MIDI Out of Hand

A way more expressive MIDI controller

Timeline 11 weeks
Role Research, interaction design, fabrication, programming, sound design
Team Solo (special thanks to Riley Huston for the 3D printing help)
Topics physical interfaces, novel interactions, prototyping techniques

MIDI Out of Hand is a MIDI controller that reads big, expressive movements by the player or players. To activate a note, a player presses a footswitch. The sound can be modified by pulling either of the retractable cords from the upper part of the instrument: by default, the left cord controls the filter cutoff, and the right cord controls the pitch shift, but they can be mapped to any parameter in a DAW.

MIDI Out of Hand attempts to expand the kinetic vocabulary of electronic instruments. This pursuit opened the final instrument to be played in novel ways, like by multiple people at a time.

This project also prompted a process for instrument prototyping. In a workshop shown in the following video, participants pretended to “play” nearby large objects—like a recycling bin, a paper cutter, and a ladder—as though they were instruments. We used a keyboard to produce sounds that roughly mirror the movements they were making, and determined what movement-sound combinations were most interesting and realistic.

At the 2023 Seattle Design Festival

A Seattle Design Festival guest experiments with the controller

I showed MIDI Out of Hand at the 2023 Seattle Design Festival, where amid other bustling installations strangers experimented with the controller for a few hours.

Two other Seattle Design Festival guests experiment with the controller

Visitors of all ages got to see, feel, hear, and ask about the power of prototyping with Arduino and MIDI data.

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