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Free Windows app turns your webcam into theremin-like musical instrument

by Kazuaki Nagata

Staff Writer

Let me hear your body talk. An app that turns your webcam into a range of virtual musical instruments debuts on Wednesday, offering aural adventures for those who wanna get physical.

The free app for Windows computers recognizes a user’s gestures correlating to graphics displayed on a computer screen, developer Shikumi Design Inc. said on Tuesday.

The app, named Kagura, works best with the next-generation RealSense 3D camera manufactured by Intel Corp., which realizes more accurate three dimensional recognition and tracking to integrate a person’s movement with a computer.

Kagura is playable with standard webcams pointed at the computer screen, but they won’t recognize gestures, the firm said.

A reporter tried out the rock ‘n’ roll option and found that waving at circular spots on the screen produced noises from standard instruments such as drums and guitar.

As the music develops, users can add more sounds. A thumbs-up gesture increases the tempo, and the reverse slows it down. Users can also record vocals.

Fukuoka-based Shikumi Design said Kagura comes with four genres of pre-installed music: jazz, rock, techno and Japanese.

Shunsuke Nakamura, the company’s president, said it aims to boost Kagura’s uptake by distributing it for free initially. That may be followed by paid, premium business models geared toward music industry professionals.

“Many people still don’t know what it’s like to stand in front of a camera and play music with nothing in your hands,” said Nakamura. “In this situation, I don’t think a lot of people will pay for such an app yet.”

The first priority is to ensure the app becomes widely used, he said.

Shikumi Design plans to release Kagura for Mac OS, although the company has not said when.