For me, it would be impossible to live in a world without music. What would a champion be without “We Are the Champions” or God without the unexplainable grace of the heavenly sound of Johann Sebastian Bach? Virtual Reality & Artificial Intelligence joined to the party to splash the joy of creating music everywhere, including people with physical disabilities.
Virtual instrument: Music is Within Reach of Everyone
Two scientists, Zacharias Vamvakousis and Rafael Ramírez, both from the Music Technology Research Group of the Pompeu Fabra University (UPF) at Barcelona, have given life to the millennial musical instrument with which you can play and compose real music just by taking a look —And it doesn’t matter if you have bionic eyes already.
I would dare to say that this is one of those similar efforts in the technological environment as good as the job made by Mr. José Antonio Abreu, creator from the renowned El Sistema en Venezuela, which philosophy centers on the idea of providing access to music for everyone.
The EyeHarp: If looks could kill? If looks could sound!
The EyeHarp is a gaze-controlled, open source and free to download music interface, where through the sense of sight, provides people the feeling of playing a musical instrument and optimize their lives by doing so.
The interaction and expressiveness with the instrument is done by the user selecting the chords and arpeggios, melody and volume, only through their eyes, which makes it perfect for anyone with physical disabilities, easing the process not only of playing music, but learning as well.
To make it work, you will need an Eye-Tracker device: a tool that knows where you are looking at. Equally, as an option against the prices of virtual reality glasses, it can work with another device that can control the mouse pointer as well (e.g. a mouse, a head tracking device or a touch-pad).
If you already have one of those gadgets, you just need to download the application from here. There you can find more specific and technical information regarding the installation process. The utensil comes with a simple analog synthesizer that gives some basic sonification, and for better quality of sound, it is possible to be used as a midi controller.
Are you wondering how do the melodies sound? Here is a official demo from the site of the developers.
In A Real-Life Hall
According to the authors, “The obtained results indicate that, similarly to traditional music instruments, the proposed digital musical instrument has a steep learning curve, and allows producing expressive performances both from the performer and audience perspective” in a recent publication at the International Journal Frontiers in Psychology, where they describe with more detail the interface and their results.
This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation program, as well as from the Spanish TIN project TIMUL.
This is a small step for music, but a really huge one for virtual reality in order to offer a whole new land full of useful technologies, considering that creations like this are the ones who guide and empower the popularity of artificial intelligence among humans in a successful path, without making us feel replaced and removing the barriers in our minds.