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Golden Krishna, Senior Designer at Samsung Innovation Labs, wants to upend the way we think about user interfaces. "Our love for the digital interface is out of control," he says. "It has become our answer to everything." If he has his way, the future of Samsung consumer electronics might work more like the Nest thermostat, which learns about your favorite temperature, or a Mercedes-Benz automobile, which automatically unlocks when it detects the keys in your pocket.

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You know the type. The drummer who, even robbed of drum sticks, is tapping on the walls, the car door, the desk… and maybe you are that person. When rhythms and musical gestures are bouncing around your head, the whole world just feels like something you want to play. It seems as natural as breathing.

So, given your computer can make anything an input, why shouldn’t it let you play like that?

A new controller and software combo seeks to make that possible. The work of one enterprising musician and creator, Stephan Vankov, it includes an affordable accessory with a piezo microphone and companion software to map it your taps to MIDI messages, for use with your favorite software musical instruments. Plug in the mic sensor, and you can tap your desk or slap your laptop or play any other surface.

We’ve seen this idea in various iterations before – most recently, at the party we co-sponsored in Los Angeles last month, we witnessed an entire ensemble using the motion sensors in their laptops. (That tool is available as an open source download, if you fancy hitting your computer.) Until now, though, these piezo controller rigs been a DIY affair. Stephan’s solution includes what appears to be nicely-made hardware — so you can dump it in your carry-on without worry. And the software includes a wide array of settings to map more easily to percussion and melodic instruments. (The software is now available for Mac, but with Windows and Max for Live versions on the way.) I hope to get one to test soon.

Intro pricing begins at US$59.

http://www.pulsecontroller.com

Stephan writes:

I wanted to let you know about a product I’ve been developing – the Pulse Surface Controller. The idea behind Pulse Surface Controller is to liberate computer-based musicians from conventional input devices of predetermined form factor and layout, and allow the user to turn a surface of various size, orientation and material into an expressive, flexible, reconfigurable MIDI controller.

The system includes a wired piezo microphone that can be attached to a surface via the integrated suction cup (or the included velcro strips) and connected to any computer audio input, as well as a standalone software application that converts acoustical impulses from the microphone into velocity-sensitive MIDI data. With the Pulse Surface Controller System, controlling percussive instruments has a more visceral, immediate quality, and via a powerful Melodic Generator that can generate notes in various scales the user can easily extend into the melodic domain to tap into an inspiring world of happy accidents.

I am very excited to share this project with fellow musicians and hope that you find this idea to be worth sharing with the CDM community!

More description:

The idea behind Pulse Controller was born out of the belief that as computer-based musicians and performers we should not feel relegated to a grid of small 1×1″ pads or a keyboard to create our rhythms and provide pulse to our music. Controllers once intended to give us the immediacy of playing an instrument often end up feeling more disconnected and distracting. With the Pulse Surface Controller System, controlling percussive instruments has a more visceral, immediate quality, and via a powerful MIDI generator that generates notes in predefined musical scales the user can easily extend into the melodic domain to tap into an inspiring world of happy accidents. Power to the fingers!

System Features:

+ Piezo microphone and powerful software interface
+ Attaches to any surface via integrated suction cup
(velcro strips also provided)
+ Connects to external audio device or built-in audio inputs
(1/4″ and 1/8″)
+ Velocity-sensitive and highly responsive
+ Low-latency performance
+ Compatible with all software that accepts MIDI Note messages (Cubase, Ableton Live, Pro Tools, VST plug-ins, etc)
+ Generate fixed note or random notes in a selected scale,
with control of octave, octave width, root pitch and 21 Scales
+ Fixed note length and note choke modes
+ Store and recall presets
+ Keyboard shortcuts for quick access to presets and important controls
+ Mac OS 10.5, 10.6, 10.7 compatible (Windows / Ableton Live users, please contact us about M4L version)

Side note: interestingly enough, I got to know Stephan in person at a NAMM afterparty we threw in LA, at which Stephan was playing a Karate Kid AV mashup with friends Shane Hazleton and Momo The Monster. So, nice to see what Stephan has been working on!

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WARNING: SOME IMAGES CONTAIN GRAPHIC CONTENT OR NUDITY
From the uprisings across the Arab world to the devastating earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster in Japan, there was no lack of news in 2011. Reuters photographers covered the breaking news events as well as captured more intimate, personal stories. In this showcase, the photographers offer a behind the scenes account of the images that helped define the year.

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