Using Haptics to Assist Performers in Making Gestures to a Musical Instrument

Berdahl, Edgar and Niemeyer, Günter and Smith, Julius O.

Proceedings of the International Conference on New Interfaces for Musical Expression

Haptic technology, providing force cues and creating a programmable physical instrument interface, can assist musicians in making gestures. The finite reaction time of thehuman motor control system implies that the execution of abrief musical gesture does not rely on immediate feedbackfrom the senses, rather it is preprogrammed to some degree.Consequently, we suggest designing relatively simple anddeterministic interfaces for providing haptic assistance.In this paper, we consider the specific problem of assisting a musician in selecting pitches from a continuous range.We build on a prior study by O’Modhrain of the accuracyof pitches selected by musicians on a Theremin-like hapticinterface. To improve the assistance, we augment the interface with programmed detents so that the musician can feelthe locations of equal tempered pitches. Nevertheless, themusician can still perform arbitrary pitch inflections such asglissandi, falls, and scoops. We investigate various formsof haptic detents, including fixed detent levels and forcesensitive detent levels. Preliminary results from a subjecttest confirm improved accuracy in pitch selection broughtabout by detents.