now that the system is functional to a reasonably high degree, i can start tweaking the design a bit to make it more ergonomic and invisible. by invisible, i mean to make it prosthetic in nature; reducing the amount of unneccessary motion it thakes to do routine things so that the experience is that of simply thinking of something musical and hearing it come out of the sound system in the most efficient manner possible.
to this end, i have spent most of the last two weeks iterating a new joytoggle system. the joytoggles are the 4 position joysticks on each hand unit. they are not real joysticks in that they only register the direction they re pushed. think of them as 4 push buttons controlled with one control. there is one on top and one on the bottom of each unit. the top ones are modified by the index finger and the bottoms ones by the thumbs.
their reason for even existing, is very serendipitous. on my previous instrument, the wx5 midi wind controller, there are two keys at the top of the instrument that can either be used for playing notes, like all of the other keys, or can be assigned to send control messages. for most of the time that i played the wx5, those keys went unused but when i needed an easy way to control the record/overdub of a software looper, i decided to dedicate that key to that function. when i created the first beatjazz controller, my first thought was to improve this functionality but either it was already perfect or i was just accustomed to this placement so i recreated this key using a 4 position joystick, making use of only one of the positions. eventually, i realized that i could replace the many buttons and switches i had envisioned for the system, with these simple joytoggles, so i used them for the thumbs as well with the left hand being for octaves and the right hand for looper functions and pre/post fx. at that point i had 3 of them installed; one for each thumb and the original looper control one for the left index finger. at this point my obsession with symmetry made me add on last on for the right index finger that had no functions envisioned for it at the time, but it balanced the design.
this worked for a while but over time i noticed that the placement was slowing me down. although the main function was instantiated by a simple nudge from the side of my index finger, other functions required me to lift my finger to instantiate. when playing lines of improvisation, this breaks up the line unneccessarily. as well, the forward direction on both bottom joytoggles no longer function because of the angle and force that my toggle-r puts on the shaft of the joytoggle, and the thumb is unneccessarily uncomfortable over time as the thumb must stretch to reach it. I decided that now, before my jazz fest debut next week, to solve these issues.
the two primary design tasks were to integrate the top joytoggle into a position under the first "key" and to reposition the thumb joytogglesto am more comfortable position and make them adjustable. it took a number of tries to find the right way to interact with the newly positioned joytoggle, with the first idea being an elaborate through hole cage, but through the many iteration i settled on simply pushing the joystick up through the keypad where the shaft extends up high enough for a dual function keypad toggle-r, to push it in the required directions with minimal effort.
the next thing was the place the bottom joytoggle shaft where it would fit directly into the joint of where the thumb bends. i have found that this is the most comfortable placement for this control. i also pushed it up, closer to the index finger and back, toward the hand. the two controls together feel like you are making the letter "C" with your two fingers and is now very comfortable.
i will make the higher resolution versions today for inclusion in the primary controller, for performance testing. (these will go out on the controllers that are yet to ship.)
while these print, i will be working on the holy grail of the whole project. the one aspect whose design has illuded me from the beginning; lip pitch control. a wind instrument without pitch control, especially lip based pitch control, is incomplete. it is the signature of wind instruments. i have sorely missed lip based pitch control since shifting my efforts to this system.
the problem has been spit. this is a really old design, before I had a 3d printer. i found that the same FSR's that i use as keys, make great, sensitve lip pitch controllers, but my designs always leak spit onto them, instantly rendering them useless. so i put it on the backburner. now that i have 3d printing to create designs which can place the fsr in a purpose made, spit-resistant cavity, i now, desperately, want to reintegrate lip pressure into this system. i will report more on this once i have iterated a few designs but so far, the design is wildly different than a woodwind mouthpiece, owing to the headsets permanently stationary mouthpiece position. more later.