Absolut Quartet – rubber ball-powered, music-making contraption

The Absolut Quartet has to be one of the coolest toys we’ve played with on the ‘net in a long time. First, let’s dive into what the thing actually is.

The Absolut Quartet is “a multi-instrumental music-making machine combining art and technology to create the equivalent of a classic human quartet. With a twist. It consists of three robotic “musicians” – as an online user you become the fourth musician.”

The first robotic musician is a marimba. 50 robotic cannons shoot rubber balls 6 feet into the air. When the balls land, they hit the marimba keys. The second musician is based on the idea of the “finger on the wine glass.” There are a series of glasses, tuned to different pitches, that are all spinning at the same time. These glasses are “played” by small robotic fingers. Finally, an array of percussive instruments rounds out the robotic trio.

Here’s where you come in. “By playing the piano, you inspire the three robot ‘musicians.’ They will start to play differently depending on how you inspire them with your melodies. You will experience the interaction with Absolut Quartet live through the four web cameras broadcasting in real time to your screen.”

When you input the initial melody, the machine hears it from a nearby speaker (and you can witness this online). It then interprets the melody and creates its own version based on what you played. As Absolut Quartet plays, you can interact with it to further tweak what it’s playing.

We’ve played with it online and have to give it two thumbs up. It’s one of the most creative feats of engineering we’ve seen in a long time. And, letting anyone interact with the machine online is absolute (no pun intended) genius.

You can go play with Absolut Quartet here. It will even email you a video of what you played after you’re done.