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The MechDrum™ uses authentic striking implements, four degrees of freedom, and innovative motion control algorithms to render performances that closely match its human counterparts in terms of timing, dynamics, and timbre. It can be used with any percussion instrument and is capable of self-calibration with respect to the instrument. By using 3D motion capture and statistical analysis of human motion, a system using a stochastic parameter vector was developed to render unique performances. The result is a distinctly non-robotic rendering that honors both the percussionist and instrument. The design favors function over form, which prioritizes musicianship and sound quality above all else. This approach has led to a compact system that requires no attachment or modifications to the percussion instrument. The MechDrum™ weighs approximately 10 lbs (4.5 kg) and is mounted to a standard photography class tripod. The implementation uses industrial voice coil actuators, H-Bridge drivers, quadrature encoders, high-tolerance linkages, custom electronics, a dual ARM core Zynq™ processor, Verilog IP, embedded firmware, and a Linux host operating system. All of these components are brought together in a robust high tolerance CNC machined aluminum chassis that includes a user interface and a variety of standard communication ports.
There are number of interesting use cases for the MechDrum™ that include play-ability for musicians with disabilities, live/playback performance, and compositions. By using parameter driven stochastic models for common rudiments with tempo scaling, a wide variety of MIDI controllers such as keyboards, buttons, sliders, air-pressure sensors, gesture sensors, and blink detection can be mapped to compelling virtuoso class renderings. This adaptability makes a real percussion instrument accessible to people that may otherwise not be able to participate in a band or solo setting. With regard to live performance, 3D motion tracking enables play-by-wire over the network using OSC messages that offers an extension to the percussionist in terms of instrument location and augmentation. Finally, compositions can be written to deliver high-quality renderings on traditional instruments that push the boundaries of musicianship, stamina, and speed.
As a companion to the MechDrum™, the SDRdrum is a unique gesture acquisition system that is capable of translating a percussionist’s real-time 3D motion. This combination results in a mirrored performance on the MechDrum™ in addition to other innovative controlling gestures.