User Interface Designs For Studios Of The Future

When the Apple Macintosh emerged in 1984, it featured a much friendlier user interface than the text-based operating systems preceding it. It also popularised an innovative new interaction device – the mouse. This meant that anyone could learn to use a computer, and revolutionised our vision of what this new tool could become. But are there any similar user interface watersheds on the horizon?

If You’re So Inclined…Monome Tilty Snake

Not exactly revolutionary, but an interesting new application for an interesting interface. The Monome is basically a customisable controller featuring a grid of illuminated buttons, the functions of which can be determined by the user. As such, it’s ideal for musicians who like creating their own applications, with many Monome users being fans of MAX/MSP. Here we see the Monome customised as a game of ‘Snake’, where its inbuilt accelerometers are used as the controls.

Composition On The Table

Table-based interfaces really came to the fore when Bjork used the ReacTable on her Volta tour, but of course the underlying concept has been around for quite a while.

Toshio Iwai has his own version of ‘mixed reality’ interface – computer-generated images on the table are projected from above, and the images respond to the user’s touch as if they were physical objects. Thus, by touching the interface, the user can change its appearance and also interact with the music and sounds produced by the installation.

User Interface - Tables

No Interface Is A Good Interface

Let’s face it – there’s only so far you can go with boxes, knobs and tables. What a musician really wants is to be able to get those song ideas straight from her head onto disc, without any of this tedious mucking about with instruments and recording studios.

This scenario might still be a few years from realisation, but progress is being made in the area of using brainwaves to control computers. A couple of years ago, MIT Medialab devised a racing game whereby the participants had to relax to make their on-screen characters go faster, as the characters responded to the player’s pulse rate, detected via physical sensors.

Since then, much research has been done on making computers respond directly to brain activity. Although still in its infancy, this area is already showing promise, and I wouldn’t be surprised if I were someday able to control my entire recording studio simply by thinking happy thoughts…


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