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Towards the Tactile Internet of Musical Things

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You may have heard a new term recently: “The Tactile Internet” [1]. The Tactile Internet is the next evolution in the Internet of Things, where humans and machines can interact in real time, and with a very low latency. Low latency capabilities will enable new applications. The Tactile Internet will allow people to interact with remote environments and in real-time.

The enabling technology is 5G. The 5G standard defines a new class of service called “Ultra-Reliable Low Latency Communication” (URLLC). URLLC not only increases uplink speed, but also eliminates some of the handshakes necessary for an endpoint to send some data up to the network [2]. The end result is that applications can inject data into the network at a much reduced latency.
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Network Musical Performance and Cloud MIDI-Bridge

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Remote musical MIDI collaboration has been an interesting academic research area for years, but has not been explored by many casual musicians. One reason is that the complexity of software that brings MIDI and Networking together makes it a little bit of a daunting endeavor. We think it’s time to open exploration to more people and make remote MIDI collaboration as easy as joining a Hangout.

What is Network MIDI?

Back in 2001, a group of researchers at Berkeley began to experiment with remote musical collaboration [1]. The idea was see if musicians separated by some distance could collaborate in real time over a high-speed network. Rather than sending real-time audio signals, MIDI events were transmitted between instruments at two different locations.

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Why McLaren Labs uses Objective-C

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McLaren Labs was started with the idea that music and media creation on Linux should be as easy and fluid as Mac OSX. We had been inspired by AVFoundation and the modular way its pieces fit together. We loved being able to build media pipelines with sources and sinks that cleaned up after themselves when you were done with them them.

Many of the facets of the OSX components we liked were provided by ObjC features enabled by the Clang compiler and LLVM tool suite. LLVM has revolutionized language development by paving the way for Swift and Rust. Back at the time we were getting started, Swift on Linux was gaining traction and we considered adopting it. However, after some initial explorations with Swift and libdispatch, we discovered that libdispatch just wasn’t ready with Swift on Linux. That was in 2015 – Swift on Linux is much more mature. The equation might be different today … but it might not too.

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McLaren Labs rtpmidi Version 0.5.0

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This month McLaren Labs releases rtpmidi version 0.5.0 for Ubuntu and Raspberry Pi. This release brings some great new features, and also provides a few performance and installation improvements.

More MIDI message types … including SysEx

McLaren Labs rtpmidi has always supported the following message types with full Journal capability for sending and receiving. (Note: The Journal is part of the error correction mechanism that recovers lost messages that occur when sent over a network.)

  • Note On, Note Off
  • Control Change
  • Program Change
  • Pitchwheel
  • System Reset

With this release, we also add the following to provide a complete set of MIDI message types including System Exclusive.

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Use the ‘favorite’ Option to Automatically Initiate a MIDI Session

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When you use our rtpmidi tool to connect two devices you have created a “session.” The session has an “initiator” side that started the connection, and “listener” side that accepted the invitation. Some devices, however, do not make good “initiators” and iPhones are a great example. An iPhone cannot initiate a network MIDI session.

But sometimes you want an iPhone to join the MIDI network of a stationary computer … without going back to the computer screen. McLaren Labs’ “favorite” option was created to handle this case.

A “favorite” is the name of a device that that rtpmidi automatically initiates a session with whenever the favorite appears on the network. This new feature takes advantage of the properties of Bonjour (Avahi). A Listener advertises its availability using Bonjour. When rtpmidi detects a Bonjour name matching a favorite, it automatically initiates a session with that name.

Use the “favorite” option from the command line like this.

$ rtpmidi gui -F 'myiPhone' -t Organ-Synth:0

Now, whenever rtpmidi sees the iPhone named “myiPhone” it will automatically call it and route MIDI information to “Organ-Synth”.

A Demonstration

The video below shows how this works.

Using the ‘favorite’ option to automatically connect
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