The day is fast approaching when the creative and energetic Air Guitarists amongst us will be given the gift of sound. It appears that the wizards in Microsoft's Kinect division have devised a way to map hand and body gestures into musically notes by using the motion sensing Kinect as a MIDI controller. With Guitar Hero biting the dust, it looks like Microsoft is getting ready to take music gaming to the next level.
Microsoft's Patent Background
It is nearly pervasive practice for electronic musical instruments to be controlled using the MIDI standard protocol which allows separation of the sound-generating engine from the device that the human player uses to control that engine. The most common device used by humans to control sound generation over MIDI today is the electronic piano-style keyboard. This comes in a variety of established sizes, but all are "piano-like" in general style and appearance. Less common controllers include a guitar-style and one that controls breath for saxophone and clarinet sounds.
MIDI is a standard protocol that allows electronic musical instruments, computers and other electronic devices to communicate and synchronize with each other. MIDI does not transmit an audio signal. Instead it sends event messages about pitch and intensity, control signals for parameters such as volume, vibrato and panning, and clock signals in order to set a tempo. MIDI is an electronic protocol that has been recognized as a standard in the music industry since the 1980s.
All MIDI compatible controllers, musical instruments and MIDI compatible software follow the standard MIDI specification and interpret any MIDI message in the same way. If a note is played on a MIDI controller, it will sound the right pitch on any MIDI-capable instrument.
Microsoft's Free-Space Gesture MIDI Controller: Kinect for Xbox
The free-space gesture MIDI controller technique described in Microsoft's patent application marries the technologies embodied in a free-space gesture controller with MIDI controller technology, allowing one or more users to control an infinite variety of electronic musical instruments through body gesture and pose.
The technique provides a means for a free-space gesture controller connected to a gaming console like the Xbox to output standard MIDI control signals. An example of a free-space gesture controller would be Microsoft's motion sensing input device known as Kinect. The Kinect employs a depth camera that helps to interpret a scene playing out in front of it and to determine and recognize specific gestures. These gestures can be mapped to specific meanings to corresponding notes, chords, sequences and the like.
It's All in the Training
How do you make sense of playing an air-based instrument? Well, Microsoft states that in order to determine a mapping between gestures captured and standard control signal for making a given musical note, chord, sequence, transport control, and the like, a training module is employed. More specifically, each gesture captured is mapped to a standard control signal for operating a musical device so as to associate certain gestures with a standard control signal to make a musical sequence or note. In one embodiment, the training module prompts the user to make a gesture representing a musical note or sequence. The gesture made by the prompted user is then recorded and associated with a corresponding control signal for making that particular musical note or sequence.
Create a Band with Friends
In another embodiment of the free-space gesture MIDI control technique, Microsoft states that local multi-party playing of electronic instruments are supported. For example, some free-space gesture controllers have the capability to capture gestures from multiple players in a room.
For more information on this invention, see Microsoft's patent application 20120144979 which was originally filed in Q4 2010 and published by the US Patent and Trademark on June 14, 2012.
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In Other Kinect News
Microsoft's new SDK expands and improves their skeletal tracking capabilities. In context with our report, this is a needed step in being able to follow the air guitarist's movements as noted in our report.
A Special Thanks Goes out to the DIGG Community for their Support on this Report.