Design & Evaluation of an Accessible Hybrid Violin Platform

Overholt, Dan and Gelineck, Steven

Proceedings of the International Conference on New Interfaces for Musical Expression

We introduce and describe the initial evaluation of a new low-cost augmented violin prototype, with research focused on the user experience when playing such hybrid physical-digital instruments, and the exploration of novel interactive performance techniques. Another goal of this work is wider platform accessibility for players, via a simple ‘do-it-yourself’ approach described by the design herein. While the hardware and software elements are open source, the build process can nonetheless require non-insignificant investments of time and money, as well as basic electronics construction skills. These have been kept to a minimum wherever possible. Our initial prototype is based upon an inexpensive electric violin that is widely available online for approximately $200 USD. This serves as the starting point for construction, to which the design adds local Digital Signal Processing (DSP), gestural sensing, and sound output. Real-time DSP algorithms are running on a mobile device, which also incorporates orientation/gesture sensors for parameter mapping, with the resulting sound amplified and rendered via small loudspeakers mounted on the instrument. The platform combines all necessary elements for digitally-mediated interactive performance; the need for a traditional computer only arises when developing new DSP algorithms for the platform. An initial exploratory evaluation with users is presented, in which performers explore different possibilities with the proposed platform (various DSP implementations, mapping schemes, physical setups, etc.) in order to better establish the needs of the performing artist. Based on these results, future work is outlined leading towards the development of a complete quartet of instruments.