Advanced Technology Turns 'Air Guitar' Into Real Instrument

December 10,2015

Learning to play guitar requires a lot of practice, perseverance and, at least in the beginning, painful blisters on fingers.

Playing the "air guitar" by mimicking a musician's fingering and strumming motions is a lot easier and can be a lot of fun, but does not produce any sound.

Now, researchers from Goldsmiths, University of London and the University of Sussex used gesture recognition technology to build a digital instrument — the Kurv "stringless" guitar — that turns the air guitar motions into music.

“What we've done," said Suran Goonatilake, co-founder of Kurv Music, "is take a whole bunch of different sensors, accelerometers, gyroscopes, magnetometers, pressure-sensitive stuff, and then combine that with a mobile phone, which has the computational power to actually drive real-time music synthesis.”

A small pad with eight buttons fits neatly into the palm of the left hand, while the strumming hand holds an oversized electronic pick. By pressing the buttons, the player chooses chords, which can be played with the strumming motion of the right hand.

“So we mapped out the entire guitar and bass fretboard, and we did acoustic and electric guitar," said Kurv Music's Jack Fuller. "And we did single notes and chords, and the total, I think, came to well over a thousand samples. So there's a huge amount of possibility.”

With just a few minutes of practice, someone who has never played a guitar can learn to play a simple riff.

The Kurv guitar plays through a smartphone or a tablet via Bluetooth, freeing the headphone jack for connection to an amplifier.

Players can choose from three instruments — electric, acoustic and bass guitar — and the pick is sensitive to the intensity of the strumming motion.

Its inventors are currently crowdsourcing funds for mass production, planned to begin in March 2016.