standalone OSX application designed to be used with the Leap Motion hardware, an infrared hand tracking system. The project was focused around two key goals, one was to explore and develop unconventional gesturally focused means of control, and two, was to offer a similar experience to the current market competitors but at no cost (minus the hardware). The final work was an entirely gesturally controlled sample capture and playback system with a granular synthesiser at its core. The instrument was designed to be incredibly emotive and far-reaching, allowing the user a deep musical palette that extends across both the conventional and the abstract. As with much of my work, the application was written in Max MSP and packaged as a standalone application.
Suggestions of hand-focused musical interactivity is far from a new concept and harkens back to instruments such as the Theramin, which was busy subverting conventions over a hundred years ago with its unique control system. The original Theramin allowed two main gestural commands, one which controlled pitch and the other, amplitude. Even with just these two seemingly primitive motions, the minutiae of human expression allowed the user a deeply intimate command of musical language. This intimacy between user and output, between motion and sound, became the foundation that the entire project was built upon, expanding the means of control far beyond these bygone instruments.
In recent times, gestural expression has been hinted at by many developers through supplementary features or untapped innovations, though there are few instruments that were developed with these control systems as their primary feature. One of these few however, is the Mi.mu gloves, notorious for its successfully backed Kickstarter campaign and championed by musician Imogen Heap, these wearables allow the user an unparalleled means with which to create and manipulate sound. Whilst this product is truly ground-breaking, there are two flaws that I wanted to address in my own work. The lesser these is simply the fact that the user is still burdened with a physical instrument, sensor laden gloves that the musician must wear. This was a key feature that I wanted to avoid, rather gifting the user with the uncanny experience of pulling sounds out of thin air, much more akin to the Theramin.
However, the most important issue and something that I championed throughout my work was accessibility. Understandably, price is going to be an issue when developing new and complex technologies and the Mi.mu gloves are in no way a contradiction to this, with even a single glove in the thousands of pounds. I feel it is important that such exciting and unique means of creating art are available in some form to everybody, allowing not only amateur musicians and artists a comparable experience but to bestow this experience on anybody that desires it.
Whilst the Leap Sample in its current state is perfectly functional, there are certain aspects which need to be streamlined, with beta testing and consumer feedback a must before a release. I am also working on two other related projects, both using the same control systems and backend. The first is a standalone synthesiser, also written in Max MSP, using very much of the same principles to shape audio. The second is more of a utility item, an application which can simply parse the Leap Motion and gestural data and allow it to be used as MIDI input or control for any desired audio plug-ins or hardware instruments. Once finished I’ll post links to where you can grab these right here.