Cameron Coward

You’ve probably heard people joke that all modern DJs have to do is push the “play” button on a laptop. In most cases, that’s not true — DJs are mixing and creating the music in real-time. But even when it is true, they still put the effort into composing the music at some point. People simply get frustrated because they want to see a performance and not just listen to a recording. One way to achieve that is with visually and auditorily interesting robotic music, and the Dadamachines Automat Toolkit was designed to make that easy. Now, Helen Leigh is working on producing a miniature version of Automat.

The full-size Automat launched through Kickstarter last year, and is now available for normal purchases. The new, smaller version is a collaboration between Helen Leigh, Johannes Lohbihler, Dadamachines, and numerous hackers and musicians. The Mini Automat is being designed for both accessibility and hackability, which is why Leigh is perfect for the job. Just one example of her work is the MINI.MU Glove Kit from Pimoroni, which is a wearable instrument designed specifically for kids to learn about electronics and music.

The Mini Automat is harnessing those same principles, but it isn’t just for kids. Like the original Automat, it has a controller that can connect to a MIDI device or computer. The output from the controller goes to solenoids that can be used to beat on drums, shake tambourines, rattle maracas, or whatever else you can dream up to build your own robotic band. The Mini Automat is open source and compatible with both Arduino and Circuit Python, so you can hack it however you like. It also works with just about any DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) software on the market, so you can use what you’re already familiar with. Best of all, a number of accessories are being developed to make it easy to play a variety of instruments — and everyday objects — with the solenoids.

The original Automat at work

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