And here comes another amazing guest talk in our little IxD course – remember how Aurelien gave us an introduction to Tangible User Interfaces (TUI) a few weeks ago? This time, we actually got to see one such TUI – the reacTable, introduced by its co-founder himself, Martin Kaltenbrunner.
Martin is currently a professor at the University of Art and Design Linz, where he specialized on the design and research of TUIs. Before that he was a visiting researcher at the MIT Media Lab Europe in Dublin. There he and his team developed the reacTable, an interactive musical TUI with visual hap-tic feedback, where you can create sound with small Plexiglas squares.
The background lies in the history of musical instruments, the jump to digital sound synthesizers and finally to electronic music produced on the PC. There Martin realized that, with the sound production on the PC, “the intimate dialogue as with [conventional] instruments was dismissed and completely mechanized“. Moreover, “watching a person pressing some keys looks boring“. So the basic idea behind the reacTable was “to create an actual instrument with physical devices“, but which has the “additional value of digital sound synthesizing” and provides a visual experience. (See http://mtg.upf.edu/project/reactable for more information on the methods and principles behind it.)
After the design process the next step was to create awareness and find musicians who’d try this novel instrument. Therefore “it’s a good idea to make video documentations of your prototype. In our case we were lucky and our video got to Youtube, were it landed on the front page. And that’s how Björk took notice of it.” With Björk being the first artist to use and perform with the reacTable (they even toured with it for 18 months) many other musicians followed, making the reacTable a huge success, for what Martin got several awards and specifically founded an own company.
After the very interesting lecture it was finally “time to make some noise“, where we got to see a live performance of the reacTable. Our students even had the chance to play around with it themselves.
Altogether it was a very fun and exciting lecture, thank you very very much Martin! 🙂
For more details on upcoming events and other products surrounding the reacTable, for example the mobile app version, check out http://www.reactable.com/!