Is airpiano something you miss in your stage performance?
The airpiano is a MIDI and OSC controller which allows the user to trigger invisible keys and faders in midair. Although playing the airpiano is similar to playing Theremin, it has its own features which make it a completely different instrument. The main difference is the ability to play discrete keys (triggers) and faders on airpiano, while Theremin provides continuous control of sound.
Developed by Omer Yosha, the airpiano has 8 infrared proximity sensors which enable a 3D matrix of 24 discrete keys and 8 virtual faders, which makes it very simple to trigger MIDI and OSC messages. It is built from walnut wood, dark red acrylic glass and RoHS compliant components. Its dimensions are 960 x 160 x 26 mm (37.8 x 6.3 x 1 inch) and it weights 2.8 kg (nearly 6.2 pounds).
On the left side of each sensor are 5 LEDs which enable horizontal orientation and visual feedback. The horizontal orientation provides reference to the location of each sensor, while visual feedback LEDS provide the information about which key is triggered as well as the approximate value of a fader. The distance between the vertical keys is about 20 cm, and its 40 LEDs provide easy orientation and visual feedback on the keyboard, making it easier for novice users before they get used to hit desired keys.
Since the sensors are located on the right side of the LEDs, triggering keys and faders is optimally achieved when lifting the hand above but slightly to the right of the LEDs, in a way that the hand is exactly above the sensor. The virtual faders act just like physical ones, meaning your hand can “pull” the fader‘s handle up or down from its last position which is approximately indicated by the LEDs. A momentary switch, which is located at the side of the device, allows switching between different presets directly from it.
As you might have guessed, the airpiano hardware doesn’t actually produce any sounds. It uses USB 2.0 interface to communicate with the custom airpiano software on your PC or Mac, which can send MIDI and Open Sound Control (OSC) messages to other software or hardware. When you trigger a key or a fader in the air, the software registers your actions and sends messages out accordingly. You can create numerous arrangement presets combining keys and faders, assigned with different properties and message types.
Its software allows you to create and save arrangement presets, assign keys and faders with MIDI messages (OSC messages are sent automatically), assign keys with preset-load messages (allows loading presets directly from the device), set momentary button functionality, or incorporate a pedal/foot switch functionality (MIDI CC , Global Velocity or Preset Loader) to your performance.
Although we think that the airpiano would be much more interesting in live performances compared to other USB/MIDI controllers, and there could be many ways to combine the airpiano with other instruments or sound machines, its price of almost 1,100 euros for European market (or 1,700$ for international orders) certainly makes you think twice before you make an order.