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They Did What?: 

Why did the Seattle Symphony buy an Xbox One?

The greatest selfie stick ever.

The greatest selfie stick ever.

Okay, technically we don’t know that the Seattle Symphony did buy an Xbox One. But they have a Kinect 2.0. As you can see from the picture above, it’s stuck on top of a stick. But why?

In short, to control robotic instruments alongside their flesh-and-bloody counterparts.

In a one-off 20 minute performance, conductor Ludovic Morlot used a Kinect sensor to command a robotic grand piano, a 24-reedhorn sculpture and a set of concert chimes. As he explains in the video below, one hand selects the instrument receiving the instructions, and the second delivers the actual message.

The performance was done in the Benaroya Hall, with the Kinect placed in front of the conductor’s stand allowing Morlot to interact with both his robotic and human musicians. We imagine they then kicked back with a little Dance Central 3 afterwards, but no footage of that exists. Maybe they’re terrible dancers.

“It’s taken me out of my comfort zone. I’ve been old-fashioned in a way, studying music. The element of bringing technology to it is foreign to me,” explained Morlot, “That’s what attracted me to it.”

The code for the customized Kinect experience was written by Dimitri Diakopoulos. “Conducting is a rich language full of subtlety, nuance and vigor. I imagined it would be an interesting challenge making Trimpin’s mechanical instruments understand a tiny bit of this language,” he explained.

There were certain challenges to get around to make the dream a reality, the biggest of which was light, which Diakopoulos describes as potentially “a killer”. To dodge the problem the sensor was decked out with a black backdrop.

With Kinect sometimes struggling to detect movements in smaller rooms, we can’t help but feel a concert hall might have been how motion controls were meant to be played. You can see for yourself in the video below.

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