Thud Rumble demo sensor turntable

Charles and Rich of Thud Rumble demonstrate their multi-sensor turntable prototype at MakerCon 2015.

During Wednesday’s closing talk at San Francisco’s MakerCon, members of Thud Rumble demonstrated a suite of digital DJ tools developed in collaboration with Intel and their Edison platform.

Thud Rumble co-founder Ritchie “YogaFrog” Desuasido preceded the demo with a talk about the evolution of DJ technology from record crates, to laptops, and his vision for a post-laptop DJ era.

The proposed Thud Rumble solution is to connect turntables directly to Intel Edison boards running a lean, optimized version of their favorite DJ software. By doing this, DJs could shrink the amount of gear they’d need to lug to a show, but more importantly (especially to the quick reflexes of scratch DJs) is the improved, lower latency achieved by running the DJ software without the added layers of a full OS.

As proof of concept, DJ Hard Rich ran through a handful of demos, including using the Intel Edison to host virtual synthesizer software, connected to a MIDI keyboard controller, and using the Edison running DJ software (Native Instruments Traktor, I believe) with a turntable, a time coded record and a small touch screen for song selection.

The demonstration culminated with a next-generation turntable outfitted with sensors on the top and bottom of the platter, as well as the tone arm, all connected to an Edison board to parse the data.

The sensor laden turntable was able to perform two notable tricks. The first trick was controlling the color and orientation of a DMX controlled stage light based on the speed of the turntable scratch and the orientation of the turntable platter. With all of the data pouring out of the sensors, scratch DJs could easily synchronize lighting and media to the rapid fire movements of their hands.

The second trick was that the record on the turntable was not a digitally time coded record — it was just a regular record bestowed with supernatural powers thanks to the array of sensors integrated into the turntable.

After the talk, I pulled YogaFrog aside for a quick interview and he told me another hope he has for the sensor-integrated turntable: scratch notation.

One of the roadblocks in the turntablist’s fight for artistic parity with other musical instruments is the ability to accurately transcribe their art into some form of notation. Methods such as TTM (Turntablist Transcription Method) have sought to fill the void, but perhaps the addition of turntable sensors could automate the way it’s captured.