I produce alternative electronic music under the name Kloosless.
Here is what I do: link

I am always looking for new ways to play my music. Electronic music often lacks the emotional human feel of traditional instruments. My goal of this project was to build a controller for my music so that I can truly feel what I'm playing and interact with it in new ways. This should result in a more human sounding, emotional relatable, way to play electronic music.

What it does

Shadow Box is a native MIDI device which means it requires no drivers. MIDI is musical instrument digital interface (think USB but for music) so it runs on everything.

The box has a variety inputs that it converts into pure and simple MIDI data that any music software and read in and assign to knobs, faders, etc..., within the software. There are plenty of simple MIDI controllers with loads of buttons and knob but I wanted something more.

On Shadow Box there is a unique set of inputs: Light Sensors

By hovering your hand over these sensors you cast your shadow onto them, changing their input. Once you find a value you like you can then hold it at that value using other switches.

Along with these new sensors are the some expected standards like 4 buttons (I used arcade buttons because they're sweet) and 4 regular twist knobs.

How I built it

The core of the box is a more powerful Arduino like micro controller with ARM's Mbed programmed in C++. A little bit of solder, one bad burn, and 75 compiles later, we have a MIDI controller.

Challenges I ran into

Scaling the inputs so that they average smoothly while also being fast enough for real time music control was the biggest challenge. You need to be able to turn a software knob slowly and accurately using the light sensor hardware, which I got working thanks to the awesome guys at the ARM booth, especially Brian Daniels.

Accomplishments that I'm proud of


What I learned

I learn SO much. This was my first ever hardware hack, first time really using a micro controller, first time soldering a full project, first useful program in C++.

What's next for Shadow Box MIDI Controller

Swapping out the prototyping cardboard box for a nice wood and metal enclose, making it cheaper and more stable, and releasing the plans for open source musicians everywhere.

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