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.

UPGRADE TO NEW ATLAS PLUS

More than 1,500 New Atlas Plus subscribers directly support our journalism, and get access to our premium ad-free site and email newsletter. Join them for just US$19 a year.

UPGRADE

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.

View gallery - 6 images