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Amit Zoran’s Chameleon guitar uses replaceable soundboards built from various types of wood and other materials to take on different sonic characteristics –

The five electronic pickups on the soundboard provide detailed information about the wood’s acoustic response to the vibration of the strings. This information is then processed by the computer to simulate different shapes and sizes of the resonating chamber. “The original signal is not synthetic, it’s acoustic,” Zoran says. “Then we can simulate different shapes, or a bigger instrument.” The guitar can even be made to simulate shapes that would be impossible to build physically. “We can make a guitar the size of a mountain,” he says. Or the size of a mouse.

Because the actual soundboard is small and inexpensive, compared to the larger size and intricate craftsmanship required to build a whole acoustic instrument, it will allow for a lot of freedom to experiment, he says. “It’s small, it’s cheap, you can take risks,” he says. For example, he has a piece of spruce from an old bridge in Vermont, more than 150 years old, that he plans to use to make another soundboard. The wooden beam is too narrow to use to make a whole guitar, but big enough to try out for the Chameleon Guitar.

The Chameleon seems to offer a unique shortcut for guitarists searching for their signature tone. It’ll be interesting to hear how well the onboard digital processing handles scaling those sounds. Read more on the instrument’s development at MIT News. [via Synthtopia]