We investigate the different ways to get the most out of Blocks 10/11/16
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So last week saw the announcement of ROLI Blocks a modular hardware system designed for use with iOS devices, we were at the launch to check out the supposes-d new shape of music production....
ROLI Blocks gives you the 5 dimensional touch or Multidimensional Polyphonic Expression (MPE) of their flagship products at a much lower price.
But so far as all the hype about it goes, it is really just a flashy controller for your iPhone, iPad or Equator synth. However after a little bit of digging it has become obvious that you can actually get that 5D touch data out of the hardware and into many different applications.
The first and most obvious way you can do this is to use it as a MIDI controller for your VSTs see this walkthrough to see how to do it in Garageband and Logic. We're guessing this process can be applied to any DAW.
This gets much more exciting however when you look at using Blocks with Max/MSP. Max already has an mpeparse object which allows you to take your MPE controller (in this case Blocks) and get all of the data out of it.
There has also been a new set of tools released to be used with Blocks. This new set of Max UI objects allows you to treat the Lightpad Block as if it were a small square iPad running Mira. The initial set of Max objects includes a button, toggle, slider and a more complex button grid. There are also objects for displaying images and jitter matrices, plus a canvas object that you can draw to.
Here's what the creator of the new objects has to say about Blocks and Max together:
"One of the reasons we were convinced to be early adopters of this hardware project as it moved from prototype to production was the challenge of figuring out how to manage the combination of abstract modular hardware and abstract modular software. The package represents our first thinking about this challenge, and I'm looking forward to seeing what you can do with it."
The SDK for Blocks is also on the JUCE Github. JUCE is welcome platform to see being used in the SDK because it is widely used to create mutliplatform VSTs.
For those who aren't into computers you could also use the Blocks as a controller with something like the Expert Sleepers FH-1 (or any USB host>CV module) and use it with your modular.
All of this opens up the Blocks environment to be used by a much wider audience than we initially thought at the release party.