Thesis Info

Design of virtual three-dimensional instruments for sound control
Axel G.E. Mulder
2nd Author
3rd Author
Number of Pages
Simon Fraser University
Thesis Supervisor
Tom Calvert
Supervisor e-mail
tom AT
Other Supervisor(s)
Christine MacKenzie, Barry Truax
Language(s) of Thesis
Department / Discipline
Languages Familiar to Author
English, Dutch, French, Spanish
URL where full thesis can be found
gestural control, virtual reality, musical instrument, input device, three-dimensional, visualization, sonification, real-time
Abstract: 200-400 words
An environment for designing virtual instruments with 3D geometry has been prototyped and applied to real-time sound control and design. It enables a sound artist, musical performer or composer to design an instrument according to preferred or required gestural and musical constraints instead of constraints based only on physical laws as they apply to an instrument with a particular geometry. Sounds can be created, edited or performed in real-time by changing parameters like position, orientation and shape of a virtual 3D input device. The virtual instrument can only be perceived through a visualization and acoustic representation, or sonification, of the control surface. No haptic representation is available. This environment was implemented using CyberGloves, Polhemus sensors, an SGI Onyx and by extending a real-time, visual programming language called Max/FTS, which was originally designed for sound synthesis. The extension involves software objects that interface the sensors and software objects that compute human movement and virtual object features. Two pilot studies have been performed, involving virtual input devices with the behaviours of a rubber balloon and a rubber sheet for the control of sound spatialization and timbre parameters. Both manipulation and sonification methods affect the naturalness of the interaction. Informal evaluation showed that a sonification inspired by the physical world appears natural and effective. More research is required for a natural sonification of virtual input device features such as shape, taking into account possible co-articulation of these features. While both hands can be used for manipulation, left-hand-only interaction with a virtual instrument may be a useful replacement for and extension of the standard keyboard modulation wheel. More research is needed to identify and apply manipulation pragmatics and movement features, and to investigate how they are coarticulated, in the mapping of virtual object parameters. While the virtual instruments can be adapted to exploit many manipulation gestures, further work is required to reduce the need for technical expertise to realize adaptations. Better virtual object simulation techniques and faster sensor data acquisition will improve the performance of virtual instruments. The design environment which has been developed should prove useful as a (musical) instrument prototyping tool and as a tool for researching the optimal adaptation of machines to humans.