The Annual 2012

School of Visual Arts

Body Language

Russ Maschmeyer

Designed as an attachment for the Xbox console, Microsoft’s Kinect game machine uses infrared light to construct a three-dimensional view of the space around the player, and has been the subject of numerous user modifications. In fall 2011, MFA Interaction Design Department student Russ Maschmeyer hacked the then brand-new device to translate the movements of his body into sound.

Technology writer Peter Wayner reported about Maschmeyer’s work in The New York Times:

Russ Maschmeyer doesn’t have anything against old-fashioned musical instruments. He just thinks they’re a bit hard to play. In his work as a graduate student at the School of Visual Arts in New York, he created one from thin air.

He hacked a Microsoft Kinect game machine so the device’s cameras follow his body and turn its movements into notes. He can pluck notes from the air as if he were playing a harp. ‘Traditional instruments are really, really complex,’ he said. ‘Not only do you need to know how to produce a note, but know how to produce them rapidly in sequence. To be a master musician, you’ve got to be able to pull off all of the micromovements necessary for it to be an expressive performance.’

With a Wave of the Hand, Improvising on Kinect