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The Latest Motion Control Technology for DJs

The motion control of the past in the world of DJing has been mostly limited to handheld controllers with gyroscopes built in –  the likes of Wiimotes, Midi Fighter 3Ds and Numark Orbits. But what happens when the gear dissappears or becomes wearable? Today we take a look at some of the most interesting developments in DJ-applicable motion control devices – read on.

Motion often feels extremely contrived when used to control DJ software – perhaps because it’s associated with the exaggerated waving about that so many DJ megastars do when they’re not actually touching the controls. The issue becomes creating motion-based controls that not only are fun to use, but go beyond the basic gimmick of motion control to become useful, precise, and convenient for a DJ or live performer.

Aftertouch DIY MIDI Glove by Gztomash

You might recognize Gztomash’s name from previous articles on DJ TechTools where he’s crafted up ingenious solutions (like making a sequencer out of Traktor’s Remix Decks) – and earlier this year he decided to craft his own motion-based DJ solution that uses a glove system. The motion control is very similar to Imogene Heap’s gloves and allows for a variety of controls, demonstrated in the video below.

Advantages: Variety of control gestures. Glove makes you look like a cyborg.
Drawbacks: Custom solution means you’ll have to DIY if you want one!

More info on Ghztomash’s blog here

Leap Motion With Traktor + Ableton

We wrote about the Leap Motion device over a year ago when it was still in development, but now the tiny motion sensor device is on the public market for an reasonable price tag, and all over YouTube we’ve started to see the unit in use with a number of different audio applications.

Advantages: Very precise, can detect individual fingers. Already a fairly wide base of users. Cheap!
Drawbacks: Limited to a certain “detection zone” above the device where all motion is sensed relative to.

As usual, in the DJ world, the first thing to apply motion to is always effects and filter control – check out the Leap Motion used in Traktor and Ableton in the videos below:

More info on Leap Motion

Coming Soon: MYO Wearable Gesture Control

This is still upcoming tech – there’s no videos of it in use with digital DJ software, but we’re pretty sure it could be spot on. Using a flexible armband to detect the muscle tension in your arm, MYO promises to be able to interpret a variety of gestures and arm movements with ease, and with a one-size-fits-all band it won’t have the same physical limitations that glove-based controllers might.

Advantages: There’s no “detection zone” like the Leap Motion device has
Drawbacks: Still has to make it to market, uncertain as to comfort over long periods of wear

Learn more about MYO in the below video:

More info on MYO here

Hot Hand USB

We would be remiss in not mentioning the product that Mad Zach showed off in action a few months ago on the DJTT blog, the Source Audio Hot Hand. Probably one of the smallest pieces of wearable motion tech out there, the Hot Hand detects motion along three axises. Here’s Mad Zach rocking it in his own review – including him wearing it on his foot.

Advantages: Wireless + wearable, very easy to set up. 
 MIDI mapping all axises rapidly becomes very complicated. Need to attach it to a small body part like fingers or toes.

Read Mad Zach’s review here

Motion in the Ocean?

We’re pretty sure there’s even more exciting motion-based technology on the horizon – but for now it seems unlikely that performers will adopt currently available motion technology until even more simple and reliable solutions come to market that really focus on performers. Would you ever use motion technology in your DJ sets or live productions? Let us know in the comments below.

  • Dmitry

    Hi Dear DJTechTools!
    Thank you for your articles about DJ’s technologies!
    Could you make a review of the new MIDI controller Tornado Midi Gloves in your laboratory.
    We would like to know your professional opinion about this new product.
    Thank you!

  • now smartwatches getting more common, here is a midi controller using
    the motion sensors of an Android wearable:

  • Brandy Spain

    um wth? lol

  • DJ SelArom

    hey thanks for including my video in the Leap Motion section!

    here’s a tutorial on how I used Geco to map the Leap Motion to Traktor:

    I agree that it’s still early to say how successful this thing will be but I will say that I would feel confident using it live at least for something simple like filters that don’t need a ton of precision.

    and for house parties definitely a lot of fun, everyone gets a chance to play with it 🙂

  • Victor Fabian Nieves

    Check this Uruguayan DJ resident in Brazil

  • Aaron Leese

    Nice! I’ve been working with one of these for a while now as well. The control is ok when using it in OS mode, as above. What’s a bit nicer is a dedicated app (so you can add those dead zones, for example, or skewing, or gestures). GECO is really good for this, I encourage everyone to check that out.

    We’re working on one too, of course (The Theremin app is coming soon, among others).

    For those who are down to watch yet another video – here is my first go round at a 3D filter delay effect. Doing it as a plugin, we’re able to add the FFT, which is a nice touch, I think.

    Anyway, more coming soon.

  • 8bitslave

    Who wants to try my Beamz? haha

  • chris

    so i had to controll my nervous arm …. hm ….. maybe i have listen to it first

  • mispel

    I pre-ordered the Leap Motion Controller specifically because I was interested in using it with Traktor and Ableton. Since shortly after its arrival I’ve been using the Geco MIDI app, which is very simple to map. The technology isn’t perfect at this point, but it is usable (though I’ve wondered how it’d do in a club with any stage lights since it sometimes struggles with bright light sources nearby). The accuracy is pretty good, reliability is still a little wanting. My biggest disappointment really has been that my dreams of using it to control multiple parameters, giving up the mouse, were somewhat naive… You CAN map any axis to it, but when using it you realize that it’s really hard to isolate the different movements, so you end up affecting several parameters at once when you only intend to do one. I’m sure practice will improve that to some extent, but more realistically I’ve learned to map only a couple things to each hand state.

    Still, that gives me, for example – Left hand (fingers spread open) controls fx wet/dry based on height, fx1 knob 1 is mapped to left/right, fx1 2 knob is mapped to forward/backward, and fx1 3 knob is fingertips tipped up/down. Right hand is the same mapping, but for fx2. The fx on/off for 1,2,3 are set to turn on with any signal, so they only come on when you reach into the “zone”. With the right mix of effects selected, it can be really fun. Hot mess with the wrong set :(. Also, since it recognizes fingers together as a separate state, I’ve mapped that to deck 1 and 2 filters.

    There are so many ways that you can go with it, right now it is still a novelty (one that did really impress folks at a house party last weekend). However, I believe that a lot of the issues will resolve as the programmers become more accustomed to it, the API improves, and people start working out standard gestures.

    • Dr Beatz

      hey ya
      Can you go into some more detail about how this device interfaces with Traktor (or what ever your software using)? From what I gather, this just interfaces with apps that you DL (geco midi) which also cost money too.

      Also are you on windows or Mac. Reading comments I see a TON of Windows users saying nothing works, so thats a big hesitation in buying it. Price seems spot on.

      Can you also elaborate on the light sensitivity?

      • mispel

        Leap has an app store called Airspace. The apps range from free to fairly expensive. Most are under $5, the most expensive I’ve seen was around $30. I think Geco MIDI was $10. I use Traktor, mapping them together is easy. You select what cc a given movement controls in a Geco setup panel, which visually shows you what it’s detecting for each hand. Once that’s set up you map it like anything else in Traktor. I was anxious to use the Leap when I got it so I ended up using a mapping I already had in Traktor and I just set the Geco channels to match. While you’re mapping in Traktor you can mute/solo different movement channels in Geco, which makes things pretty simple.

        I’m running a mediocre old Win7 laptop that’s way below the Leap’s minimum requirements- not a i-series processor, (P6100 a 2ghz with 4gb RAM), and it works pretty well for me. I wouldn’t want to use it during a big paying gig, but I’d be wary of that on this laptop anyway. A buddy who’s used Leap on my computer just bought one last week and said it seems smoother on his (again older) Macbook.

        I think a lot of the apps on the store are kind of garbage. Several haven’t worked at all for me. When I bought Geco it felt like I was gambling my $10, but it paid off for me. The same programmer also put out a general OS control program that is more complex and identifies fingers rather than just right/left hands with open/closed for each. That could potentially be mapped into Traktor too since I think you can assign keystrokes to gestures.

        The light sensitivity thing has to do with the fact the controller hardware sends infrared beams to measure hand position. If you have a bright backlight it has a harder time figuring out what your hand is doing. It’ll warn you and go into a more robust mode when there’s a backlight issue, I’ve definitely noticed a difference in performance from it.

        I don’t want to give the impression that the thing is perfected, but I think that it’ll improve quickly. After a couple hours at the house party it did hang up and stop responding That’s why when I played out with it I still had my hardware controller hooked up… It’s pretty fun and definitely impresses people. The downside is that they then REALLY want to come play with it themselves…

        Hope this helps!

  • DJ Gerard

    Cool stuff. But yea would we actually use it LIVE?

  • Uun

    This reminds me of whats going on in the gaming industry. Motion control is a long ways off from being as accurate and reliable as a tactile control method.

  • Renral

    I had a brief go using mine to control filters and a chain of beat repeats in Ableton, filters work a treat but its too sensitive if thats possible, needs a nice dead zone for delays etc,

  • DeeJay Fotifo

    I have leap motion but as said previously sometimes it picks up wrong movements

  • BatKING

    You forgot the frenchy :

    • rubber

      crystall ball is more suitable for dj performance

  • Chris W

    I actually have a leapmotion and yeah it does countrol with gestures. But I have yet to get it dialed in to use for internal mixer control. When using it and my MF3d it will sometimes track motion not meant for it. But the potential for it is there, Just needs to be developed more.