beamz Wikipedia Entry
The beamz™ is a laser based music system created by professional musician and songwriter Jerry Riopelle and released nationwide April 2008 by beamz Interactive. The beamz is a “W” shaped table-top device with six red laser beams. The system connects to a computer via USB and allows users to select a play list from musical compositions.
The interface on the computer displays all six beams and identifies the instrument or sound assigned to each of them. The player interrupts any of the lasers with his or her hands to trigger different audio streams. When the player removes his or her hand the sound stops.
History Inventor Jerry Riopelle says the beamz was inspired by the light-activated door announcer at a local ice cream shop he visited as a child. He and his friends were fascinated by their ability to create a sound by interacting with light. Decades later, with the use of modern Musical Instrument Digital Interface (MIDI), Riopelle began working on creating the product in 2001. Riopelle built the original prototype with PVC pipe and lasers that he bought at a local electronics store. As the product was refined, he found partners to help him develop software and patent it. Today, the brain of the beamz music system is the proprietary, algorithmic software that is loaded onto the user’s personal computer.
Because the player’s interaction with the lasers occurs randomly, the device does not know which beam will be activated, so players create unique musical performances. The software is designed to ensure that the music will always be harmonious.
Jerry Riopelle says the beamz is designed with the intention to meet the needs of the novice as well as the experienced musician. The idea is that new players can plug in, play immediately, and musicians can explore a new form of interactive music.
Technology The beamz is a table top device that has six laser triggers and two button-controlled triggers that activate up to 64 independently controllable sequences of musical notes or events. Each laser is programmed to trigger different melodies, sounds or instruments. When a beam is broken, the custom software program releases a musical note, event or musical phrase that is always harmonious to the other sounds.
Features The current selection of songs includes blues, rock, calypso, classical and hip hop. All of the songs are created by beamz Interactive, but according to USA today, the company is discussing licensing songs with music labels.
What it is The software application is the brains of the beamz and is a kin to what video game developers long have used to match sounds to the gamer’s unpredictable actions. The beamz application creates a musical outcome based on multiple trigger types. It does this with chord mapping and by combining an algorithm with an unlimited number of sequences synchronized to a central clock. There are 99 music channels, combining MIDI, wave files, samples and other musical elements.
The musical arrangement of each piece is determined by the player’s technique. The technology is intended to make it easy for anyone to perform immediately and experience instant gratification. The more complex features aim to continue to provide entertainment to more experienced users.
Components and Specifications Interface: The main beamz unit measures approximately 45 centimeters (18 inches) tall by 64 centimeters (25.5 inches) wide, and weighs approximately 6 pounds (2.72 kg). The six lasers are distributed evenly with three on each side of the “W” shaped device. The volume can be adjusted from the base of the table-top unit. Two beamz units may be hooked-up to one computer to create a duet.
Software: In order to use the beamz, it must be connected to a computer after a PC-based software application is installed. MacBook Pro users can play the beamz while running virtual Windows software.
Music Library: The product comes with 30 musical tracks. Each track comes with a default setting of instruments and sounds assigned to each beam. The performer has the ability to customize the track by changing the musical streams of each beam, the volume of each instrument, and the tempo of the track.
System Requirements: As the beamz must be attached to a computer, it requires:
1. A Pentium 4 processor.
2. A PC running windows XP with Service Pack 2 and .Net 2.0 or Windows Vista.
3. A minimum of 512 MB of system memory (one GB or greater preferred).
4. Four GB of free hard disk space.
5. One free USB port. The beamz controller will not function correctly if connected to a USB hub.
6. A monitor with a resolution of 800 x 600 pixels or better.
7. A sound card and a speaker system or headphones.
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