We've seen lots of "block" type tangible sound control systems in installations and experimental student projects, but the folks at Percussa, a small electronics company in Brussels, have made one that's got the kinks worked out enough to go to market. Their "AudioCubes" are glowing, physical blocks that hook up to a computer and map to musical structures, allowing you to unleash your inner geek DJ and play with toys all at the same time. Electronics embedded within each cube allow the blocks to sense one another's positions and orientations, as well as the blocks' distance to other objects, such as a hand (think four-sided mini theramin). They are networked, and scalable, so you can use any number of pieces (up to 100) together, as long as your audio hardware budget can handle it: a single block costs almost 300 bucks, though sets of multiples bring the price per block down.
From the Percussa website:
AudioCubes are a modular live performance instrument that let you shape sound, create music and perform live through hands-on interaction with wireless intelligent objects.
AudioCubes offer new ways to interact with your existing audio software, beyond what is possible with classic knob boxes and trigger pads. They can be used for simple filter sweeps as well as infinitely complex setups in which the musical information they generate will depend on how the objects interact with each other and with their user.
The cubes interface seamlessly with your existing audio software through MIDI and require minimal setup. They work with your existing VST Plug-ins. Templates and sounds are included to get you started quickly. Multiple usersâ€™ AudioCubes talk to each other wirelessly without complicated setup. High-speed, high-resolution, better-than-MIDI sensor technology makes sure even the most subtle performance gestures are captured.