I was very happy to meet with Balam Soto.
Betty Tsang, from the library, led me over to the cubicles where Balam was outfitting his daughter with their latest invention. It was the hour before the Mini Maker Faire was to begin. Balam was to conduct the first of 6 presentations in the McManus Room.
He was eager to explain to me what his invention was all about. I was eager to learn. There was a (huge) big screen TV. Circuit boards and wires were strewn across the table. His daughter, Jade, was proving to be a distraction, as she was very pretty and practicing modern dance moves in her leotard.
I am usually quick to discern the purpose of all manner of invention. This one had me intrigued. He began by telling me about the circuit boards he had designed. They were sensors of a sort. Not the Arduino ones I had read about, marketed by Make Magazine, but inspired by them. “This is my prototype sensor. I designed and developed it myself!,” said Balam.
“I’m going to make kits available for sale. Custom made circuit boards for artists. I want to make it easy for artists,” he continued while waving a strip sensor in front of my camera. “Normally sensors such as these will cost $35. dollars but this one I have developed for under $5.”
I still wasn’t sure what was going on. What were the sensors for? What was to be sensed?
Betty was quick to see I wasn’t getting it and she said, “the body suit!” as she pointed to Jade.
Ah-yes-now I get it. Balam had developed a new kind of Musical Instrument Digital Interface otherwise known as MIDI.
I had used MIDI quite a bit back in my Hollywood days, programming music for various artists. The idea behind MIDI is that you have what is called a controller, used to trigger digital sounds. Common triggers are electronic keyboards or drum pads connected by a 5 wire DIN connector to a sound module, sampler or software based generator of digital sounds.
Balam smiled as the recognition upon my face revealed that I was beginning to understand. “Open Sound Control, which is the new MIDI,” he said.
Balam had invented a wearable controller that could interpret the wearers movements into musical tones, and visuals.
This was something that I wanted to get into. In fact, I had worked with Scott Schwamm, a synthesizer inventor in Burbank 10 years previously and we had discussed the possibilities of using strip sensors in unique ways. Here was Balam doing just that and more.
Oh-how-I-wanted to linger but there were 60 other Makers to meet.
See his website here.