Artist creates a touch-controlled, sci-fi instrument with Arduino

By touching the installation at various points, users can different sounds. These sounds then generate changes in the projection.

New media artist Balam Soto is no rookie when it comes to mesmerizing musical instruments. Take Exp.Inst.Moon, for example. The interactive installation — which we saw on display at the Westport Maker Faire in Connecticut — incorporates projection and sound generated by a wireless box comprised of wood, plexiglass, an Arduino Mega (ATmega2560) and other electronic components.


By touching the experimental instrument’s copper tape sensors at various points, participants are able to create a range of sound effects, which in turn, produce changes in the projection.

“[The project] is an analysis of the social and cultural adoption of tangible user interface. Globally, touch devices are increasingly common; people understand how to use them,” Soto writes. “Exp.ins.X analyzes this new technology and makes use of this new common understanding to fuse sound and visuals into realtime interactivity.”


Most recently, Soto has added another project to the family. This one, dubbed Exp.Inst.Rain, features many of the same electronics and principles as his earlier installations, along with some additional input from the Maker community. By tapping the capacitive touch sensors atop each cylindrical piece of plexiglass, users can make varying sounds, which once again changes the projection in real-time.

An Arduino Mega embedded beneath the crystal-like columns serves as the brains of the operation, which runs custom software acting as a bridge between the instrument and the MIDI program, and links to an iPad via an open sound control interface network. Exp.Inst.Rain has a full octave (12 notes), three different sound modes and knobs to bend the pitch, MAKE: shares.

Safe to say, we’re looking forward to seeing the latest iteration firsthand at the World Maker Faire in New York. Until then, you can watch it in action below!

[Images: MAKE]

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