Baylor student creates music-making software out of video game remotes

Photo Courtesy of Tim Arterbury

By JP Graham | Reporter

Making instrumental beats is one of senior Tim Arterbury’s hobbies, one that sparked the idea of wanting to create a “virtual instrument.” Using retired controllers and technology from gaming systems around his house, Arterbury created software that allows users to play instruments using 3-D tracking technology called “MoveMidi.”

Arterbury began working on his software in Dec. 2016, when he figured he could put some old remotes to use. Combining the PlayStation Move remotes and the 3-D camera that registers movement from the remotes, Arterbury created a system in which customers can use the remotes to play virtual instruments and mix preprogrammed sounds. His software combines 3-D tracking technology with MIDI, or Musical Instrument Digital Interface, which is a technology that electronic instruments use to communicate signals to other instruments.

MoveMIDI City Lights.JPG
Photo Courtesy of Tim Arterbury

Arterbury said his previous knowledge of music software initially sparked the idea to code software of his own.

“I think growing up in the technology and understanding how music software worked, I was able to think from a perspective of, ‘I understand this,’” Arterbury said. “But then, coming to college, I was able to say to myself, ‘Oh, now that I understand how to code this stuff, maybe I could improve certain things that I felt the music tech fell short in.’”

Arterbury said his software connects to any music software, or Digital Audio Workstation, such as Ableton and FL Studio, and offers an interactive way of creating particular sounds.

“My software sends signals to the music-making software … like hitting a key on a computer, there’s different ways to trigger those notes,” Arterbury said. “So then I asked myself, ‘What if I could use 3-D space and movement to trigger those notes instead of pressing buttons?’”

Crowley senior Collin Newman said Arterbury has been working on the software since they started living together, and he has witnessed Arterbury’s progress over time.

“I’ve gotten to use it from the beginning to now, and I’ve seen how he’s polished it off and made it much smoother with the adjustments he’s made,” Newman said.

Photo Courtesy of Tim Arterbury

Arterbury’s MovieMidi software features two modes. In “Hit” mode, when a remote moves over designated “hit zones,” the sound plays. Arterbury stands in front of the camera and points at a certain part of the screen to play a certain sound with the remotes, which are called “hit zones.” Arterbury said this mode allows the user to create music that is unique to that person.

“The user themselves defines what the instrument is,” Arterbury said. “They say ‘oh, right here I want my kick drum, and right here I want my snare.’”

Additionally, Arterbury said his software allows the user to get away from the physical constraints of regular instruments.

“Traditional instruments are like ‘I can’t move this pad up here … it’s a fixed piece of hardware,” Arterbury said. “But in the virtual world, it’s up to the user to describe what the instrument is.”

The second mode, which is called “morph” mode, affects music that has already been created. Rather than twisting a bunch of knobs on a DJ board, Arterbury said morph mode “grabs” the sounds and alters them based on the movement and location of the remote in the camera zone. Arterbury said one remote can do the same work as twisting three knobs on a DJ board.

Looking forward, Arterbury said he hopes to improve the software to be compatible in virtual reality platforms.

“I’m trying to beta test right now, and then I’m going to try to sell this current version with the wands,” Arterbury said. “But the next step really for me is trying to get it to work with HTC5 or Oculus Rift, these other virtual reality platforms.”

Newman said he sees MoveMidi as something DJs can use to get listeners involved in the music in a more entertaining way.

“I can see DJs using it on stage to get interactions from the audience, and so the audience can see visually what he’s doing on stage,” Newman said. “Rather than just messing with knobs, you actually see an instrument that’s moving around.”