Motus allows players to bow an invisible violin

6 pictures

The Motus system comes in two parts – three distinct flavors of hardware and some music-making proprietary software

View gallery - 6 images

Though Onyx Ashanti's Beatjazz controller or McGill University's Instrumented Bodies are pleasing to eyes and ears, making music creation part of the performance or dance routine doesn't necessarily mean also having to look like a cyborg. Paris-based phonotonic, for example, turned motion into music last year by pairing a handheld device with a smart device running an app. The Motus from TZM Creative Lab out of Lithuania also facilitates the creation of sound from motion, allowing its users to electrify the room by strumming an air guitar, bash an imaginary drum set to within an inch of its life, key a grand concert piano while walking around the stage or play an invisible violin.

The Motus started life as a musical performance tool, before expanding to dance integration. For the last three seasons, the Aura Dance Theatre has been using a Motus system prototype in its play Make a Switch from me, where dancers directly control the sound, live visuals and lighting. "You have really close connection that you're actually creating the choreography yourself and at the same time creating the music, sounds, so you're both – choreographer and composer and a dancer," said troupe dancer Francesco Dalmasso.

Now the Motus is being pitched as a fun way to create music for folks unable to play a regular instrument. TZM Creative Lab's founder Mindaugas Badokas says that "the space around you becomes a touchless surface, a canvas you can interact with and explore." The system comes in two parts – three distinct flavors of hardware and some music-making proprietary software.

The three device options start with the Motus Classic package, which is designed to work straight out of the box. It connects with devices running Windows, OS X or iOS over Bluetooth 4.0 and makes use of two sensors (accelerometer and gyro). The palm-friendly 42 x 36 x 15 mm (1.65 x 1.4 x 0.59 in) controller has a Li-Pol battery reported good for up to 48 hours of continuous play and all of the electronics are encased in plastic housing.

The Motus Pro is aimed at performers. It's the same size as the Classic unit, but the housing is made from reinforced plastic. The Pro is also has the same OS support and battery life, but it packs four sensors (accelerometer, gyro, magnetometer and altimeter) and comes with an external 2.4 GHz Bridg receiver for up to 30 m (100 ft) of low latency wireless range and up to 12 simultaneous Motus device connections.

The last member of the Motus power trio is the Hacker edition, a bare-bones electronics kit for tinkerers with a tuneful ear and a soldering iron to hand. This version has basically the same hardware as the Classic version, but doesn't come with a case, giving users the opportunity to create a personalized or experimental designs. It also caters for expansion by adding more sensors, for example, or taking advantage of the Arduino community.

The Motus software is the brain for all motion processing data as well as a home for the digital instruments. It will recognize device orientation, rotation and acceleration, as well as user gestures such as shake, twirl and so on, and activate the associated action, parameter, sound or effect.

Eight digital instruments will come with the Motus, including a synthesizer, a virtual orchestra and an air violin, but TZM intends to create an app store for the system, where users can download additional instruments, effects, audio and visual generators and interactive games. The Lab is also looking to work with developers on the creation of content for its Coolgarden store.

The wireless device can be used with a favored Digital Audio Workstation, such as Ableton Live and Max, for motion-controlled parameter tweaking or knob/fader adjustment, and is compatible with MIDI, OSC and ReWire technologies, too.

To get the Motus system into the hands of players, TZM is currently running a crowdfunding campaign at the collective's own dedicated website. The effort runs until November 20 and is being operated in a similar fashion to a fixed funding campaign on Kickstarter – if the target funding goal isn't reached, backers will be refunded in full.

At the time of writing, the cheapest available pledge level is US$49 for an early bird Motus Hacker version, followed by the Classic for $79 and the Pro for $119. If the campaign proves successful and production goes as planned, the TZM team expects to start shipping in April 2016.

Check out the introductory video below for a taste of what's on offer.

View gallery - 6 images

Top stories

Recommended for you

Latest in Music

Editors Choice