Emonator is one of the interfaces - and the most versatile at that - used to provide control input for the Emonic Environment, a real-time improvisational media system. Originally, the Emonator was conceived as a combination of software and hardware with the aim of exploring the concept of emons
as the building blocks for aesthetic expression, content delivery, and
information exchange. The Emonator was designed in collaboration with Dan Overholt, on whose page you can find details of the hardware design (Dan also later adopted the name MATRIX to refer to the device in his own, independent work).
The rationale for the design of the Emonator was to generate emons of varying complexity and forms by interpreting
pressure-like hand gestures.
The Emonator can serve as a multipurpose application for interactive
control of music and video, inviting users to create aesthetic experiences
using emotionally expressive gestures (particularly when used within the Emonic Environment). The aim is to allow everyone to
be a composer / DJ / video editor without having to learn a complex system
of mappings. Traditional performance instruments force the user into predefined
ways of creating emotional expression (as well as existing electronic
instruments). It is our goal to create a truly new and adaptive interface,
which will acknowledge the natural ways of emotional expression for creating
an aesthetic experience. This way we hope to make the Emonator into an affective performance instrument that will allow you to 'play' your feelings without having to learn a complex
system of mappings.
Currently we are developing a line of applications that allow the Emonator
to interpret gestures for a dynamic creation of music and video. The music
controller provides three levels of music control - an audio shaper, a
pattern composer, and a pattern navigator(not yet functional). The video
controller allows users to navigate through and mix multiple live video
streams (currently limited to 4).
The device hardware consists of a 12x12 array of closely positioned spring
loaded plexiglas rods. The position of each rod (known to a 7-bit precision)
is sensed using a pair of infrared light detectors and is interpreted
using the underlying FPGA-based motherboard. Each rod's position is then
transmitted to a connected PC, which uses these signals to generate music
and video. We also plan to provide an additional layer of action feedback
by using computer-controlled RGB-colored lights that will shine through
the plexiglas rods. Full details about the hardware can be found
in Dan's thesis
Data Gathering and Analysis
The Emonator project serves two purposes in the overall development of
the Emonic Environment:
At the first stage, we are using it as a measurement / analysis
interface for premade emotional musical patterns (emons). A user is introduced
to the Emonator application and asked to tangialize (move from the auditory
to the physical domain) a series of emons (short musical phrases) that
are played for him. The data from multiple subjects gathered above (pressure,
speed, movement patterns, etc) is then analyzed to derive common physical
patterns of response to each of the emons. Along with providing interesting
scientific results (for interpretation of affect), this will also allow
us to refine the Emonator's performance.
We hope that the Emonator will allow us to check the hypothesis that a
person can take a coherent control of real-time sources of affect, and
orchestrate a unique experience corresponding to their emotional state.
The experimental data gathered at the first stage will allow us to create
mappings that will be used by the performer in the creation of a free
form musical / visual structure. Rather than relying on a user's expertise
and performing ability, the Emonator will give its user the freedom of
emotionally natural tangible expression.
The Emonator was the first of the Emonic Environment's components developed; now there are quite a few more. It is our hope that the Emonator will provide empirical evidence for the
validity of our composition approach and techniques, and will help us
increating large-scale art environments (such as the one described in
the EmoWall proposal). It is our small-scale
attempt at creating a coherent emotion-adaptive system of interactions
between the Emonic Environment and the visitor. The Emonator has also
been used as a controller in a museum installations.
A few of the planned musical modes of Emonator's operation (this is quite old):
active movement, relaxed
movement, shift between modes, loop-based
mode, a complete piece (2.2MB).
Preliminary videos showing the MATRIX performing real-time Granular Synthesis
over the Internet:
If you are on a high speed connection, try the QuickTime: video
III. (10-23MB files).
If you are on a slow connection try the Windows Media copy: video
III (1-4MB files).
NEW: a gesture-based application using all 12 rows (144 rods) (update
Current Emonator version: 0.9. Stay tuned.
Please e-mail your questions to pauln at media.mit.edu
The Emonator began as a collaborative project between the
Interactive Cinema and Hyperinstrument groups at the MIT Media Lab.
We would like to thank professors Glorianna Davenport and Tod Machover for
Data conversion, MIDI, and network applications: Paul Nemirovsky
Design of the MATRIX interface & Granular Synthesis shown in videos: Dan
Vocalator synthesis application & help with SuperCollider, MAX, and network
programming: Tristan Jehan
Data analysis, video applications, & MATRIX construction for Emonator project:
Help with data analysis & network libraries: Ali Rahimi
Logos design: Shirley Waisman
Granular synthesis videos shot/edited by Ali Mazalek and Dan Overholt
* The interface idea was originally conceived jointly by Paul Nemirovsky
and Dan Overholt.
Although the interface was initially called the Emonator, the project later
separated into two main directions:
(1) The Emonator project uses the MATRIX interface to explore the concept
of emons as building blocks for aesthetic expression and audiovisual content
(2) The MATRIX
project focuses on the interface design and development of musical synthesis
and signal processing applications.