It’s 2015. Back in 1985, (according to Back To The Future) they thought we’d have flying cars, hoverboards, and automatic dog walkers. We’re still working on our flying car models, but one electronic device takes gold in the most futuristic looking instrument; the Reactable. Actually conceived in 2003, the Reactable has been popping up all over newsfeeds and has been making an appearance at all those underground shows no one ever invites you to. It’s an electronic instrument that operates with a tangible tabletop user interface and creates some of the most unique analog synth sounds by twisting, turning, and moving blocks around a backlit display. It also has a pretty sweet set-up and lots of visual candy to go along with it.
In short, a user interface is a product in which a person interacts with digital information through the physical environment. The Reactable is a round translucent table, usually used in a darkened room, and uses illumination from back lights to light up an LED screen. The user then places blocks called tangibles on the table, by moving the tangibles or using fingertips, a virtual modular synthesizer is operated which then creates beats and sound effects. As the tangibles are being placed on the table, different animated symbols appear such as circles, lines, or waveforms.
The Reactable was thought of and created by a team at the Pompeu Fabra University in Barcelona. Sergi Jordà, Günter Geiger, Martin Kaltenbrunner and Marcos Alonso presented their creation for the first time in a public concert at the International Computer Music Conference 2005 in Barcelona. Although pretty unknown, the Reactable is gaining popularity through Youtube videos and Icelandic singer-songwriter Björk who incorporated the a live Reactable performance on her world tour Volta (2007-2008). You can buy your very own Reactable for a hefty price of $8,500, or just check out the app on your phone. Either way, we want one. Imagine creating musical and visual masterpieces with your fingertips!