AfterTouch Interview

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The greatest impediments to the wider acceptance of technically-based music and media products — be they targeted for the home, studio, or corporate office — are not technical, but operational, educational, and ergonomic issues.
This assumption underlies MIDIWorld’s work. And in attacking these problems for the past fourteen years for the music instrument industry’s leading companies, MIDIWorld’s President, Stanley Jungleib, has established a unique tenure. Widely read and known in the music instrument (MI) industry, he has been involved from their inception in dozens of leading-edge instruments, as well as in the creation and enhancement of MIDI itself.

MIDIWorld takes the position that a quality presentation cannot be accomplished without quality music. It considers MIDI vital to the success of multimedia, as it provides a high-quality, low-bandwidth, low-storage requirement alternative to digital sound files.Committed to bringing presentation technology into MI, MIDIWorld is built around a pair of fully expanded Macintoshes (IIfx and IIx: see separate studio specification). It is acquiring most Macintosh multimedia tools as they emerge, and carefully studying the applicability of this technology to MI market education as well as to user interfaces.

The advent of computerized multimedia presentations gives us important new tools for making the instrument maker’s case directly to the customer on the showroom floor, without convolution through an untrained salesperson. The studio is now demonstrating the newest techniques for controlling sound and MIDI interactively, with MacroMind Director (2.0), as well as working prototypes of interactive MIDI system simulations including browser-controlled study materials, real-time MIDI and CD-quality digital audio.

A recurring problem in instrument design is incomplete, vague, or shifting specifications. Certainly it is a tough art to design an instrument on paper, and there will always be corrections and changes as empirical development converges with reality. Experience and foresight are essential, but perhaps not sufficient to prevent something important from being overlooked. All oversights are costly; preventable ones can be extremely wasteful and easily delay a product’s introduction by months.
To address this problem, access to an explicit, “living,” interactive simulation reveals and prevent gaps at the earliest possible stages. MIDIWorld can now economically design and simulate the operation of a functioning musical instrument or system on the Macintosh. The “virtual” system serves as a vehicle of communication for those with input to the product definition, and provides essential feedback concerning the design. The negotiated model then becomes a concrete target for the programmers. The model also assists the development of documentation and tutorials. With planning, some of the model’s code can even be used in the actual application.

In two or three years, competition will force synthesizers to include user features and DSP techniques so radical and new that programming them on even an 8-line by 40-character display will be laughably frustrating if not impossible. For example, using graphics is the logical way to edit physical models based on waveguide techniques. There are only two possibilities: front panels will become the province of the home system computer, or the successful stand-alone instruments will likely boast large, programmable, touch-sensitive display panels. Now is the time to start thinking about how to capitalize on window-based or touch-screen technology and the interface issues they raise.
Much of MIDIWorld’s research is being developed and validated for Cogswell College’s Electronic Music Technology B.S. degree curriculum. Jungleib has a broad mandate to totally revamp the program in preparation for California State Education Training Panel (ETP) funding in 1991. The goal is to totally automate training based on behavioral objectives, using Director. The increased learning efficiency should actually create more time for the teacher to spend with individuals.
In addition, MIDIWorld has just contracted Intensive Care of San Francisco to spearhead a new sales and marketing effort for its sound-for-media techniques.
MIDIWorld seeks to align itself with corporate clients as well as graphics and video organizations looking for leadership in interactive documentation and training involving music, MIDI, and digital audio for the ’90s. The miraculous tools this industry is bringing forth today are also so inherently complex that designing the features, user interface, documentation, and market education are really inseparable. Increasingly, successful general products require cross-fertilization between experts in a wide variety of fields.

And in this era of hidden functions and the widely-loathed quasi-English imported manual, outstanding interfaces supported by powerful, informative sound and outstanding interactive documentation provide any serious enterprise with a clear opportunity to distinguish itself, whatever the marketplace.

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