Networked_Music_Review

The loop machine for the wii

rollo.jpgA former post-graduate student at Edinburgh University. Yann Seznec, a Franco-American sound designer, has used the Wiimote handset to create a musical instrument like no other. Dubbed the “Loop Machine“, it enables users to load audio files such as a drum pattern or a baseline on to their computers. These “loops” then automatically sync with each other. But the really clever part of Seznec’s invention is that these samples can be manipulated by moving the Wiimote around. The end result is that the user can dance about with the Wiimote in their hand, making music and performing at the same time. You can even record a set of movements and apply that same set of movements to particular sounds.

So how is it all done? Surprisingly, no screwdrivers are used. All that is needed is a Wii controller and a computer that’s capable of using a Bluetooth mouse and keyboard.

Seznec explains that the key is persuading the Wiimote to link up to the computer, rather than the games console. Seznec did this by downloading some open source software written by a Japanese software developer named Masayuki Akamatsu (yet another hero of the Wii-jacking revolution).

Seznec says that hacking into the Wii remote – that is, pairing it to a computer – is relatively easy. What’s hard is doing anything useful with it. For the Loop Machine, this meant Seznec writing his own computer programme. “It’s important to make systems that use movement in a logical way,” he says, “so that when a certain movement is made – be it an upwards swipe or a circle – a certain sound or effect is created. It’s hard to do that, but I came up with various programming tricks in the end. I’ve put maybe a thousand hours of work into this project.”

A new improved version of Seznec’s Loop Machine has just been completed and is now being sold online for US$20. Download it on to your computer, grab your Wiimote and you’re away.

So what are the ethics of all this? Will Nintendo crush the Wii-jacking revolution as it starts to make money? The independent developers often describe themselves as “hackers” and “homebrewers” (because they prefer to make their own programmes). But despite the stigma that surrounds interfering with technology for many lay people, there is no suggestion that what the Wiijackers are doing is illegal.

Attempts to get Nintendo to comment on Wii-jacking crashed into a wall of silence. But Seznec guesses that there might be an element of calculation from the manufacturer involved in the whole phenomenon. “Nintendo has made it really easy for independent software hackers to use their hardware, and some people suspect that they did that on purpose to encourage development.”

Thanks to Engadget


May 14, 2008
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Networked_Music_Review (NMR) is a research blog that focuses on emerging networked musical explorations.

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