ndial: A System for Electronically Generating Music

Electronic musical instruments such as a synthesizer can create new kinds of sounds that would be unlikely or impossible to make with an acoustic instrument such as a violin, drum, or piano. However, most electronic instruments are controlled by a keyboard or other kind of conventional input device. The ndial is a tactile tool that allows people with any level of musical experience—including none—to experiment with new sounds and musical forms.  

Market Opportunity
Consider a modern instrument like the synthesizer. It generates new audio waveforms that a speaker or headphones can translate into new kinds of sound. However, most synths are played with a piano-like keyboard. This requires the user to already possess the skill needed to play the keyboard to generate the desired notes at the right times. It also negates the ability for a musician to play with those sounds in a dynamic, real-time manner.

The ndial can incorporate or capture various audio samples and the user can mix and remix them using intuitive, tactile interface. This design allows its user to create new patterns and soundscapes without having any formal musical training, turning amateur enthusiasts into composers. 

Innovation and Meaningful Advantages
The ndial system connects to a computer running a software program that selects samples at random from a live or prerecorded sound source and maps them to the interface, which looks like 8 buttons in a circle plus additional dials on controls. Switches next to the eight buttons toggle each of the sounds on or off. Tapping on the buttons (which light up when their sound plays) lets the player repeat that sound or, by pressing multiple buttons at once, combine those sounds. 

If the player wants to try another random arrangement of sounds, they can shake the instrument; an internal gyroscope senses the movement and provides a new arrangement of sounds. Dials allow the user to adjust elements such as the length and pitch of the sound samples or make the arrangement more chaotic by telling ndial to play sounds in a more random order rather than in a continual loop.

All together, these controls allow the ndial player to begin with a collection of seemingly random sounds and, through entirely tactile means, create soundscapes they may never have imagined if working on traditional musical instruments. 

Collaboration Opportunity
We are interested in exploring 1) startup opportunities with investors in the music device space; and 2) licensing opportunities with music device companies. 

Principal Investigator
Joseph W. Rovan, PhD
Professor of Music
Brown University
Brown tech ID #2267

IP Information
2019-11-26; US10490173B2; published.
2018-06-19; US10002597B2; published.

Patent Information:
For Information, Contact:
Brown Technology Innovations
350 Eddy Street - Box 1949
Providence, RI 02903
Joseph Rovan
Peter Bussigel
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