The Brain Opera Technical Systems

Previous Hyperinstrument Collaborations

Brain Opera technology is a natural extension of the Hyperinstruments project, started at the MIT Media Lab in 1986 by Tod Machover and Joe Chung, and joined by Neil Gershenfeld in 1991 and myself in 1993. At first designed to enhance the virtuosity of some of the world's greatest performers, from Yo-Yo Ma to Prince, hyperinstruments started evolving in 1991 towards the development of expressive tools for non-professional musicians. The Brain Opera is the culmination to date of this work, and points the way to the further development of expressive objects (furniture, remote controls, clothing, etc.) and responsive environments (including living rooms, concert halls, and department stores).

Among the more significant new technical developments for the Brain Opera are the Harmonic Driving system, the Melody Easel, the Rhythm Tree, the Gesture Wall, the Digital Baton, the Singing and Speaking Trees, the Sensor Chair, and the Sensor Carpet. Among the project's numerous software innovations are the Singing Trees (analysis of every nuance and "feeling" of vocal quality); Harmonic Driving (parametric algorithms that allow a piece of music to be shaped and "personalized" while it is playing); the Rhythm Tree (which analyzes multiple-person behavior to create a complex systemic reaction); the Performance Hyperinstruments (which forge an array of continuous gesture and discrete positional information into intuitive, natural controls); and the entire Brain Opera system, which is itself a complex networked environment capable of integrating new elements into an existing structure automatically or in human-assisted fashion.

Follow the links to find a graphical and technical discussion of the technological developments of each of the individual Brain Opera experiences. We also post a PDF file of a draft of a technical paper describing these interfaces (essentially covering everything at this site) - follow the link below..

The Brain Opera Technology: New Instruments and Gestural Sensors for Musical Interaction and Performance Joseph Paradiso. Journal of New Music Research, Vol. 28, No. 2, 1999, pp. 130-149.

Note that the Brain Opera is currently installed on the top floor of the House of Music in Vienna, Austria. Please visit if you're in the vicinity.

Joseph A. Paradiso

Director of Brain Opera Gesture Sensing Technology

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