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Introducing the "ONYX" Beatjazz Controller Prototype Mk I






well, kids, here it is, FINALLY. Introducing the "ONYX" beatjazz controller MkI prototype. I'm not going to lie. i was a bit emotional when i put together the second hand unit. i just couldn't believe "it" was in my hands, finally, after all these years of dreaming about it, it was in my hands and that felt surreal.

the name change was obvious once i was actually holding it. TRON was a big part of the inspiration, but now, in reality, the system is more than just an "inspired by" concept. it's its own reality and i wanted a real name that reflected that. and besides, i don't want disney to start sending letters in the mail, so its best to just start using the new name now.

so, as you can see, there are two hand units and a mouth unit.  the hand units here are made out of paper mache.  i really dig this stuff for prototyping.  its cheap and strong and very easy to adapt after the fact.  the main part of the design is the hand strap.  it houses the accelerometer and keeps my hand is constant contact with the units.  in this way i can play the keys in a horn like manner instead of having to "grip" or hold the units.  the "final" version (there willnever be a final version but the version that i will use from mid-april forward) will be much more ergonomic. 


the "keys" are force sensing resistors (FSR).  these are touch sensitive pressure sensors that allow a great degree of touch sensitivity.  so far, i have assigned them as keys and for program changes if you push the them forcefully and there is still a great range of sensitivity to play with.  each unit as a 3 axis accelerometer which is, after my time with touchOSC, a necessity to how i creat music now.  they have a different feel to those in the iphone.  they loiter around the middle of their range until a burst of motion in one of thre directions, pushes them to the extremes of their range.  i can see how theis will be helpful over time.  i plan to use the left hand y-axis as an octave changer until i make the next design revision because the positioning on the paper mache model is uncomfortable.  this is the benefit of creating ones own controller out of sensors; the artist can quickly and easily adapt the system to their needs.

the underlying system that handles all of this is pure data.  pure data has,included with it, a piece of code that interfaces directly with the arduino microprocessor,called, creatively, [arduino]  this interacts with a sort of arduino OS called firmata which lets pure data see all whats plugged into the arduino.  i have been secretly terrified for weeks that this tiny little processor, which only runs at 8mhz would choke on all the analog sensor data i was sending thru it.  and even if it didnt, i didnt know whether pduino (the system which encompasses the arduino object and firmata) would be able to deal with it as fast as i am capable of playing.  but soon after assembling the system and testing it, i bypassed a couple of safety routines and it not only MUCH faster than my wx5, but with a 15% drop in cpu than with the safetys enabled!  that along with each unit having its own base station radio, has resulted in a seriously powerful system that doesnt put too much load on any one thing.

 i am still a freaked by that. based on the trials and tribualtions of the last couple of weeks, i was all ready for another week or two of hacking, to get it to be fast and stable enough for live performance.  in fact everything has accelerated since that point.  i was able to refine the midi system to allow breath sensitivity in a few hours and today i smoothed out the note system so now smooth and forceful playing styles are possible and i dont even have the right "breath"(pressure) sensor yet!  the one i have requires to much breath to get it to go thru its full range.  if i get everything nice in the next day or so, i plan to canibalize the wx5 for its superior pressure sensor.

the mouth unit so far is a tube inside an old LED bike light.  underneath, i am using another fsr as a lip pressure sensor, which i am REALLY stoked about.  previously iwas going to use a mechanical system than was going to be a pain in the ass to build.  this is simple and very sensitive.  although now i must water proof the fsr to keep from spitting it to death.

in general, at this point, the system works but is really rudimentary.  waaaaay too much wire, finger positioning is not optimal, which is distracting and i am finding the concept of playing sax fingerings with complete hand freedom to be more disorienting than i had anticipated.needless to say, i will be busking ALOT from this week forward, to get more acquainted with this new sytle.  but right now, i just hold my hands in sax position.

tonight and tommorrow i will add more octaves and fingerings and get the functionality to at least that of the wx5.  from there i will start working on the feedback system which consists of a lilypad buzzer and the thinkM MaxM LED lights.  both of thes should be easily accomplished in a day. i will also attack the rats nest of wires that fill the units now.  i'll be refining the guts so that i have indictor lights and the on/off swith is on the outside.  from there its is play-code, play-code, play-code til...well, til from now on because this is the new reality; an infinitely variable controller! 

I will be doing a couple of "alpha" sessions starting this week, so if you dont already, follow me on twitter or facebook and i will be posting the venue details for each session.  there will be MANY in anticipation of the debut party in May,so feel free to come check it all out. 













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Masochism?!...Theres an app for that! (tales from the beatjazz controller project)

Duuude!!  What the fuck!!  Screw "WTF", no really...What the fuck!?!  This last two weeks has been a hellish necessity.  "hellish" because of my profound ignorance about the subject matter I have undertaken and "necessity" because, in the end, I ended up right where I should be at this point, and more or less on schedule, if not a bit ahead of schedule. But FUCK!  I had to work for it!! 

Back in January, I met up with my friend Uli and was talking about my upcoming campaign to which he said, “hey, let’s do it in carbon fiber..." to which I pissed myself, cried and collapsed into the floor, simultaneously.  Before this point, my project was going to be PVC pipe and lots of wire.  So this suggested a rethink of my design, which prompted the idea of going all wireless.  So cool...don't know how or what but cool. After much research (Google is my partner in this venture in every way.  If it were a person, we'd be married...or having an affair...) I found components that allowed me to do what I wanted seemingly easily.  

I knew I wanted to use the arduino platform because of the wealth of open source tutorials and documentation that would help me do this project.  I settled on a wireless version called a "Fio" which stands for "Funnel I/O”. It has wireless capabilities derived from a tiny, inexpensive and very powerful radio transmitter called an "Xbee".  These are the size of a really big thumbnail and have built in networking capabilities.  The Fio has a "shoe" for one built onto it.  The concept being to create a personal area wireless network consisting of left and right hand units, each capable of sending their respective "sax" fingerings, and a mouth unit that would interpret breath and lip pressure.  these wireless "nodes" would send their data back to a "base station" xbee receiver that would serve the data into my favorite dream maker, pure data., where it would be assembled to look like one instrument and sent on to my synthesizers.  Simple...

First issue.  There needed to be a server on the computer to interpret the data from the three fio's.  Now, at this point I should note that I am what we in the southern US call, “hard-headed others would call it "determined" or "tenacious" but it all comes to the same point; i don't like being told what i can’t do.  All my research was telling me that I could not (at my current skill level) create the 3-to-1 wireless network I had envisioned.  I was flustered.  I had bought all these components only to find out that it was harder than expected to parse all the data coming into the computer.  I also discovered that 10-20 channels of high speed, high resolution analog sensor data was going to choke the shit out of that little base station at the speeds I needed it to operate at (1-6ms latency). oh, yeah, and all that data was going to be pure serial data and not the wonderfully refined "firmata/pduino" system I thought I’d be using (firmata is an OS for the arduino that speaks to  pduino on the computer, and pduino only accepts one comport input at a time).  What to do....what to do....what to do?!?!

I discovered an ingenious system called Sense stage.  I decided not to use the system in the end.  It’s not bad. It’s in a sort of beta stage and the developer was extremely nice in helping me get it running.  It was cleverly designed, although a bit academic for my needs.   It made use of the fio’s and created a multipoint wireless network specifically for the performing arts.  All automatically assigned serial codes and clever routing.  It is available for windows, osx and Linux but the windows version could not interact with the server at this time (soon to come).  And I don’t have a mac, so I decided to give the Linux version a try (side note on Linux; really?   No...Really?  I always thought of myself as a geek but no...I am a tourist.  Real geeks go for Linux and I am not worthy.  The most inexplicably obtuse system I have ever experienced on a computer.  it’s as if someone said, "Hey let's use a system so fucking confusing that no one but real geeks will ever go near it!"  The technological equivalent of placing the bodies of your vanquished enemies on stakes around your castle.  That being said, I learned a lot about how computers REALLY work and plan to investigate it at a slower pace than what is available to me now.)

so I trudged thru the hellish installs, then had to find and compile drivers for a wireless card so I could download all the other shit I needed, THEN, downloaded an apache server, all the quarks and .tarz and what-the-fucks- FROM A COMMANDLINE (which means to type in the commands that make certain functions work), and THEN bugged the shit out of the developer for 4 days STRAIGHT.  He even updated his website based on my questions and feedback.  Got it all installed and...IT WORKED!! There were all three nodes.  Everything was configurable on the computer.  It was lovely, but s-l-o-w.  The computer, donated by a friend last year, did the job, but wasn't really up to the task of serving multiple streams of real-time server data.  Coupled with the finding that the developer had hardcoded a latency of 50ms into the system for stability, which is more than fine for dance or lighting.  For reference, I usually have 2-5ms latency when I play.  When it gets to 7ms, it starts to get...hmmm...let’s call it "chewy".  At <10ms, it’s just tedious. 50ms is like playing an instrument from across an auditorium.  Not the droid I’m looking for...

SO...now I’m back to square one.  I’ve killed off a week with that excursion, but I gleaned some valuable info along the way.  After discussing the issue with another developer, I decided to try just using the xbee's by themselves, 3-to-1 (one radio, no Fio, for each hand and the mouth unit).  Each radio has 10 pins of input/output so I could “get by” with just that.  So I went and got some boards to connect the radios by themselves but they are much lower level type of programming than the arduino's.  You’re talking to the machine at this point, which involved serial command, reading packet data and understanding hexadecimal numbers (which I have a better understanding of now).  Coupled with having to create a battery charging system, AND still have to deal with parsing converged serial data on the computer, before I can do ANYTHING. I had to simplify. 

I figured I can over simplify now and refine everything later.  So I decided the easiest means would be radio to radio. Rather than 3-to-1, it would be 3, 1-to-1 networks. One set for the left hand, transmitter and base station, one set for the right and a set of xbee's for the mouth unit.  Okaaaayyyyy!  This was looking more promising.  Now I had three independent streams of data...no parsing necessary.  Now I just needed to get them all into pure data.  I only have 4 radios so I made two into base stations and two into remote nodes (I’ll get the final two radios later this week).  I opened pure data, opened a comport for one, and *pop* it opens as expected, I open a comport for the other one that is plugged in and surprise surprise, it opens as well!  I didn't know that it would accept two comport inputs simultaneously! Big revelation!

hmmm...if it opens the comports maybe it'll open the pduino objects as well and lo and behold it did! Yaaaaay!!! but the radio to radio system was just as tedious as the 3-to-1 system, so it occurred to me, that since I can open multiple comports I could just use the arduino's I already have, in a 1-to-1 configuration and give each node its own port, hence my insane joy.  It not only works, but works extremely well; no data bottleneck because each arduino has its own comport and base station.  Although if I had known what I was doing, i could have come to this conclusion weeks ago.  Thus is life.

So there it is.  The system works.  I won’t know how well until I assemble the units and attempt to play it, so today I go get the circuit board stuff so I can start getting it all ready to mount into playable units.  It should be in a playable "alpha-alpha" stage by Thursday and then starts the next phase which is refinement of the software systems and creation of the looping system.  I will try to post more often for the remainder of the project.  I felt the need to encapsulate the last period for completion sake.  Future posts will be much more bite-sized than this one. I’ll report back soon.



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this will be a "web" "log" after todays last "proper" post

i must apologize.  there is a whole crazy mental drama going on with this project that i feel the need to share.  not right now though.  right now i'm going to sleep.  then i'm going to get up and write one of my constructed,flowing joints.  THEN, i'm going to just vomit thoughts and feelings and notes onto this blog until the end of the project.  nite nite...
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Progress is exausting!

nope, no OVER EXCITED exaltations of how wonderful everything is.  no pretty shots of electronic componentry (ok...just one).  no ruminations on the future of live music performance.  nope...there is only code, and flow charts and mind maps on serial communication, AT commands, actionscript, proccessing, and java classes.  lest we not leave out learning that most computers come with a calculator that can convert decimal numbers to Hex and learning to read and use system exclusive and OSC.  now, i would be lying if i said that i'm not into this stuff.  I am.  i find this stuff to be amazingly interesting and must pinch myself daily to my great fortune to have been born at this point in history to be able to do it, but WOW, FUCKING WOW! The Rabbit hole has no bottom!

there are worlds within worlds of this shit on the internet!  you cant believe!  forums where people chat about the intricacies of this stuff the way you or i might chat about...well, theres not really any comparison.  its deep, DEEP.  the further i go in, the more i ask questions that make my brain almost shutdown, i find that my question is that of a virgin "noob" (new-bie; some one who is new to the game) and doesnt even warrant a response until i bug the shit out of everyone until some one throws me a tid-bit of info that to them is some throw away shit yet to me, is the most valuable bit of text known to man!  I have a healthy ego and i like me, but i am truly humbled.  all i can say is wow!  i am not worthy and i must go forward much more apprentice-like.

thats not to say that things arent happening. And i fully expected, and honestly, looked forward to these issues.  i recieved the larger FSR's (force sensing resistors) this week.  these are the sensors i will be using as "keys" on my instrument.  i chose them because i will be a ble to program variable levels of functionality into one key which, creatively, excites me.  and with these sensors, i now have 99% of what i need to create the controller, the one hold out being the breath sensor, i am waiting to show up in the mail.

I must apologize at the dearth of updates this week.  i am working on the underlying concept of the instrument; a 3 way wireless network. left hand, right hand and mouth unit.  This will be the definitive aspect of the system so i want to focus on doing it properly.  without going to deep into it, i've got to use some code that was gracisously shared with me by an American developer named Robert Guyser, to determine how to parse data from the 3 nodes in my "network" then create a pure data patch (program) that will look for the same packet structure and split the data stream up into pieces that pure data can understand.  so, i might miss a few days of facebook updates.  i hope thats ok.

so if you are wondering where i am for the next week, now you know.  the next "GREATEST POST IN THE WORLD, LOL!!LMAO, YAAAAY!!" post will come when i get the network functioning.  which should be in about a week. have a great weekend!

EDIT: found a system that may create a perfect basis for my programming BUT it doesnt like windows, so, its beginning to look alot like Linux...and the plot thickens...
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Component porn


NSFW! Nothing but component porn here today! Hot lusty pieces of dreams.  Try not to stare and definitely don't let your significant other see this post! It’s dirty dirty from this point forward.

The campaign is over.  Or should I say "this" campaign is over;-) the long road to not just a cool live performance system, but the BADDEST live performance system will most likely work something like this; 

·         decide on cool feature
·         find out it’s hard to implement but not impossible
·         trial and error
·         beg smarter people for help
·         bang head against wall
·         Fall into a depression because I suck at everything, blah, blah, blah...
·         Contemplate ending it all JUST before finding a super simple solution that eluded me for weeks.
·         cry tears of joy
·         Repeat for each of the dozen or so distinct aspects of this project.

It will be a headache for a few weeks but it will be some sick shit when it is done.  And now I have 90% of the components necessary for the first full prototype.  I visited Anton who runs Tinkersoup.de here in Berlin.  He has all the coolest components available and is the only source for m the vast majority of the components in this project.  And he's a nice guy as well.

Anton sat with me the other day and helped me decide on the various components that would make my controller be truly badass.

·         2 more arduino boards and 2 more radios for them.  Now I have one arduino/xbee for each hand, one for the headset oral interface and one radio as a base station.  I am preparing for a week of studying serial communications so I can determine which arduino is which and assign said units data where it needs to be.  

·         Another BlinkM MaxM crazy rgb LED.  Now I have one for each hand.  they come with a powerful microprocessor board that allows you to save light sequences onto it but I think I would rather focus on my color synth in PD which will allow a never ending variety of color combinations using PWM (pulse width modulation), which basically means that each color will have 255 levels of intensity, which will allow me to create very sophisticated color effects using some of the built in video processing objects in PD, like GEM.
·         FORCE SENSING RESISTORS!! Oh....these are soooo sexy.  Why? They are variable pressure sensors.  I will be using them as the "keys" of my instrument. The effect will be that of "squeezing" the controller more so than tapping buttons. Each key will be capable of precise pressure control so I can, for instance, press normally for playing, a little harder for another function and a little harder still for still another function.  So fresh, so clean!
·         2 vibe boards.  After hanging out with Rob, the developer of TouchOSC, he informed me that Touch OSC had access to the vibrate alert thingy in the iphone. At first, it didn't faze me too much.  It was cool but it was like, "so what?"  That was until I realized that I could use it for haptic feedback, which is basically getting back a touch response when interacting with certain technology.  So I enabled it for certain functions in my gestural system and now it is indispensible! I want to know if a particular effect is on, without looking? "bzz, bzz"...yup. Is this function a ("bzzzzzzz, bzz, bzz") or function b (bzz, bzz, bzzzzz").  It’s amazing!  So I purchased a couple of these devices for my controller.  They are much more powerful than those found in phones which will be necessary in a hot confusing club environment.  It will be mounted on the strap that goes across the back of my hand, right next to the...

·         3 axis accelerometer. This system is designed for 2 accelerometers, one for each hand.  The strength of these components will become obvious when they interact with each other.  I created a dual accelerometer system last summer and I look forward to making use of it with this system.  Although, while chatting with Anton he described a component call an IMU (inertial measurement unit) which does the accelerometer stuff as well as doing sensing direction, which accelerometers do not do. I can tell that the MkII version of the controller will almost definitely have a set of these, but right now, I think I can survive with 3 degrees of freedom.
·         5 volt regulators.  Why even mention such an unsexy component?! Because you know what is less sexy than this part? Frying your shit.  That’s really unsexy.  This is a consideration because the big ass lights I just HAD to have for this joint?! Well they shoot-up electricity like a crack-addict.  Like REALLY!  It’s pretty unsettling.  And using normal, say 1100mah batteries, the system would be almost dead in 40-50 minutes, no joke.   so I am sourcing some bad ass li-on monster batteries and they will most likely provide more power than the rest of the system is comfortable with, hence, the understated beauty of these 5 volt regulators.  Surges up to 40v? Squashed! Knowing that my boards won’t be frying in my hand, is very sexy.


Hot and bothered yet?  Yeah me too.  There are a few more pieces that I must acquire, but I have enough parts to push forward with some of the more in depth aspects.  Intense times ahead.

 I will have to throttle it down a bit for the next couple of days though. Tomorrow I will be doing a bit of the Beatjazz at Rosa Calleta in Kreuzberg starting at 5 pm.  And then on Tuesday I head to Hannover for CeBit Sounds as part of a discussion panel on music technology and then a performance using said technology.  Geek heaven! Me, on a mic, talking about technology!! Hahaha! They just don't know, do they? 
But after that, it’s back to Berlin, and a solid 2-3 week shut in; stock up on food and do nothing but code.  If you are into pure data or arduino or any of that stuff, contact me, and you are more than welcome to drop by and co-code or whatnot.  See you soon.



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The end of the Campaign...the Beginning of the Project; introducing the beatjazz controller model


Well, here it is!  This is the form factor that the TRON Beatjazz controller will take.  I, in my great wisdom, decided that I would rather "make" some weird paper mache' clay out of glue, joint compound, flour and wet toilet paper, blended into a clay like material with an electric mixer.  After searching 3-4 different stores for all the ingredients, I finally got home, made a batch and molded this baby.  The clay did it’s job somewhat.  I was able to finally get the idea out of my head and into the real world, and here it is!

It surprised me how much it came out looking like a fighter jet joystick, but it feels SO good in the hand.  The weight goes where it is supposed to and the fingers fall comfortably onto the keys.  The clay wasn't malleable enough to create the strap that will go diagonally across the back of the hand, but the basic layout is all there and everything is exactly as it should be.  There will be plenty of space for the MaxM RGB LED as well as internal space enough to house the battery, accelerometer, transceiver and processor boards. This will look amazingly sick when we create the carbon fiber molds with it (or rather one just like it); small enough to be cradled in the hand and large enough to gawk at the awesomeness of design and the materials. Super mega excited!

So here we are.  Less than 12 hours left after a little over a month of non-stop progress and a few surprises;

  • ·         we quickly went from a wired concept to a completely wireless one
  • ·         With the help of the amazing Uli Maier, we created a prototype helmet to that will be used to mount components in preparation for the carbon fiber "afro" version.
  • ·         began almost from scratch on a pure data based wind midi system
  • ·         With early contributions, purchased the first of the wireless transceivers and started programming with them.
  • ·         created a working Boehm-fingered wind midi system (on a breadboard)
  • ·         And now have the first (or technically second) viable physical model of the Beatjazz controller hand unit that will become the basis of the design going forward.

And all of this BEFORE the official beginning of the project itself!  NOW, it’s time to 


  • ·         make the wind midi system into a "giggable" instrument
  • ·         Update the accelerometer based gestural system I created, into a dual accelerometer system.
  • ·         create a multi-channel looping system with full gestural control access
  • ·         finish the last half of my book "the 21st century musicians guide to busking"
  • ·         create and mold the carbon fiber parts and assemble the final stage controllers
  • ·         assemble all the notes and videos from this project into the perks packages for the contributors without whom there would be no TRON Beatjazz controller system
  • ·         the work like hell to prepare for a SMOKING-ass debut party at the end of May where I make good on my promise to have created the most AMAZING live music performance system EVER!

So, as you can see, this is just the beginning, but it is the beginning of a dream. I cannot believe that this day has finally arrived in my career.  And it is because of YOU that it is happening.  Your supportive posts and kind words and drawings, and word of mouth and yes, money as well.  I am so honored to be creating this WITH you and FOR you and from the bottom of my heart, I thank you all for helping me get this far with the project.  I want to give special thanks to;

·         Uli Maier who's suggestion of carbon fiber, great knowledge and use of his workshop was the unofficial start of the campaign.
·         Susanne Heiden who filmed the intro video and helped me to be sillier in it than I would have been otherwise.


Peter Kirn for pushing my campaign out to such a a large audience over and over again.
·         And Chris "Loganic" Logan who was able to put my ideas into sketch form that allowed everyone to be able to see what I was talking about.

So, with that said...You still have 10 or so (depending on when you get this) hours to help make it happen!  Although i can "get by" with almost any amount, this isnt the " quest to build an ok controller" campaign.  this is the "HOLY SHIT, WTF IS THAT!?!?' Campaign and we're almost half way there!!

There are many perks just waiting for you. The $400 "wired “controller is now $250 and all controller perks over $800 will be cast in carbon fiber!  And every perk $15 and up include the EP and the party pass. So when it’s time for fulfillment time, most contributors will get a whole host of great perks!  time is almost over.  Let's do it and get this system built properly!!







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24 hours left and a special thank you if you go for the GiG Pass

What a month!  From drawings to playable software/hardware (kinda)! 3 design revisions, a performance at CeBit and a full article in MAKE magazine!  Hahahaha!!! This has been great! And this isn’t even the official beginning!!  The "official" beginning is after the campaign ends, which is in 24 hours!  At that point, it's all nitty gritty for the next 30-45 days.

After rediscovering Paper Mache' the other day, and building the first mockups of the hand units, I realized that the design needed more refinement than my drawing suggested, so I created the most ergonomic design yet.  You can see from my illustration that its gourd-like shape will fit comfortably in the hand while providing ample space for the battery necessary to power the BlinkM MaxM RGB LED (the three capsules in the square in the middle of the unit).  A regular high output LED emits approximately 1000-8000mcd or millicandela (for reference, a 100watt incandescent bulb puts out 135,000mcd).  The MaxM? 445,000mcd!  Why? Because this is supposed to be the MOST amazing live music performance system EVER, and to do that, you need all the mcd's you can get! 

The headset will be much much simpler.  Primarily the processor/wireless module, a small battery, a pressure sensor and Hall Effect sensor to measure lip pressure.  Hall Effect sensors vary their voltage in the presence of a magnetic field(ie tiny magnet).  I wish I could say I just thought that up, but I opened up my existing wind controller to source these parts, so I know for a fact that they work and work well.  A tube will route underneath the right ear from the small box housing the components, to the "mouthpiece" which the player bites onto with a tiny "rim" that locks behind the teeth when they bite down, like a mini-snorkel or a balloon.  The headset will hang from the ears like reverse glasses, and the box will rest on the neck, positioning the mouthpiece directly in front of the mouth. 

The primary goal this week is to refine the midi system to be as good or preferably better than my existing wind midi controller, which is a tall but achievable goal. I hope to have it close to this goal by the time I perform at CeBit next tuesday. 

In honor of the end of this campaign and the beginning of the project to build the TRON Beatjazz controller, the next 4 persons contributing $800 or more to the campaign will receive the TRON Beatjazz controller with the headset (not the helmet), in CARBON FIBER!  I figure that once we mold three sets (two for me [one backup] and one for the contributor that ordered the 1st one yesterday) we can mold a few more, but only a few.  So if you have been contemplating it, now is the time.  Check out my post on perk fulfillment for more information.

We’re getting close to the goal!  24 hours left to fund building this monster.   When you see this in action (either myself or you if you order one) you're gonna say, "I'll be damned...he wasn't playing". Believe! 

Back to work for me...

0

24 hours left and a special thank you if you go for the GiG Pass

What a month!  From drawings to playable software/hardware (kinda)! 3 design revisions, a performance at CeBit and a full article in MAKE magazine!  Hahahaha!!! This has been great! And this isn’t even the official beginning!!  The "official" beginning is after the campaign ends, which is in 24 hours!  At that point, it's all nitty gritty for the next 30-45 days.

After rediscovering Paper Mache' the other day, and building the first mockups of the hand units, I realized that the design needed more refinement than my drawing suggested, so I created the most ergonomic design yet.  You can see from my illustration that its gourd-like shape will fit comfortably in the hand while providing ample space for the battery necessary to power the BlinkM MaxM RGB LED (the three capsules in the square in the middle of the unit).  A regular high output LED emits approximately 1000-8000mcd or millicandela (for reference, a 100watt incandescent bulb puts out 135,000mcd).  The MaxM? 445,000mcd!  Why? Because this is supposed to be the MOST amazing live music performance system EVER, and to do that, you need all the mcd's you can get! 

The headset will be much much simpler.  Primarily the processor/wireless module, a small battery, a pressure sensor and Hall Effect sensor to measure lip pressure.  Hall Effect sensors vary their voltage in the presence of a magnetic field(ie tiny magnet).  I wish I could say I just thought that up, but I opened up my existing wind controller to source these parts, so I know for a fact that they work and work well.  A tube will route underneath the right ear from the small box housing the components, to the "mouthpiece" which the player bites onto with a tiny "rim" that locks behind the teeth when they bite down, like a mini-snorkel or a balloon.  The headset will hang from the ears like reverse glasses, and the box will rest on the neck, positioning the mouthpiece directly in front of the mouth. 

The primary goal this week is to refine the midi system to be as good or preferably better than my existing wind midi controller, which is a tall but achievable goal. I hope to have it close to this goal by the time I perform at CeBit next tuesday. 

In honor of the end of this campaign and the beginning of the project to build the TRON Beatjazz controller, the next 4 persons contributing $800 or more to the campaign will receive the TRON Beatjazz controller with the headset (not the helmet), in CARBON FIBER!  I figure that once we mold three sets (two for me [one backup] and one for the contributor that ordered the 1st one yesterday) we can mold a few more, but only a few.  So if you have been contemplating it, now is the time.  Check out my post on perk fulfillment for more information.

We’re getting close to the goal!  24 hours left to fund building this monster.   When you see this in action (either myself or you if you order one) you're gonna say, "I'll be damned...he wasn't playing". Believe! 

Back to work for me...


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Paper Mache'...Who knew?!

I had a bright spark yesterday.  I have been updating my drawings of the controller, in light of it new wireless manifestation.  Up till the last couple of days, it was still kinda based on the wired concept from the first video.  It wasn't until I decided to a ridiculously bright RGB LED system, which will need a ridiculously powerful battery, relative to the power requirements without it, that the design started taking shape; something where the majority of the weight is low and angled in toward the palm, using a "back-of-hand" cantilever design similar to the pipe design.  The fingers would need to fall naturally on the keys from many angles with an easily accessible thumb mounted joystick for each hand, which would serve multiple functions.  And, as I mentioned before, the LED array would need to be right up front, palm-side, providing synesthetic narrative.

Then it hit me this morning; I could do a simple paper mache' mockup to get a feel for the approximate placement of all of the components!  I had forgotten how easy paper mache’ is to work with.  Flour water and newspaper...that's it!  Allegedly, I found during my research on all thing paper mache’, that this combination, done properly, is actually strong enough to build a house out of.  I'll have to take their word on that one.  But I figured that it would be at least strong enough for my controllers.

After a days’ work of cutting, designing, painting and drilling, I have produced some surprisingly decent and strong first attempt mockups.  Interestingly, I discovered design issues with the first (left) hand that I subsequently corrected in the second.  I have a feeling that I will be repeating this process a number of times over the next few weeks as to have not only a decent giggable version for my CeBit performance, but to also provide a mold for the carbon fiber version, that is refined in every way.



THERE ARE 2 DAYS LEFT! If you are have been considering contributing to this campaign, jump on in!  The water is warm! There is so much left to do and the funds are necessary to make it happen.  For more information, drop by www.indiegogo.com/tronbeatjazz












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Playable-ish Prototype,and a note on Contribution

Wow! It's really starting to come together!  I underestimated the refinement of these xbee wireless modules.  In my experience, when configuring a new component, in a chain of components, get ready to want to stab yourself with a soldering iron.  Usually the process is so convoluted and horribly documented, that you just give up.  Not so with these xbee modules. Although I did have to download some firmware updates, the majority of the process has been to determine which is the base station and which is the "radio”, and assign each an ID. A bit more config later and viola! A wireless serial link!!  Yaaaaay!!!

 The base station consists of an xbee on a breadboard and a little usb interface I wired up.  The "radio" is attached to an arduino with a built in xbee port.  I wired up an old 3.7v battery (so glad I didn't throw that old ipaq away) so I could test the distance and so far, it is flawless.  And addictive.  I thought I’d prototype on the wired "UNO" board, but screw that! This is so much cooler and lets me get used to dealing with whatever idiosyncrasies born of this type of wireless networking.

 Although not even slightly perfect or "gig-able"(meaning that I would feel comfortable playing it in a performance), the fingering system is working.  I have, thus far, purchased 3 sets of (cheap) switches to prototype with and none of them have done what I wanted, so I decided to make my own by using gummy gamepad controller buttons(seen here pinned to the breadboard, "bug-collection" style) to complete a circuit made up of two pieces of wire.  Not perfect, but much more accurate than the switches I’ve used so far.  My original idea was to make little thimble-like fingertip sleeves that would be conductive. This would negate any mechanical button/switch latency.  It would be as fast as my fingers could move and would allow me to position my fingers in various ways. I may re-investigate that trajectory.

The joystick is still acting as my breath control variable until I can purchase another one. The one I have needed too much air to make it work...and then I blew it up (now with the new multimeter, that's less of a problem).  So the joystick is working out well at this stage.  There is still much to do in any case.

·         make the wind controller software work as well or better than my existing wind controller
·         start building the new performance system that the wind controller patch will be a part of
·         create the color synthesis system which will provide feedback and narrative potential
·         source the remaining components for JUST 1 PROTOTYPE which include;
o    2 more xbees (one for each hand and one for the helmet)
o    2 more arduinos (one for the hand unit and one for the helmet/headset)
o    2 accelerometers
o    6 regular rgb led's
o    8 3watt LEDs
o    the pressure sensor for breath
o    the hall effect sensor for lip
o    2 high capacity batteries (one for each hand)
o    And a ridiculous amount if switches, buttons, and joysticks to assess what is usable in a performance environment and what's not.
·         Clay, plaster, fiberglass, epoxy and carbon fiber for sculpting the hand unit and the next "few" helmet prototypes.
·         And space to build this monster.  I hope to move it to BetaHaus next week, if I receive the amount of funds necessary.
The above list is primarily for the PROTOTYPE.  This is why I made the project for the amount that I made it for.  I want to have a playable...oops, I mean to say gig-able, prototype before my performance and discussion panel appearance at CeBit on March 1st.  This is a perfect place to show the TRON Beatjazz Controller for the first time, although it won’t be anywhere near as epic as the debut party in May;-)

I really hope that you have seen enough progress so far that you can see that this isn’t some vaporware project.  I was lucky that indiegogo released the PayPal donated funds to me instantly, otherwise it would have been a month of pure data patches and drawings.  Because I had access to some of the funds, I have been able to start on the project and it has been AMAZING.  The support, the interest...I mean, MAN! I’m WRITING AN ARTICLE FOR MAKE MAGAZINE!! This, to me, is a major honor!! BUT, it is only just “before” the actual beginning.  I have generated less than 1/10th of what I need to make this project great.

Every contribution generated penny so far, has been put into this project. Every penny of my own funds I have made for the last 2 months, that wasn't necessary for staying alive, has gone into this project.  I want to believe that whole "independent artist" thing is realistic.  I have stated this in previous posts; YOU are my patron.  Yes YOU...stop looking around...YOU, the one reading this right now.  There is no big deal or movie or concert tour coming.  There is me, doing the most artistically interesting projects I can dream up (of which there are many)...and you.  If you support me, I can tell you; this shit will be better than anything on TV and last for as long as I have breath.

Support is contributions but it’s also, sharing and interaction.  If you read how much I post online, you'll see that I really love this new world that is emerging there.  I love interacting online.  It’s a big part of my life.  If you find what I am doing interesting, share it!  I’ve got a million widgets. Reverbnation, Facebook, Bandcamp, etc.  This is how it works these days.  Sharing and interacting. 

But if you contribute (if this sounds too spammy for you, it's probably best if you not follow me anymore because these campaigns and projects aren’t going away.) you get a number of things;
·         To be part of the making of a new instrument to coincide with a new form of music. If you think that's "bombastic", peep my videos and my music.  This will be something you will be proud you contributed to and...
·         You can buy one of the controllers!! So you're not just helping in the creation, but you can get one of the artifacts!  The wired version($400) will be sick but the wireless version($800) will welcome you into a new world inspired by afro-futurism and sci-fi.  And with both, I will spend quality face time online helping you do amazing stuff with it.
·         My forthcoming Book, The 21st century Musicians Guide to Busking, ($50)isn’t just a how to; it also makes a case for expanding your concepts of what is possible with live performance in the 21st century.  Like I said, this is the world now and we all must reorient.  20 years of experience crammed into one book!
·         The DVD($25) has a printable version of the book! As well as loads of music, notes on all kinds of stuff, a loops collection (I did one loop collection for Marshall Jefferson and Loopmasters already), pure data patches, editorials...if I could download onto a disc, this is what it would be!
·         5 hours of studio time($200) is a lot of studio time!  Quite a few sessions can be done in that amount of time and I usually charge more than that PER TRACK.  If you have wanted to do some work with me, this is as good as it’s gonna get.  There’s enough time in there for multi-part arrangement too!
·         and for that special person who goes for the ultimate package($5000), we're talking basically getting a copy of my personal, afro-futuristic super instrument and 2 full access days of me helping you not just learn it, but learn how and why and when the whole concept first evolved! 

3 more days!  This is where it all comes together!  Its either the sickest live performance system ever, or I start selling all my stuff to make it happen, because this thing is getting built-and in the next 30-60 days-on schedule (as are the fulfillment of all Perks associated with this campaign).  If you were waiting for a good time to jump in, now it that time.  Ok, sales pitch over.  I’ve got programming to do. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions. www.indiegogo.com/tronbeatjazz


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