Some weeks ago, out of pure chance, we were able to come across OTO, a strange, almost abstract looking product that promised to be the next generation of controllers. A very alluring product, fancy-looking and beautiful, we set to test it in Berlin.
OTO comes from the Japanese oto-no-katachi, which translates roughly in English to shape of sound. Though an apparent oxymoron, this perfectly captures the concept of the product, as with OTO, sound is no longer only wavelengths: it has a tangible physical form.
Colloquially speaking, OTO is a set of controllers that are connected via Bluetooth to a computer, and through the intuitive movements of your hand when you are moving, twisting, flipping and turning them, you are able to control MIDI software such as Ableton and Traktor, and its own standalone software, perfect for those who haven’t immersed themselves on these two already mentioned DJ tools.
After a short introduction to the standalone software and the polyhedrons (that would be those sparkly gemstone-looking things you see on the photo – for all of you who have flunked Geometry in High School) we were left to explore by ourselves how to create our “live set” with the instrument. Turns out that it was a quite easy task: as it is based on intuition, you have to listen to the variations in the sound, as you move around the polyhedrons in order to go figuring out the functions and how they can complement each other. For example, in the configuration we tried out – OTO focuses on the modularity of its software and controllers, you can configure them as you like – with one of the OTOs you could navigate between song samples and trigger them, with the second one you navigated songs, the third one adjusted EQ and crossfades, and the fourth one was an effects controller.
We had a blast trying out this new instrument, and then it was time for the serious talk: we found out that Michael, the creator, first came up with the idea while preparing his masters thesis project at Berklee College of Music, and as a result of his dissatisfaction with the two-dimensional control interphases out there. So he just decided to create his own, and after extensive researching and testing, OTO was born.
The main advantage about OTO would be how simple it makes it for DJs to play with it, it is perfect for beginners, but it also works for seasoned musicians wanting to give a twist to their live acts: who would imagine these polyhedrons could actually be so powerful to control a whole dance floor? Another advantage, would obviously be its price: while decks and controllers are really expensive, OTO starts at less than 100 USD for two controllers, and 190 USD for the four. And it gets even cheaper if you pledge “early bird” at their Kickstarter page! you can get two for as cheap as 79 USD. A far cry from the usual sums that DJs are accustomed to pay for their instruments and gadgets.
OTO is right now launching its Kickstarter campaign today, which means that this is a new product and it will be crowdfunded: a joint effort that brings a breath of fresh air to the electronic music instrument industry. Supporting OTO is pledging for something that everyone from this generation believes in: breaking free from the usual big brands, and as the motto of our magazine says, submerging into the underground.
Click here to check out the video to see how OTO works, and head over here for the Kickstarter page with much more information, including that nerdy technical information that will make the DJs drool.