Thursday, August 18, 2011

The iPhone is his instrument

What do you do with a major in math and computer science and a minor in music? Tim Soo, who graduated from Emory in 2010, used those degrees to create invisible musical instruments. He developed software that allows him to turn an iPhone and Wii remote into phantom orchestras, and play music in radical new ways.

It all started while Soo was at Emory and whipped up an invisible violin, using an I-Cube Touch Glove, a Wii-mote and a Max/MSP patch, because he had forgotten his actual violin and urgently needed to record a piece that he had composed for a music class.

Since then, Soo has advanced and polished the concept. His innovation brought him support from the Awesome Foundation and won him the top prize at this year’s Music Hack Day NYC and the MTV O Music Award.

Soo's web site, Invisible Instruments, invites visitors to tap his software for public and educational use, and to develop their own instruments.

The Invisible Instruments project is mainly a hobby, says Soo, and is currently on the back burner as he pursues a medical degree at the University of Pennsylvania. “My primary interests lie in patient-side medical technologies,” he writes on his blog.

One of his ongoing projects is a heartbeat app. The program ties a person’s heartbeat to the beats of a song to gradually lower the heart rate and reduce stress and mental pain.

A built-in brower searches for the top YouTube hits based on a playlist of songs entered by the user. “Should the heart rate become faster during a song, the subsequent song will have a slower tempo until the heart rate reaches an acceptable range,” Soo explains on his blog. “If the heart rate drops too low, Rick Astley sings ‘Never gonna give you up.’”

Where music meets technology
The math of your heart
Notes on the musical brain

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