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Editor's Choice
Anyone Can Play Guitar

Ronald Meeus | 29 Sep 2009 12:23
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While his former pupils are counting the cash, Machover hasn't been sitting idle, either. With a new batch of students attending his lab, he's forging new technological concepts that take the premise of his Hyperinstrument research a few miles further: After music appreciation, his focus is now on helping untrained musicians compose their own music and facilitating novice musicians along their learning curve.

There may be a new collaboration with his former master students underway as well. Harmonix is still based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, which is also the home of MIT, and the company shares ownership of two patents with Machover's lab.

"We've kept contact over the years," says Machover. "Not as much as we'd like to, because of time constraints, but we still share ideas with each other. In fact, we've all decided to collaborate on new ideas in the near future. Right now, they're too busy with their existing products; the videogame industry is moving very fast, and they're required to keep the pace with their products. But the consumer will want something new soon, and we've got some great ideas and concepts lying around. Some of them are stuff they've been working on themselves 15 years ago."


Rigopulos and Egozy have stated that they're looking at Microsoft's Project Natal motion camera technology for Rock Band 3 as a way to give players even more ways to convey musical intentions in a videogame. But Machover recalls that Egozy invented something way better himself nearly 15 years ago. By sheer coincidence, he stumbled upon a technology that could detect simple gestures from the amount of electricity that a human body absorbs. In fact, during his years at MIT, he even programmed an application that could read these gestures.

That wasn't the objective of his research at the time - all he wanted to do was construct a bow violin that could read the musician's gestures by the use of electrically charged sensors on the upper and lower side of the instrument. But the results were aberrant at best, and he quickly discovered why: The human body jams the readings by absorbing some of the electrical energy. The main research was eventually corrected, and the Las Vegas magician dueo Penn and Teller even used one application of it in their act. But Machover and Egozy saw a second opportunity.

"Based on his initial mistake, we started a new line of research: How much electricity does your body absorb by conducting several kinds of actions?" Machover notes. "Eran used a new set of sensors to measure that and even built a simple musical application for it: a program that can transfer simple movements of the head into musical data."

If they were to expand upon that line of research, they could build a music application that ditches the plastic instruments altogether. Could there be a Headbang Hero or Air Guitar Hero in the company's future? "That would be kind of great, wouldn't it?" says Machover.

Ronald Meeus rocks the nation of Belgium. He is waiting for your mail at ronald.meeus@skynet.be.

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