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MIDI and Robots Part 2- Super Booth 2017

There has recently been a surge in robotic MIDI devices as Arduinos and low cost CPUs make it easier and easier to develop MIDI-controlled robotic components. 

At Super Booth 2017, there were a number of significant MIDI robot introductions. 

Felix Thorn

From a very early age Felix was inspired by both visual and sound arts. He studied both drawing and painting and piano in his formative years, but he never seemed to be able to settle on more traditional artistic paths and was always looking to combine sonic and visual arts together. Felix creates new experiences that combine real objects, music and design. 

Felix’s Machines are not intended to replace human-made music, but like Conlon Nancarrow, Felix focuses on how machines can exceed human’s ability to perform because of their mechanical nature. 

“Although my medium focuses on the development of acoustic sounds, I am continually inspired by electronic music – the countless abstractions act as blueprints for the construction of its acoustic counterparts. I aim to build a space where artificial and dream-like environments can become a reality.

by Felix Thorn

Bastl Instruments

Okay, technically this isn’t MIDI, it’s control voltages, but we just didn’t think it was right to have a piece on robotics and not include Bastl.  In any case, their new Thyme effect is MIDI controllable and it’s a sequenceable robot-operated digital tape machine.


Inspired in part by Felix Thorn, Johannes Lohbihler created a Kickstarter to develop DADA Machines. The dadamachines automat toolkit lets anyone create robotic orchestras with everyday objects. Automat is open source, hackable and Arduino compatible. 

The center of each toolkit is the automat controller. Plug in your favorite software or hardware MIDI input directly into the controller. For output, automat controller has 12 universal DC outputs to connect motors, solenoids, LEDs – whatever you want to start playing. The automat is plug & play – offering unlimited possibilities. Simply connect your favorite MIDI hardware device, music App or DAW and trigger the actuators of your choice to create a composition.

by Dada Machines

Prototypes of DADA Machines were used in this German production of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea


dadamachines: music machines for everyone! by Johannes Lohbihler —Kickstarter

Johannes Lohbihler is raising funds for dadamachines: music machines for everyone! on Kickstarter! The dadamachines automat toolkit enables you to tap, move and bang to make sound with the world around you. Hackable & open-source!

Polyend Perc Pro

Polyend was only started in 2015, but they have been working hard on their ideas to expand musicians’ creativity

PERC PRO, a MIDI-controlled device that mechanically plays any percussive surface. It make a drumming machine out of anything.  Aphex Twin, Daedelus, and Dan Deacon have all utilized the Perc Pro in their work. Any percussion instrument you strike with a stick or your bare hands works with PERC PRO. Open yourself up to new possibilities. Congas, xylophone, sauce pan?

Each PERC PRO kit includes:
– 3 beaters (you can choose silicon, aluminum or wooded striker for each beater)
– controller (capable of playing up to 3 beaters)
– 3 clamps
– USB cable
– Power cable

PERC Controller IN/OUT:
•1x MIDI DIN in
•1x MIDI USB in
•3x Drum Gate in
•3x CV Velocity in
•1x MIDI DIN thru
•1x MIDI DIN out
•3x PERC Ball out

At Super Booth 2017, Polyend introduced tempos so fast for the Perc Pro that the drum rolls became audible pitches. 

Yamaha reface robot

Yamaha also showed a robot at Super Booth 2017.  Designed in collaboration with Anno Labs, a design company from Fukuoka, Japan.  Here is a little bit about the reface robot and annon labs and then a couple of Youtube videos about the reface robot project.

“#refacerobot”. Custom-made robot for reface CS dynamically controlling all sound parameters. From it’s fierce and full-blast performance you will experience unheard sounds freed from conventional two-handed tweaking.

by Yamaha

“#annolab”. anno lab is an emerging creative group focused on media art and interactive design. Most of their works aim at inspiring curiosity and fun for people in their daily life.

by anno lab