Back in April of 2011 I posted “An Exclusive First Look at Tim Thompson's Kinect-Based Instrument”. I got to hang out with Tim at the Guthman Instrument Competition at Georgia Tech in February and did a follow up post on his progress in April of this year, It’s been cool to see Space Palette evolve.
I spoke with Tim earlier this week via Skype to get an update. First off, here is some background in case this is the first time your hearing about the project.
What is the Space Palette?
The Space Palette is a musical and graphical instrument that lets you play music and paint visuals simultaneously by waving your hands in the holes of a wood frame. No pre-recorded media, sequences, or loops are used – everything is generated in realtime by your hands.
The wood frame is a reference for the player, while the Microsoft Kinect is used to detect the position of whatever hands (or objects) appear in the holes of the frame. The depth of your hands matters as much as their left/right/up/down position – it's like having multiple three-dimensional mouse pads in mid-air. Any number of hands can be used.
Musically, the large holes are like keyboards (left-to-right) on which you play individual notes, and hand depth controls things like vibrato and filters. Visually, the large holes allow you to paint with graphical shapes (heavily processed by visual effects), and hand depth controls their size.
The 12 small holes in the corners of the Space Palette are used to select different sets of sounds and graphics. Each of the 4 large holes plays a different sound and paints a different graphic, simultaneously.
It ends up Tim brought the Space Palette to Burning Man again this year. Checkout this great video of Burning Man attendees playing the latest incarnation of the instrument. Here is what Tim had to say about the latest version of Space Palette:
This video shows the latest version of the Space Palette at Burning Man 2012. It was running every night from 9pm to 5am, with almost constant use because of its placement in Illumination Village (Esplanade and 2:15). I re-used pieces of Monolith 2.0 (my installation from 2009) to construct a wood projector screen designed to withstand high winds, and I built boxes to protect the projector and laptop from the dust.
The sounds and graphics were much improved from previous versions, and the user interface was simplified. All 12 of the small holes now do the same thing – each one selects a preset of both sounds and graphics, and the name of the preset is briefly displayed on the projected image to provide feedback.
The preset names made it easier for people to find the sounds they wanted to use. Headphones were provided, allowing people to hear the sounds more clearly. All in all, it performed extremely well, and people enjoyed it immensely.
Here is another video I found of Tim playing Space Palette. There is more ambient light in the room so it’s easier to see how the instrument works.