About the project
OTTO is an electronic musical instrument for realtime manual beat slicing of audio samples.
The intent of this project was to make an instrument and to design specific controls for a very developed technique (the beat slicing) for which there are not specific hardware jet.
The device provides a tangible user interface designed with the aim of giving the user the feel of having the sample in his hands. The musician can manipulate an audio sample in real time through the use of a restricted number of simple physical controls and clear visual feedbacks. In computer music in fact audio samples are generally represented as the waveform itself or as little colored blocks etc. Since the sample as to be controlled very fast, the performer needs to quickly understand where and how to play a specific part. The sample visualization of OTTO has been designed to provide just the information needed for that and nothing more.
OTTO was designed thanks to many comparisons between electronic musical instruments and conventional instruments.
Usually the second category is more engaging and ask an high level of control from the musician. This is due to the kind of interaction but also to the strong connection between sound, instrument and the human being.
For instance, by hitting a drum set you feel that the instrument is making the sound and you can feel it in your harm as well. This doesn’t happens with a drum machine, where the connection between sound and instrument is very weak.
OTTO was then designed thinking about other ways to improve this connection between action and sound, working on feedbacks and visual elements, but moreover designing interactions and the relative controls able to link as much as possible the gestures with the audio result.
Making a working prototype was fundamental to test if all the theories and the designed features of the instruments would work.
Moreover it was very helpful to understand where and how to fix bugs and usability issues. Anyhow, since it was impossible to me to prototype the whole instrument the final prototype shows more or less the 50% of it but it was enough to prove that with some correction here and there the instrument would be a good hardware solution.
OTTO’s software is coded with Max/MSP that sends and receive signals to an Arduino board inside the instrument, and it also applies all the effects to the audio sample. The Arduino board is therefore programmed with just a protocol to communicate with the Max/MSP patch.