Cornell College students create gesture-controlled piano

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MOUNT VERNON, Iowa (KCRG) - Feeling the beat of the music, two Cornell College students have tinkered for hours on an ultrasonic gesture controlled piano.

“It has a bit of learning curve at the beginning because you can't see the notes you have to feel them but we've been able to play hot cross buns,” engineering student Will Dragon said.

Each sensor on the prototype represents an octave.

"All of these sensors transmit an electronic wave out of the receivers and it bounces off hand to the receiver. It uses the speed of sound to figure out how far that object is away and then calculates what note it needs to play,” Dragon said.

The note is displayed on a small screen in front. Although the original idea was for a piano, the students adapted so the device can also be switched to play percussion and guitar.

Qing Baowang says the project gave him practical skills for the future.

"The method we did to do our research is universal,” Baowang said. “The first thing we did is background knowledge research. And step by step. We can fix problems."

They started, weeks ago, by mapping out the project on boards. Now, nearing the end of the research project the team is building a wooden model of the instrument.

“We had programming, electronic engineering, and materials: a lot of things going on,” Baowang said.

All through music, which is a driving factor for Dragon.

"Being a piano scholar as well as involved in marching band and my engineering knowledge so I got to combine my worlds together to get this project,” Dragon said.

It'll get more people to access to music.

"This could be great for someone in a nursing home or something with arthritis that could not press down on keys as much,” Dragon said.