It seems like the kind of instrument that Spinal Tap would ask for, but the combination drum machine/drone in the video above is no joke.
Created by researchers at the University of Toronto, the flying drum machine responds to the force and torque in a given direction whenever a user gently hits it. Tapping it forward triggers a snare, nudging it from above triggers the kick drum, etc. Each signal feeds into a midi-based looping system.
While it seems simplistic at first, research consultant Haig Beylerian tells Fast Company that among the myriad difficulties the team faced, timing was particularly tough:
Unlike a keyboard or drum pad where there is a definitive point of touch and release, it’s harder to decide when a quadcopter sends the MIDI data. Is it exactly when you touch it, when it moves the maximum distance it’s going to move based on that touch (to inform velocity), or something else?
The system they worked out allows for variations in velocity — or loudness based on the users force when hitting the drone — but they decided to stick to 1/16th notes for the sake of simplicity.
You can hear the results in the video embed above. If for no other reason than the possibility of seeing Kraftwerk use flying instruments live, let’s hope this drone/drum research is perfected.