OptiMusic: Bringing Interaction to Light
Saturday, 27 January 2001
In the run-up to Christmas, L&SI’s Lee Baldock visited the offices of OptiMusic to learn more about the success of its versatile OptiBeam system . . .

Born from an idea to create a musical instrument consisting of multiple beams of light, played through movement and dance, the OptiBeam is a system by which beams of coloured light can be used to trigger sound, or other effects. When the beam is bounced back from a reflective surface, it triggers a pre-programmed action via MIDI. The system - one of the ‘Millennium Products’ so designated by the Design Council - consists of the light unit itself, which can be either the standard seven-beam version, or a single beam; the dedicated light-to-MIDI control box [OM-1] and any MIDI keyboard, sampler or sound module, to generate the sounds.

From there, it can become increasingly complex: groups of OptiBeams in sets of up to 32 units can be programmed via PC to produce up to 99 sequential or simultaneous steps apiece. The MIDI signals can be converted to virtually any other protocol, including DMX. Alternatively, you can place a reflective sticker on the floor beneath a beam, and reverse the operation to trigger when the reflected beam is broken - in this way, a person or object passing through the beam will trigger a cue.

The inventor of the system is Guy Sigalov (inset, left), a talented musician and innovator; working alongside him is commercial director Mishka Klotz (inset, right), and between them, they look after R&D and commercial development from their base in North London. They are joined by Anna Priestner, special needs co-ordinator.

Applications for OptiBeam’s use are pretty endless, once you start to think about it. Mishka Klotz says: "The very fact that there is so much potential means that we have to be very focused in order to identify which markets are ready to take it on board first." In the first case, this turned out to be the Special Needs market - the colourful and musical nature of the system proving ideal for therapeutic purposes. But the service doesn’t stop at product level: Anna Priestner works with clients to produce detailed therapy session guidelines designed to maximise the beneficial effects of the system.

From there, the system has since developed to find its way into a variety of entertainment and lesiure environments. One of the company’s most recent projects was for the VIP opening nights of Cirque Du Soleil’s Quidam show in London. For Cirque, the company was creating an ‘interactive corridor’, in which a series of bizarre cues would be triggered by anyone passing along it. Another recent development is the MAD (Movement Activated Display) System, which develops the idea of the reflective stickers into specially-created reflective logo stickers, which give customers in retail and leisure environments the opportunity to trigger series of cues in any combination - light, sound, video, odours, etc. The keyword used by OptiMusic here is ‘empowerment’ - as Klotz says, it is empowering to be offered this much direct, visible control of your environment. For the client meanwhile, it’s a hugely flexible, easily changeable, very low maintenance attraction.

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