Imagine conducting the iconic BBC Philharmonic Orchestra. One of the most prestigious musical groups in the world and one that professional conductors spend a lifetime dreaming of working with. Now imagine being seven years old and being able to take your place on the conductor’s podium. The BBC Maestro interactive installation allowed children to do just this.
A collaboration between the BBC’s Research and Development team, the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra and digital design company magneticNorth, BBC Maestro is an interactive installation that uses Microsoft Kinect technologies to let kids virtually conduct the ‘1812 Overture’ with their gestures.
Initially launched as part of ‘Music Boxes’, the 70 shipping containers that were set up at BBC MediaCityUK as part of the Manchester International Festival in July 2011, kids were able to step into their own miniature concert hall and control the tempo and dynamic of the orchestra with nothing but their hands.
High-definition video and full 3D sound of the Orchestra were captured, so the child and audience felt like they were stood in the centre of a concert hall, hearing the instruments and reverberation from all around. The Kinect technology detects the user’s movements and converts them into musically meaningful instructions, so the child could move their hands to control the speed of the performance.
Maestro provides a completely new way for the under 10’s to interact with music and the installation thrilled and delighted thousands of children during the month it was installed. Using Kinect meant that young people found it natural to use, and as the complex technology at the core of the installation is hidden away it makes for a truly magical experience.
Since launching at the Manchester International Festival Maestro has been used at a number of other events in and outside the UK, in March 2012 it appeared at the Abu Dhabi Festival and is continually being adapted and built upon for future use.
This has been a fun project to work on and has allowed us to continue our experiments into how we can interact with digital content. The Kinect allowed us to create something that children found natural to use, and as the complex technology at the core of Maestro is hidden away it makes the experience even more magical.
Adam Todd, Creative Director, magneticNorth (mN)