PocoPoco – The Motorized Controller

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Revealed earlier this month at the SIGGRAPH Conference in Vancouver, the flashy PocoPoco musical interface seems poised to bring a new level of tactile control to controllers. We reached out to one of the device’s designers, Takaharu Kanai from the IDEAA Lab team at Tokyo Metropolitan University, to get exclusive details on the device.

The PocoPoco seen in the above demo video is being used to control multiple parameters as a variation on a classic sequencer setup that you often times see with a Monome, or even a Midi Fighter, as seen in this clip. The mapping display in the video is much more powerful than a typical sequence setup – especially considering the possibilities for turning and tweaking actions to act as an aftertouch effect.

The design of the device itself looks very similar to a certain product that DJTT produces, in a four by four grid of buttons with color-changing LED’s under each of them. Being a supernaturally inquisitive bunch, we decided that we needed to know more about this device, what’s driving it, how it feels, and what the possibilities are. We got in touch with the IDEAA Lab team to find out more.

How much do you think the PocoPoco would cost to produce commercially?
The PocoPoco that we exhibited is [a] prototype, but we guess it [would] cost about 1000 dollars.

What software are the units controlling in the demo videos? Our guess here at the DJTT office is either Ableton or a MaxMSP program.
The units are controlling Logic. PocoPoco sends MIDI messages to logic, [and] in addition, we are using MaxMSP to send only the MIDI messages to synchronize each PocoPoco.

What kind of data are they sending?
They send MIDI signal to [a] PC over USB-MIDI drivers. We can assign their actions (pushing, holding, and rotating) to various functions.

How reliable are the servos that drive the buttons up and down? Is there any concern about them failing under prolonged use?
We are using the original “solenoid actuator” instead of other motors. It can move smoothly and quickly. If we continue to pass an electrical current through the solenoid, the button is kept up. However, in this circuit design the transistor is broken by the long-term current. So, we only use the short term pop-up.

Anything else to know on how the buttons move up and down and feel?
Our units consist of “moving units” and a “base unit”. The moving units have a neodymium magnet in its bottom. The base unit has a solenoid and a aluminum pipe that goes into the moving units. Using the aluminum pipe, the motion of the moving unit is kept in uniform motion because of their magnetic properties. It feels nice!

How much power does the PocoPoco require?
It requires DC 12V powered by [an] AC adapter. It draws a max of 60 watts.

Any other technical specifications of the device that you can offer us?
Size of device : 205 × 205 × 90(W × D × H)mm
Material of chassis : ABS
External communication standard : MIDI?one INPUT and one OUTPUT

Author’s Edit: I received a few answers to some of my follow-up questions – see below:

Is the up/down state of the servos midi-controllable, or is that reactive to a different action or the LED states?
A user can control MIDI messages by pushing, catching, and turning each moving unit.
PocoPoco sends individual Control Change messages corresponding to each unit’s height and rotation. A user can assign these CC messages as he likes (volume, filter, pitch bend and etc…). In the movie of the performance at SIGGRAPH, players change the EQ  parameter by rotating the green unit in the corner.

Regarding the LED state, the white light indicates time line of the music sequencer and other color lights indicate kind of the instrument that user playing or state of device. A user can choose and change 16 instruments.

Are there any plans to move towards selling this device on a larger scale?
In the future, we would like to sell on a larger scale with more fun function. However we are at experimental stage yet, so we don’t have clear plan.
For more information on the PocoPoco, visit the official site.

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  • I was kinda’ expecting this on the MIDIFighter 3D. Not the pop-up with solenoids part, but buttons with a twist option… knobs with a push-in option? Whichever. I like this idea, totally support now and interesting ideas and think it will work well for some people, but not me (at least right now)… you know, unless this is the new Native Instruments F1.

  • when i first saw the 3 japanese guys performing, i thought…hey they’re imitating Kraftwerk…now wait…what’s that song they’re playing? hhmm..

    it looks like an awesome new interface for controlling music

  • Anonymous

    LMFAO. Not only a whac-a-mole, but grab-a-mole too.

    It is intersting to watch, but for me, that is about as far as it goes.

    scamo 

  • Gowers

    Please do a piece on the nike show music with hifana! I think it would be cool to have a more in depth interview about how it was all done, youtube video here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uS1exujG3cY if you are skeptical at all just watch the making of video. I wanna know more about it guys please!!!!

  • Gowers

    Please do a piece on the nike show music with hifana! I think it would be cool to have a more in depth interview about how it was all done, youtube video here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uS1exujG3cY if you are skeptical at all just watch the making of video. I wanna know more about it guys please!!!!

  • Arthurge

    Useless ?

  • Arthurge

    Useless ?

  • Alex

    Love it, very Japanese.

  • Alex

    Love it, very Japanese.

  • it’s kinda cute in a strange way…. 

  • it’s kinda cute in a strange way…. 

  • I wanna see four PocoPocos doing rendition of Trans Europe Express!

  • I wanna see four PocoPocos doing rendition of Trans Europe Express!

  • We can call it: Whac-a-MIDI or PocoFighter!

  • They are one Japanese short of a whole Kraftwerk set!

  • Kraftwerk meets MIDI Fighter!

  • D Holling

    The midi fighter just got nerdier

  • D Holling

    The midi fighter just got nerdier

  • Lauti

    looks fun
    don’t know how useful it can be as a controller

    i mean, touchscreens, pads, moving things, etc: Its hard to beat the old button/knobs functionality

  • Lauti

    looks fun
    don’t know how useful it can be as a controller

    i mean, touchscreens, pads, moving things, etc: Its hard to beat the old button/knobs functionality

  • Ephortless

    Lame gotta say I like the midi fighter as a controller to accompany a performance setup though this just looks boring at first glance

  • Ephortless

    Lame gotta say I like the midi fighter as a controller to accompany a performance setup though this just looks boring at first glance

  • Whac-a-mole for DJ’s 

  • Whac-a-mole for DJ’s 

  • 60W???

  • 60W???

    • Anonymous

      It’s a musical instrument AND a space heater.
      A sequencer that also makes tea.

    • Anonymous

      It’s a musical instrument AND a space heater.
      A sequencer that also makes tea.

  • DEAN

    pretty average!!

  • DEAN

    pretty average!!

  • FP

    i was there at Siggraph Vancouver and got to see the instrument live…
    the idea was great and all but truth be told, the controller was rather flimsy… not a button mash sorta instrument… and the, often funny, problem would be catching the knobs… not a consumer ready product but its getting there…

  • FP

    i was there at Siggraph Vancouver and got to see the instrument live…
    the idea was great and all but truth be told, the controller was rather flimsy… not a button mash sorta instrument… and the, often funny, problem would be catching the knobs… not a consumer ready product but its getting there…

  • proben

    Really cool.  Were they inspired by the midifighter or is is it coincidental?  I guess a 4×4 grid of round things isn’t that unique when you think about it but daaaaamn that looks a lot like a midifighter

  • proben

    Really cool.  Were they inspired by the midifighter or is is it coincidental?  I guess a 4×4 grid of round things isn’t that unique when you think about it but daaaaamn that looks a lot like a midifighter