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- The number of gesture-based wearable devices and systems increases on a monthly basis. But not all gesture tech is created equal, a fact that has led many to question some of the fantastic claims made by new entrants in the space.The iRing is different, however. It happens to be one of those rare gesture controllers that works as advertised.IK Multimedia's touch-less MIDI controller and associated music creation apps can recognize your movements almost instantaneously, allowing you to create powerful electronic music performances by simply moving your hands in mid-air.Using the front-facing camera on your iOS device, as well as what the company calls "advanced volumetric positioning algorithms", the iRing and its apps detect the device's dot patterns, which are then matched with specific functions on your mobile device.But unlike more powerful and sophisticated gesture-based systems like the Nintendo Wiior Microsoft's Kinect, the iRing requires that your movements remain fairly rigid and confined to a distinct area (roughly five feet away from the camera appears to be its tracking limit).So while your music performances may be high energy, onlookers may think you're practicing karate. That's because the most effective way to use the iRing is through a series of forward and backward slow-motion punching movements and wrist turns.By moving your iRinged hand either toward or away from the iPhone or iPad's front facing camera, a corresponding level change is represented on the screen. This motion allows you to raise or lower the level of flange or reverb on the effects side, or track down to a different pattern on the beat pattern side. Shifting between effects or beat patterns can also be accomplished by twisting the iRing as it faces the camera.
It takes practice, but once you get the basic spatial mechanics down, creating a controlled music performance becomes a lot easierIt takes practice, but once you get the basic spatial mechanics down, creating a controlled music performance becomes a lot easier.
As with all gesture control systems, the iRing comes with a few caveats. The user manual advises against using the iRing in low light conditions or if you have a patterned shirt on, visual dynamics that could hinder the system's ability to recognize the iRing. However, when we tried using the iRing while wearing a patterned shirt there appeared to be no discernible difference in performance.Similarly, when attempting to use the iRing in pitch black darkness, as expected, it didn't work, but once we turned on a nearby flat screen television (with the rest of the room still dark), the light cast from the TV screen was enough to get the system functioning again. This is crucial because the makers of the iRing tout the device as a tool for a DJ-ing a party, usually a low-light situation. Our test indicates that if you at least use a small light source near your DJ set-up, you'll likely have little difficulty getting the iRing to function, even while the rest of the room is dark.
The plastic iRing ($24.99 for two iRings) — which comes in white, grey and green — feels solid, but is extremely lightweight. It does seem as though it could easily be broken if handled roughly.The best way to become familiar with the iRing is through the free iRing Music Maker app (requires iOS 6.0 or later). Although the app comes with several patterns and effects that are enough to allow you to learn how to use the system, once you're hooked (and yes, it's addictive) you'll probably be tempted by the in-app beats and effects packages. Some of the additions available include EDM, house, hip-hop and dubstep packs, ranging in price from $1.99 to $4.99, with the total bundle of sound packs offered for $19.99If you're already accustomed to using MIDI devices with iPads and iPhones, you might want to try the iRing FX/Controller (requires iOS 6.1 or later), which includes effects and sounds ranging in price $0.99 to $7.99.And for the developers, one of the best aspects of the iRing is that IK Multimedia is also making an SDK and free licensing program available, a dynamic that could inspire app makers to harness the iRing for even more interesting uses in the future.With a cute name, minimalist apps and hardware that could be mistaken for the remnants of a vending machine candy ring, some will dismiss the iRing and its apps are mere toys. But the simplicity of the iRing and its apps are what make it so powerful.Do you need to use a gesture-based system to DJ a party? Of course not. But often the currency of distinguishing oneself as a DJ is dependent on delivering a unique experience. Controlling the flow of beats via magician-like hand movements may not improve that quality of your music, but it's sure to get you noticed.The capper is the price. If the iRing was a bit more expensive, it might be a non-starter for some, but for the cost of a pizza and a few Starbucks-priced in-app purchases, you can spin like the DJ of the future.
The GoodAmazingly responsive gesture control • Great price • Free apps get you started quickly
The BadDJs can't use the device without some light • Takes a while to learn how to gesture correctly • In-app purchases needed to truly explore the possibilities
The Bottom LineThe iRing may look like a toy at first glance, but once you spend some time with it, you'll soon be impressed by the power and accuracy of this gesture-based music system.
Tags: APPS, APPS AND SOFTWARE, DEV - DESIGN, DEV & DESIGN, GADGETS, IOS, IPAD, IPHONE, IRING, MOBILE, MUSIC, REVIEWS, SOFTWARE, Tech, WEARABLE TECH