“While not the best example of how this tech could be used, it was nice to see artists like DJ Felo and Karol G embrace Soli and give us a small glimpse of what it could do.” —Jill Toloza
“This project reminded me of an old nerd joke. Back in the good ol’ days of Slashdot.org message boards, anytime a new piece of hardware was released, tons of folks would say, ‘I could build a Beowulf cluster with these!’ There’s just something fun about what you can pull off with multiple devices.” —Husani Oakley
Overview: To show off the Motion Sense feature in Google’s Pixel 4 phone to a tech-forward, Latinx audience of music lovers, Google hosted an outdoor Latin Grammys performance in Las Vegas with reggaeton stars Karol G and DJ Felo. In line with Karol G’s role as a disruptor in the music industry, Google wanted the performance to be innovative and experimental. So, creative technology agency Deeplocal and ad agency Swift created Soli DJ, a custom DJ rig that used eight Pixel 4 phones and Google’s Motion Sense technology to light up the Latin Grammys.
Soli DJ was powered by Soli, a miniature motion-sensing radar developed by Google’s Advanced Technology and Projects team.
The rooftop performance aired during the 2019 Latin Grammys, showcasing Google technology to the award show’s global audience of more than eight million viewers.
The project took two months to produce.
Comments by Matthew Pegula, Emily Price and Harry Thompson:
Did you meet with any out-of-the-ordinary obstacles during development? “We had to design a novel, expressive instrument that allowed DJ Felo to play music using Soli’s touchless interactions. This required us to iterate through different design concepts with the goal of making a functional instrument that also highlighted how each gesture affected the music. One of our biggest challenges was making sure each phone was accessible to DJ Felo. Ultimately, we had to make our device much more compact.”
What do you think are the project’s core features? “After exploring various form factors, Deeplocal’s industrial designers landed on a free-form slatted design with LED lighting and dynamic angles to define the perimeter of the four-by-eight-foot DJ rig. Pixel 4 phones were positioned screen side up at the top of the slats, enabling DJ Felo to interface with the devices using gestural swipes or waves. Deeplocal designed a visual cue for the Pixel 4 screen, letting DJ Felo know when he triggered a new mute group. Hand proximity was also used to adjust a low-pass filter over tracks. At the same time, lighting responded to gestural swipes on each phone so that gradients of color changed in accordance with the DJ’s hand movements. When Motion Sense detected movement and triggered a new track, the LED slat beneath the activated phone lit up, sending a cascade of light onto neighboring LED slats and showcasing the power of Motion Sense to the audience throughout the performance.”
Are there any other technical features you’d like to call attention to? “Deeplocal fabricated a MIDI, or Musical Instrument Digital Interface, controller with lighting integration. In addition, Deeplocal developed software that converted Motion Sense gestures to MIDI and streamed the MIDI data into an LED lighting controller and media server for visuals.”