Electronics

Pounding the beat with a huge mechanical version of Roland's TR-808 drum machine

Pounding the beat with a huge ...
Moritz Simon Geist has built a huge mechanical homage to Roland's iconic TR-808 drum machine, that uses real instruments played by robots to reproduce 11 key sounds from the original device
Moritz Simon Geist has built a huge mechanical homage to Roland's iconic TR-808 drum machine, that uses real instruments played by robots to reproduce 11 key sounds from the original device
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Sketchup of the design for the MR-808
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Sketchup of the design for the MR-808
Constructing the huge wooden enclosure
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Constructing the huge wooden enclosure
The snare drum, kick drum, hi-hat, cabasa, clave, ride cymbal, hand-clap, three toms and cowbell ahead of installation
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The snare drum, kick drum, hi-hat, cabasa, clave, ride cymbal, hand-clap, three toms and cowbell ahead of installation
Making sure the real instruments fit inside the frame
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Making sure the real instruments fit inside the frame
16 thermoformed buttons awaiting placement along the bottom of the frame
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16 thermoformed buttons awaiting placement along the bottom of the frame
Detail is everything
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Detail is everything
Attaching the MR-808's monster dials
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Attaching the MR-808's monster dials
Close up of the detailing
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Close up of the detailing
The MR-808's structure diagram
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The MR-808's structure diagram
The cabasa is ready for its compartment within the wooden frame of the MR-808
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The cabasa is ready for its compartment within the wooden frame of the MR-808
Different combinations of plastic bottles, glass, stone, and wood were tested to find the perfect clap
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Different combinations of plastic bottles, glass, stone, and wood were tested to find the perfect clap
The hand-clap robots ahead of installation
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The hand-clap robots ahead of installation
Close up of the hand clap robots placed in the MR-808's frame
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Close up of the hand clap robots placed in the MR-808's frame
Creating the hands for the clave
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Creating the hands for the clave
The robot clave in place
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The robot clave in place
The MR-808's cowbell mechanism
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The MR-808's cowbell mechanism
The MR-808 features three tom toms, all pounded by robots
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The MR-808 features three tom toms, all pounded by robots
Motor and solenoid actuators triggered by power electronics and an Arduino microcontroller pound the beats to music written with Ableton Live
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Motor and solenoid actuators triggered by power electronics and an Arduino microcontroller pound the beats to music written with Ableton Live
The wall-filling MR-808
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The wall-filling MR-808
Moritz Simon Geist has built a huge mechanical homage to Roland's iconic TR-808 drum machine, that uses real instruments played by robots to reproduce 11 key sounds from the original device
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Moritz Simon Geist has built a huge mechanical homage to Roland's iconic TR-808 drum machine, that uses real instruments played by robots to reproduce 11 key sounds from the original device

If you're a fan of 1980s music, then there's a very good chance that you'll already be familiar with the electronic beats provided by what's widely regarded as the drum machine that started it all, Roland's TR-808. It set the mood for Marvin Gaye's Sexual Healing, fired shots at David Byrne in the concert movie Stop Making Sense and was the inspiration for the naming of the band 808 State. In his own homage to the iconic device, electronic music tinkerer Moritz Simon Geist has mechanically reproduced 11 of its key sounds using real instruments played by robots within the supersized, wall-filling frame of the stunning MR-808.

Moritz Simon Geist says that he became a little bored with digital production processes used to create today's electronic music, so decided to make something a bit more physical. The MR-808's monstrous 3.3 x 1.7-meter (10.8 x 5.5-ft) wooden case sports huge 808-like thermoformed buttons along the bottom and dials up the left side, and inside its compartments sit a real snare drum, kick drum, hi-hat, cabasa, clave, ride cymbal, hand-clap, three toms and a cowbell.

Motor and solenoid actuators triggered by power electronics and an Arduino microcontroller pound the beats to music written with Ableton Live
Motor and solenoid actuators triggered by power electronics and an Arduino microcontroller pound the beats to music written with Ableton Live

XLR connectors are used to hook up the instruments to a Mosfet array power unit capable of switching up to 50 A per channel. Two 19-inch, 550-watt switching power supplies ripped from a computer server act as the power supply.

Motor and solenoid actuators triggered by power electronics and an Arduino microcontroller pound the beats to music written with Ableton Live. Instrument latencies are controlled with Max MSP, a Motu MK828 is used as a MIDI-out interface, and high-power white LED lights pulsate as each instrument is played.

The wall-filling MR-808
The wall-filling MR-808

The MR-808 made its public debut at the Media Arts Festival CYNETART in Dresden-Hellerau, Germany in October. It is also a rather large member of the experimental band Science Fiction Children.

Source: Sonic Robots, via Hack-a-Day

The following video shows the impressive beast in action (warning: strobing lights).

MR-808 Robotic Drum Machine - Sonic Robots

2 comments
nutcase
As a work of art, it is a masterpiece. Love those lab coats!
Tony Medlin
It's still a drummer and will show up drunk, late, and stoned to a gig and try to steal your girl. It will also not follow the bass under any conditions.