Aerodrums turn thin air into a virtual drum kit

Tue Feb 24, 2015 9:23am EST
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By Matthew Stock and Anastasia Gorelova

LONDON (Reuters) - Everyone has seen someone play an air guitar that makes no sound. Now two researchers from Dublin have developed a program that allows a drummer beating sticks in the air to produce drum sounds without drums.

As odd as it looks, the inventors of Aerodrums say it is the first fully drumless drum set, and they have ambitious plans for the product.

Developed by Yann Morvan and Richard Lee, research fellows at the Trinity College Dublin Vision and Visualization lab, the kit is intended as an alternative for drummers who lack space for a drum set or who don't want to annoy their neighbors.

Using motion-tracking technology similar to that used for motion-capture effects in movies, Aerodrums replicates the sound and experience of a real drum kit while being compact enough to fit in a backpack.

A high-speed camera tracks the motion of markers on the sticks and determines when sounds should be triggered in response to their movement. Drummers have to sit about four feet (1.2 m) from the camera, "playing" a drum kit that is visualized on a computer monitor.

"It's what they use in Hollywood," Morvan said. “You have a high-speed camera that films the scene. It also sends light... that gets reflected back at the camera by those markers on the drumsticks and on the feet. This is retro-reflective material, meaning it reflects the light back from where it came.”

The kit is being sold by Amazon for 129 pounds ($199). The Amazon website says the program for Aerodrums uses more than a gigabyte of high-quality drum samples to produce the desired percussion sounds.

"We didn't want Aerodrums to be a fad. We didn't want it to be the gadget of the year and then it's forgotten," Morvan said.   Continued...