The Termenova: A Hybrid Free-Gesture Interface

Leila Hasan, Nicholas Yu, Joseph A. Paradiso


We have created a new electronic musical instrument, referred to as the Termenova (Russian for “daughter of Theremin”) that combines a free-gesture capacitivesensing device with an optical sensing system that detects the reflection of a hand when it intersects a beam of an array of red lasers. The laser beams, which are made visible by a thin layer of theatrical mist, provide visual feedback and guidance to the performer to alleviate the difficulties of using a non-contact interface as well as adding an interesting component for the audience to observe. The system uses capacitive sensing to detect the proximity of the player's hands; this distance is mapped to pitch, volume, or other continuous effect. The laser guide positions are calibrated before play with positioncontrolled servo motors interfaced to a main controller board; the location of each beam corresponds to the position where the performer should move his or her hand to achieve a pre-specified pitch and/or effect. The optical system senses the distance of the player's hands from the source of each laser beam, providing an additional dimension of musical control.

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