Thursday, 10 November 2011

Microband goes live

One of the reasons there's not been much hardware activity is because we've been coding away like a troupe of monkeys to get the instrument software (and accompanying website) if not finished, at least in a state that we can use to demonstrate the instruments.

We're calling the range "MicroBand"

(micro because they're small, but also because they're driven by Microchips micro-controllers. You really couldn't get more micro than one of our micro instruments!)

The software uses an Activex DLL to raise events whenever the instrument is played. This allows us to concentrate on getting everything working, then handing a large part of it over to the community to play about with and see what they can come up with!

When a micro instrument is connected, the DLL raises a connected event, reads some data off the device and displays it as an interactive animation on the screen

(the onscreen guitar highlights which fret the user has selected at any time the instrument is held and played properly - note how the onscreen display changes to match the instrument you're holding)

The software includes a sequencer, so multiple players can collaborate on a single song. In the example below, another user has already laid down a drum track (red) and the sequencer shows the guitar track just played and recorded (yellow)

Using this multi-layered approach, other players with different instruments (bass, synth/keys, rhythm guitar, vocals etc) can come together to create tracks, using the website integration to pull everything together.
Which brings us onto the website - it's pretty straight forward and rather than spend ages discussing it with photos here, visit and see for yourself!

Having recognised my username and password, the server knows which guitar I've got, and updates the onscreen avatar to reflect my customisations. In time, we hope to have a full video creation tool, where players - having created their multi-track mp3 songs - can animate their avatars in time to their own musical creations.

We've still quite a way to go to get a "complete" working, finished product. But at the same time, we're now at the point where we need to see how people use the instruments, to see how and where we need to improve things. So the first batch of guitars have been made up and sent out.

The next job is to get some pals together, have a massive jam session one weekend and get a load of samples recorded for the website! (and of course, to record some videos to demonstrate just how cool these little instruments are to play - if a picture is worth a thousand words, one Youtube video is worth, erm, just loads of these types of blog posts - look out for a video update soon!)