Alopoka: The light eating hedgehog

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The word ‘Alopoka’ in Bangla means an insect that is attracted towards light. This is a musical instrument that anyone can play.

Like a lot of people in this world, I love music but cannot play to save my life. I have always wanted to learn an instrument and so I bought a guitar few years ago thinking I might just be able to learn it. But without much dedication I failed miserably. The idea for this project stemmed from trying to make an intuitive musical instrument. After a series of experiments trying to gauge body movements and gestures using pressure, motion and light sensors, I came up with the idea of using light as a medium of interaction. The next best thing I love are myths and magical creatures. And so the Alopoka was born.

Alopoka eats light and translates it into music. When the user shines a flash light in front of five of its tentacles, each one receives light differently and produces a unique sound and rhythm. The varying intensity of light changes the pitch. Alopoka also creates a distortion if you pat its back. The tentacles have a Light Dependent Resistor each. These resistors read the intensity of light that is directed towards them and send analog reads to an Arduino. I used a serial MIDI converter to convert this to digital reads. The messages are then carried onto Max MSP and further to Ableton Live, where the magic happens. 

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EXPERIMENTS

Experimentation was key to this project. As I said earlier, the project stemmed from the idea of intuitive music; I ran various experiments early on as a part of the design process. In some cases, the experiments failed miserably while some were promising. Either way, each step helped reach the ultimate goal. 

The final experiment was a pleasant surprise. While playing with a few LDRs, I figured I could calibrate each one separately, use them to send different signals and make different sounds. Further on, the intensity of light could determine the pitch or modulations in a given note.

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