MacDirectory Magazine

Winter-Spring 2010 (#44)

MacDirectory magazine is the premiere creative lifestyle magazine for Apple enthusiasts featuring interviews, in-depth tech reviews, Apple news, insights, latest Apple patents, apps, market analysis, entertainment and more.

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54 MacDirectory INTERVIEW MacDirectory > How was technology used to develop Eigenharp? Eigenlabs > There are two big areas. Sensor technology in the physical instrument, now the subject of seven patents, and a whole new approach to music software that removes the need for a typewriter keyboard and mouse, freeing the musician to play like a musician on stage. MD > What was the biggest developmental challenge? E > Hard to say, there were so many. On the hardware front there was the understanding the ergonomics of playing followed by the new sensor technology (which took years to get right). On the software front it's a little weirder -- it was figuring out exactly what a "note" was. This sounds obvious to most people, but it isn't. MIDI succeeds by making some large simplifying assumptions here. They have served us well for 30 years, but we still aren't seeing people play the violin via MIDI, and the reason for that took us a while to understand. We finally succeeded in developing a data and communications model that solved these problems, but it took a while. And of course, from the interface point of view, it was removing the need for a typewriter keyboard, mouse and screen whilst at the same time empowering musicians to do radical new things. MD > How long does it take for an average user to learn and play Eigenharp? E > Finlay (one of our in-house musicians) played his first public demo, to a discerning audience, all musicians and journalists, inside six weeks. He's a good musician to start with (piano player) so perhaps that's not a standard example. My daughter, who's eight, is playing along with me on an Alpha now when I play the guitar. Took her a few hours (maybe two or three at the outside) to get the hang of it. Children seem to be able to get to grips with it even faster than adults, as they don't have any preconceived ideas. We tried to design things so that the experience would be like that of learning the piano or guitar, not the violin. A couple of weeks on guitar and you can be banging out tunes and having fun, and it still rewards 20 years of practice. Most attempts at modern instruments tend to fail at one end or the other of this learning curve, either too hard to start or they lack the depth for sustained learning. We think EIGENLABS > THE NEW MACHINE'S GOT SOUL

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