Aug 14, 2009


When I was around 10, I went to a piano summer school at Cal State Long Beach for a few weeks, and got to visit the Yamaha music factory. They showed us a few toys (MIDI boxes were big then), but the coolest thing at the time was wearable sensors that created music based on motion. Stepping in place, outstretching your arm, swinging your hand all made different sounds. You looked like a cross between XMen 2099's Metalhead and a one-man band. We had a lot of fun, but I never saw it outside of the factory.

Most all of that technology is obsolete now, in favor of multi-gestural interfaces (iPhone), augmented reality gestures (Project Natal), or spatial-operation (g-speak, ala Minority Report), and I find it absolutely fascinating that the more advanced we get, the more digital interaction comes down to primal, natural gestures that basically moves us backward to our original cognitive roots.

But obviously Calvin Harris wasn't going for breakthrough technology, he was making a gimmick that brought a visual performance to his music. In fact, telling by his enthusiasm, he couldn't care less what he was painted on to who, so long as his new album was getting attention. But that's not a bad thing. Because the fall of Yamaha's Miburi was not caused from lack of development, but lack of relevance. Yamaha only pitched the device to manufacturers and major brands instead of artists who could develop it to something different. Likewise Harris' rubber paint in and of itself is nothing of real value, but in new context creates a really engaging piece.

Now if only Yamaha had thought to put their models in bikinis 20 years ago..