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This article was published on February 26, 2011

Kinect’s Exciting Future as a Musical Instrument

Kinect’s Exciting Future as a Musical Instrument
Edward James Bass
Story by

Edward James Bass

Edward James Bass is Social Media Manager at Amaze PLC, and editor of Sound : Vision : Data Edward James Bass is Social Media Manager at Amaze PLC, and editor of Sound : Vision : Data

Shortly after its release in November last year Kinect, Microsoft’s motion sensor controller for the Xbox 360, was hacked and automatically opened up to a whole range of interesting functions beyond its intended purpose.

Initially Microsoft was a little cagey around this treatment of their new tech but soon began to talk about the controller in terms being “open by design” and even started to show some enthusiasm towards it being used in this way.

Fast forward then to earlier this week when Microsoft, in a move that surprised and impressed a good many people, announced that they would be offering up the SDK for free for non-commercial use and was by now positively gushing with praise for the developers and hackers who have experimented with Kinect and their ”breadth of invention and depth of imagination”.

Unsurprisingly one of the first applications of the hacked Kinect was as a controller for music, with several motion based MIDI controller hacks emerging within weeks of its release. Building on the principles of movement controlled instruments such as the Theremin, these tools allowed the control of synthesizers and samplers through physical motion and, as demonstrated in the video below, worked pretty well too.

Over the past few months Kinect music hacks, musical and otherwise, have become more and sophisticated and clever, evolving further into such wonders as motion controlled DJ tools and even a superb air guitar solution. The ever inventive and eccentric rock band British Sea Power have even announced an event that will be enhanced by augmented reality using hacked Kinect’s – which I’m sure will be very interesting indeed.

But what of the future? With a commercial SDK release also on its way, its possible that Kinect could enter the mainstream market as a music (and video) controller tool – especially as it’s been confirmed that a Windows version is also on the cards. Much like the mobile music tools I covered a while back there are a whole host of possibilities here for people looking to create music without any instrumental training and also for generating sounds in entirely new ways.

The excitement around Kinect hacks is already palpable. I’d imagine that once the SDK is released this will increase considerably. It’s this writer’s hope that Microsoft continues to be open minded with regards to its new technology and that companies in the music technology and digital media space embrace it as a game changing controller and physical interface too.

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