My buddy John Claeys sent me a link to this video of the AirPiano device being demonstrated by Jo Hamilton.
I’ve not been able to find out too much about the design or origins of the instrument. It seems to use optical proximity sensing to detect the player’s hands.
A neat idea, and a slick implementation. Guardian article here…
I do feel that a lot of these devices (yes, the laser harp included) miss out on the important element of “feel” in their design. Although the laser harp project was fun, and visually very dramatic – it’s not really an expressive musical instrument.
I’ve worked on several new instrument controller designs since the laser harp, based on a variety of physical principles – and always the most successful derive their playability from some kind of electro/acoustic interaction – striking metal plates, blowing into hollow tubes, even “stroking” custom sensors (like wine glasses). The response of these sensors was then analyzed and mapped to various expression ‘dimensions’ within the tone generator. Unfortunately, moving your hands in the air has only ever been a novelty.
For that reason, I think I would trade an AirPiano – for one of these:
…and definitely for one of these: