AudioCubes a Tangible Interface and Ambient Device Tool

2012-04-20

We're mostly discussing AudioCubes on our website and blog from a musical point of view, and what you can do with them as musician. But we rarely talk about the AudioCubes from the user interface point of view.

As you all know the AudioCubes are a collection of smart light-emitting objects that are able to detect each other's position, and location, as well as sense distances. Instead of using a mouse, keyboard or knobs you're using intelligent objects. This type of user interface is called a Tangible Interface.

Tangible Interfaces are a new kind of hardware computer input device that go beyond multi-touch. Multiple objects and their spatial relationships are used to control software instead of a single pointer device like the computer mouse.

Tangible Interfaces are a worldwide research area, and the interfaces and ideas themselves have been around for a really long time, even before they were called Tangible Interfaces.

The AudioCubes, created by Bert Schiettecatte, was the first commercial affordable Tangible Interface on the market. The development of the AudioCubes started early 2004, and they were put on the market at the Namm show in January 2007. Before that Tangible Interfaces mainly stayed in research labs, and consisted of cameras and projectors to follow objects on a display. This is not the case with the AudioCubes: you don't need to have a camera nor a projector to use them because the intelligence is inside the cubes, and you can easily transport them by putting them into your backpack.

Besides being a Tangible Interface, the AudioCubes  are also an Ambient Device tool. The RGB LEDs in the AudioCubes allow you to display information through colours. The colours give the you feedback when performing live and/or when shaping sounds with your hands and fingers. Even when you are at the other part of the room you're able to see the colours of the AudioCube. This is for instance the reason why we didn't opt to use displays on the AudioCubes. The beautiful colours of the AudioCubes make them an ambient device tool, intelligent objects displaying information in an aesthetically way using colours.