London-based creative design and invention studio Dentaku has developed a small device that allows users to create their own musical instruments out of everyday items. The Ototo is a simple printed circuit board (PCB) synthesizer that combines sensors, inputs and touchpads as a means of producing sounds. The device can be used as a keyboard straight out of the box or can be attached to conductive materials using crocodile clips to create entirely new instruments.
The sounds produced by the Ototo can be manipulated by connecting electronic modules to its sensors. By way of example, Dentaku suggests that it can be used to create a "light theremin" that uses a light sensor to control the pitch of the sound. Other suggestions include making an electric drum kit out of saucepans or origami that “sings when touched.”
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Powered by two AA batteries or via micro USB, the Otato is compatible with the Arduino platform so can also be married up to other components to make more ambitious musical creations. As well as an on-board speaker, it has a 3.5 mm audio output, so it can be easily connected to other audio output devices. The studio says that no coding or soldering expertize is required to create a custom instrument and it is currently working to make the device "available for everyone" with a commercial release in the near future.
"We wanted to create a kit that makes physical computing and interactive projects accessible for everyone," says Yuri Suzuki, co-founder of Dentaku. "Getting into coding and understanding electronics can be a barrier for creativity; Ototo allows anyone to build amazing electronic sound projects with minimal knowledge."
The Ototo is reminiscent of other experiments in sound production, like the BeetBox that turns root vegetables into musical instruments, and Makey Makey, which also makes everyday objects touch sensitive to allow for the creation of such devices as a banana piano.
The below video shows the creators of Ototo discussing the device.