Yes, Joshua Young is a doctor. And yes, the strange device he built and now wields is indeed sonic. But no, it’s not a screwdriver.
Instead, Joshua’s intricate alloy AUUG controller is an imaginative musical device that turns the iPhone or iPod into a unique instrument that uses accelerometer magic to bend and blend sound.
Joshua says another big idea behind the device is to create a better visual experience, by actually removing the emphasis from the equipment.
The inspiration for the Kickstarter project was sparked during Joshua’s stay in Germany, while studying for his PhD in computational neuroscience, where he was exposed to a wide variety of live electronica performances.
“I found the sounds very fascinating, but the tools the musicians had were sort of getting in the way of what they were doing,” he says. “They were staring furiously at their laptops…it was not a very compelling performance.”
Using the device is, at least on the surface, pretty straightforward. Once attached to an iPhone (4S or later) or iPod (5th-gen or later), the AUUG is donned like a glove and then “played” in two different ways: by touching the iPhone’s screen through eight alloy frames, and by moving the iPhone around in the air.
How the touchscreen and accelerometer react to input depends on what the app is controlling. It can play notes and jump octaves on an instrument in the iOS version of Garageband, for instance (here’s a list of playable apps); or it can be connected over wifi to control, through coreMIDI, music apps running on a Mac. Joshua says he’s seen singers especially attracted to the device because of its ability to enhance vocal performances.
Coolness and utility aside, the AUUG seems to have layers of complexity to it (Joshua says one musician who tried it compared it to an accordion, an instrument with a reputation as one of the more difficult instruments to pick up).
On the plus side, there’s a good deal of user-friendliness designed into the AUUG: parameters (like accelerometer control) can be toggled on or off; thanks to intricately carved alloy, weight has been kept to a feathery 45 grams; and even the finger holes for the iPhone’s screen can be resized before ordering.
There are still $68 early-bird spots left on the AUUG’s Kickstarter page. ETA is April 2014.