About this project
Ototo After Kickstarter
We've been overwhelmed by the response from you on Kickstarter THANK YOU! We're super excited to get Ototo into the world and to see all the things that you will make.
If you've missed the campaign or you have backed and would like to order more Ototo boards or sensors, we'll be setting up an order system on our website.
Ototo has got everything you need to make sound interactive: it’s a synthesiser, it’s got 12 onboard touch sensitive inputs and a range of different sensors which can be connected to 4 sensor inputs.
How it works
You can make sounds straight out of the box by touching the keys to trigger notes. By connecting conductive materials or objects to the keys on Ototo you can make them react to touch; turning anything you can imagine into an instrument. The keys on the Ototo are arranged like one octave of a musical keyboard. When you connect an object to a key using crocodile clips, you can trigger that note on your object.
Sensors change the sound
There are four sensor inputs which control the different elements of the sound, one each for pitch and loudness and two that control the texture of the sound. Connect a light sensor to control the pitch or create a sound that reacts to your breath - it’s up to you!
Combine to make musical inventions
Combining these inputs allows you control over all elements of the sound: the loudness, pitch and the texture of the sound (timbre). Whether you’re prototyping a controller idea, learning electronics, creating an interactive sound installation or just having fun Ototo can get you making with no coding or computer required.
Ototo has two sound generating modes: a synthesiser and a sampler. It’s monophonic with an amplitude envelope, a modulation envelope, a LFO and a low pass filter. The sampler plays back short samples such as drum sounds from the flash memory with the ability to change the pitch of samples. The presets for the synthesisers are stored on the Ototo which you can cycle through by pressing the buttons. There will be regular software updates so expect more features to be added as the product develops.
Once connected via USB Ototo can act as a MIDI controller. This allows you to use the instruments and synthesisers on the computer using the touch keys as note inputs and the sensors as control messages. This means you can keep the flexibility of building with Ototo but expand your range of sounds by playing instruments in Ableton Live, Apple Garageband and many more. The best of both worlds!
What can you make with Ototo?
There's lots of ways you can make with Ototo: it can be as simple as experimenting by connecting different objects and sensors or building a complex instrument or installation. We've been running workshops over the last few months - here's some of the things that our participants have come up with:
- 12 key capacitive touch keyboard (1 octave) with connectors
- 4 sensor inputs, 5V analog input
- Onboard speaker and 3.5mm headphone output
- Powered by 2 x AA batteries or micro USB
- No coding required
- 128 Mbit Flash memory
We're producing 7 different sensors which we think are great for music making. You connect the sensors to the Ototo using the sensor cable provided.
This is a potentiometer - you turn it to change the sound. Perhaps you use it as part of the control panel of a cardboard synthesiser.
This is a light dependent resistor which changes the sound according to the amount of light it receives. Cover it up or point it directly at the light.
This is another potentiometer; this time you slide it to change the sound. It’s great for making trombones!
This is a thin touch strip that changes the sound when you slide your finger along it. It's great for precise control, especially for pitch bend.
This sensor changes the sound depending on how hard you press it. You could put it in a shoe and make music while you dance.
The harder you blow into this sensor the bigger the change in sound. With the breath sensor you can make a drainpipe saxophone.
The joystick sensor is just like the analog stick on a gamepad. Move it around to control two sounds at once — with extra precision.
How does the touch sensing work?
It's using a technology called 'capacitive sensing'. The Ototo is measuring the capacitance of the objects attached to it, once you touch the object it can sense the additional capacitance added from the human body which then triggers the note. It's a simpler version of what's happening on laptop trackpads and smartphones.
Ototo will work with any conductive material, for example aluminium foil, water, plants, fruit and veg, conductive fabrics, conductive threads, conductive paint and ink, pencil drawings, any metal objects and more!
Ototo is built on open source software and we will release the Ototo source code once we start shipping. By making the firmware open source we're able to give you complete control how your synthesiser works. We also hope to inspire community firmwares for the Ototo for even greater sound possibilities.
Why we created Ototo
In our careers working in interaction design and electronic music, we’ve seen that many people would like to create new ways of interacting with sound yet find it a struggle. There’s a steep learning curve in both electronics and software programming before even getting to the sounds and the interaction that you would like to make. We wanted something that could be more hands on and experimental, that you could have an idea and just try it out really quickly.
We want to empower people to create, whether that’s a kid playing with electronics for the first time or a musician who wants more control how they perform or create sounds. We believe when you have this power then you can see the potential in things - like as a child imagining all of the different things a cardboard box can be.
Where we are now
The Ototo project started in early 2013 when we were approached by Near Now to collaborate on a project. We proposed our ideas behind Ototo, and we got a great response. We got to work designing and developing how these ideas could work in a product. We received our first prototypes early September and demonstrated these for the first time at AND Fair in Liverpool. We produced 40 prototypes and along with Near Now, we ran the first public invention workshop during Game City on the 19-20 October 2013.
Video with Near Now showing the development of Ototo
Since then we've been refining Ototo in workshops, at universities such as ECAL and London College of Communication and public workshops such as ELMO works. We're now ready to bring Ototo to a much wider audience, with your support we can make it happen.
We've had two rounds of prototypes so far, the first round we made 4 prototypes for which the components were placed by hand. For the second round we produced 40 prototypes which were assembled by our manufacturing partners. We've been putting these boards through their paces in workshops for the last few months and we have been delighted with their performance.
We've spent the time to carefully to learn the processes involved in create Ototo, and believe we are ready to take this design, with a few minor modifications, into production.
- February: end of Kickstarter campaign, pre-production prototype ready
- March: ordering components, EMC testing, software development, packaging and guide design
- April: Receive Ototo boards, start fulfilling orders
- May: Ototo goes on his journey to backers
- June: Backers get to meet Ototo!
We wouldn't have made it this far without our friends, collaborators, early testers and workshop participants, a really big thank you to everyone!
Near Now, ELMO Works / Nous Vous, ECAL, London College of Communication, University of East London
Mat Trivett, Stefan Dzisiewski-Smith, Jamie Johnson, Dan Duran, Jacqueline Ford, Yashaswini S. R., Jakub Pollag, Gemma Roper, Bike Ayaskan, Amiera Mohey, Tico Doubleday, Matthew Phillips, Sam Strudwick, Naomi Elliott, David Chatting...and everyone else who was involved!
Risks and challenges
Any hardware project is a challenge so producing and shipping Ototo out into the world won't be easy. We've spent considerable time assessing the potential risks, such as delays in component sourcing, issues with the electromagnetic compatibility testing or fulfillment. Through understanding these processes we have strategies in place to keep the the project on time. Therefore we're confident that when we will face the challenges that inevitably come our way, we will be prepared to tackle them head on.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
It's using a technology called 'capacitive sensing'. The Ototo is measuring the capacitance of the objects attached to it, once you touch the object it can sense the additional capacitance added from the human body which then triggers the note. It's a simpler version of what's happening on trackpads and smartphones. Which also means touching connected objects through other conductive materials will have the same affect. For example, playing a pot and pan drum kit with metal drumsticks would have the same affect as using your hands.
Anything that's conductive works, that is anything that will allow the movement of electrical charge. There are hundreds of objects and materials that allow this including: aluminium foil, water, plants, fruit and vegetables, conductive fabrics, conductive threads, conductive paint and ink, pencil drawings and any metal!
Ototo comes with a set of preset sounds that you can change by using the buttons on the board. We're planning a wide a range of sounds so that you can always find the right sound for whatever you want to create. Each preset is manipulated by the sensors in a different way, so there's lots of different combinations to play with.
Once Ototo has been funded we plan to develop some software which will allow you to add new sounds to Ototo via USB, allowing you to tweak the synthesiser parameters and download new sounds from the Ototo community.
Yes, it's a class compliant MIDI implementation which means it will be recognised in any MIDI compliant software and OS: Linux, Mac, Windows and iOS. This means you can control as wide a range of software as possible, including integration with the iPad using the Camera Connection Kit.
Using USB MIDI means you can control sounds being generated on another device. This means you can access a wider array of sounds: use Ototo to control professional music software such as Ableton Live or Logic, plug Ototo into an iPad and you can control Garageband, or create your own custom application which interfaces with the real world using Ototo.
For example in Ableton Live you could trigger loops or samples by using conductive materials while changing effects using the sensors, allowing you in perform with power of Ableton without having to use a keyboard and mouse.
Yes definitely, the inputs on Ototo are 5 volt analog inputs so most sensors that work with the Arduino will work with Ototo. The connectors are a 2.54mm Molex style connector which we've found are quite easy to get hold of. There are many different types of sensors available to try out; you can use accelerometers, gyroscopes and magnetic sensors and more. We'll be expanding our range of sensors in the future, but we encourage you to build your own!
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