As Tim Arterbury bounced around, bare footed in his bedroom, he waived two motion-driven video game controls as if he were striking drumsticks on drum set.
With each invisible strike, a loud boom or bang came from his speakers and he grinned at his own creation.
“A long time ago, I thought to myself, it would be really cool if there were virtual reality drums or something, because I’m not a drummer and I’ve always wanted to learn,” Arterbury said. “But it’s too expensive to buy a $500 drum set, and I don’t have space for that either.”
The Baylor University computer science major recently created musical software called MoveMIDI. The program lets users play virtual instruments and control sound functions using motion.
The former Midway Independent School District student started work on the software in his college apartment in December. He recently released a trial online to get feedback and hopefully generate interest, he said.
The product could change how musicians approach music. One whip of an arm could offer a DJ a new way to give an audience a visual cue to the equivalent of moving three knobs at once, Arterbury said.
“I thought it was a great first step,” Baylor computer science assistant professor Michael Poor said. “It’s very creative and works for a problem he wanted to try and tackle. It has some potential to be a cool new way of creating music.”
Poor specializes in peoples’ interaction with computers. He taught Arterbury last year in a computer graphics course and has helped him understand skills needed to build the program, he said.
MoveMIDI is only compatible with Playstation Move motion controllers for now, but Arterbury wants to branch out and make the software work with any virtual reality hardware systems, he said.
“I was at home over Christmas break and saw these, and we would play virtual disc golf or virtual tennis or whatever,” Arterbury said. “I thought the tracking on these were pretty good. I thought to myself if they could do that in video games, you could probably apply the same kind of concept to music. So, I took these and basically used some code to make them basically talk music language.”
With inputs from the user’s movements, the program can send MIDI signals to any hardware or software that uses the industry-standard protocol, which stands for Musical Instrument Digital Interface.
It has been interesting to watch Arterbury’s process unfold from scratch, his roommate Collin Newman said. He has lived with Arterbury since last school year.
“I knew he would make it work. I wasn’t surprised,” Newman said. “It was just a matter of when. … He’s figured out the tweaks and smoothed it out. Now, it works really, really great.”
A finance and entrepreneurship major, Newman said he can see his roommate’s invention serving a broad range of people.
But Arterbury said he has a few more months of taking feedback from a small group and continuing work before releasing the program to a broader audience.
He may start a Kickstarter campaign to help with development and to buy more virtual reality equipment to test MoveMIDI once he releases the first version to the public, he said.
“I sort of have this vision for it and know what it’s going to be,” Arterbury said. “Even though it’s simple, like moving this (control) in the air, it changes something. If I know I can do that, I know this can make music if I just build on top of that.”
And once he graduates, he hopes to build a career developing music software. For now, this is the perfect place to start, he said.