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Thanks for the memories  July 26, 2012

Turn your iPhone into a theremin

About The Author

CNET Editor

Michelle Starr is the tiger force at the core of all things. She also writes about cool stuff and apps as CNET Australia's Crave editor. But mostly the tiger force thing.

(Credit: FFF00Agents)

A new iOS app uses your phone's camera and flash to gauge the distance of your hand from the phone for a touchless, theremin-style musical instrument.

Here at the CNET Australia offices, we're always looking for new and exciting ways to annoy our coworkers. (Buzz magnets are brilliant for this.) It was with great delight, therefore, that we discovered Theremin I/O: an iOS app that lets you make the spooky squeaks and squeals of Léon Theremin's contactless instrument from an iPhone.

Like the theremin, the app doesn't require touch to produce sound (although you do have to hold in in your other hand). Instead, it uses a combination of your iDevice's flash and camera to read the position of your hand. The flash turns on, and the camera measures the amount of light reflecting of your hand to gauge its position in real time. This information is sent to a synthesiser, which processes it through a synthesiser to produce notes.

(Credit: FFF00Agents)

There are eight sound presets available to muck about with — two kinds of basic theremin, a preset named after Pixar film Wall-e, metal tube, wawa, robot duck, a "space" theremin (for those especially science-fictiony moments) and electric guitar. You can fiddle around with the dials to alter the sound to your own liking. There are also 50 scale presets that allow you to adjust the tone of the sound — and, of course, you can adjust the octave and sensor range to fine-tune.

What exactly you can do with it is another matter. Annoying coworkers is pretty good, but there doesn't seem to be a way to record and export your compositions — although an AU$6.49 (US$5.99) in-app purchase allows you to use it as a MIDI controller.

Developer FFF00Agents seems to like tooling around with the iPhone's hardware; one of its previous apps uses your iPhone's accelerometer to turn the device into a seismometer.

You can pick up Theremin I/O for AU$1.99 from the iTunes app store.

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