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. 



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.