Video: Aerodrums bring your air drumming to life

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Demonstrating the Aerodrums virtual drum kit (Photo: Gizmag.com/Loz Blain)

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This astonishing piece of motion tracking software watches you play air drums, and translates what you're doing into a MIDI signal in real time. It's a simple enough idea, but the execution works astonishingly well – making Aerodrums the most portable drum kit I've ever seen!

The drums section of the NAMM music expo could easily qualify as a new circle of hell. It's absolute chaos. But deep within this maddening cacophony, I found a fascinating piece of technology that's worthy of note.

Aerodrums is more or less a drumset without the drums. You sit down with special reflective panels on your shoes and a pair of sticks with reflective mallet-like tips, and proceed to rock out on the air drums.

A camera and high-powered lamp captures your foot and stick movements, and translates them with dazzling accuracy into midi drum inputs to give a surprisingly accurate soundtrack to your silent performance.

The system reads a quick stick stop as a hit, so the best technique to use is to snap the butt of the stick into your palm to create the impact – but it's sensitive enough to read gentle ghost notes as you drag your stick on an imaginary snare. Check it out:

It does a pretty amazing job of working out whether you're whacking an imaginary snare, tom, hi-hat or cymbal. You can configure your virtual kit to take a double bass drum if you like, and up to 5 toms.

The manufacturers say it's gig-ready, although it doesn't operate well in bright sunlight and strange lighting conditions can stop the camera from tracking the sticks properly. Still, plugging this compact unit into a laptop, and carrying around a pair of sticks and the small shoe reflectors would have to make this the most portable drumkit I've ever seen.

Aerodrums sells on Amazon for US$199, including the sticks, a spare pair of stick tips, the reflectors, the camera and the software to run it on Mac or PC. Oh, and a set of honky cardboard glasses in case you find the lamp a bit bright. I'm not gonna lie, I reckon this is a deadly cool gadget and I'd have one in a minute.

Product page: Aerodrums.

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