"#RSHacks wearables winners – interview with the ‘BioSynth Project’

Music Tech Fest #RSHacks wearables winners – interview with Matan Berkowitz and Cyril Laurier, the ‘BioSynth Project’                                                                                                                           

On Sunday 7th September, Matan Berkowitz (http://www.MatanB.com) and Cyril Laurier, creators of the ‘Biosynth Project’ were awarded the first prize in the music wearables category at Music tech Fest. We caught up with Matan and Cyril to find out more about how BioSynth was created.


We called our project BioSynth. It's a physical, virtual instrument that translates both EEG brainwaves and heartbeats into music. They say the best music comes from both the head and the heart, and this is - in essence - what we were trying to achieve.

The prototype includes two main parts:

1. A custom made EEG headband that I brought with me to from Israel to present and demonstrate at Music Tech Fest. This technology in itself a project I've been working on with Prof. Nathan Intrator, which was originally conceived at TOM (Tikun Olam Make-a-thon) - a 72 hours Hackathon that took place last June in Nazareth and had 120 makers from all over the world creating new technologies for disabled people. Our team won the ALS Prize for Life at the event and we're now working on developing it further.

2. A glove that uses infra-red sensors to read your pulse from the finger. Cyril reverse engineered a sensor built by British wiz Robert Wollner, who attended the first day of Music Tech Fest then flew to Italy. The actual glove was designed by Elio Icaza using carton, Sellotape and whatever he could find at the Hackathon to quickly create a functional model.

The data from the EEG and the heartbeat sensor were then translated to MIDI, allowing me to assign and sound design them in creative ways to create a new musical context. I was influenced by Classical Indian music, especially the concept of Alap - the opening section of typical ragas, which consists of melodic improvisation over a drone without a strict sense of time or beat. I used the heartbeat to generate a deep, thundering drone sound and the signals from the EEG to play ethereal melodic phrases over it. The feeling of loose timing was important because it allowed the organic rhythms of the human pulse and brainwaves to take center stage.

List of components used to create BioSynth: