The State of Network MIDI (2019)

Network MIDI was invented sometime around 2004 to send MIDI messages over an IP network. To handle network loss, a protocol known as RTP-MIDI was created and documented as RFC-4695. Network MIDI is built into OSX computers and iOS devices. Apple music creators think nothing of connecting MIDI equipment using Ethernet and WiFi, instead of MIDI cables.

Sometime around 2009, Network MIDI was built into iPads and iPhones. This made building touch-based control surface Apps easy, and ensured they integrated with MIDI Workstations over WiFi. While this capability created many cool demos, the unpredictable latency and jitter of WiFi made MIDI-over-WiFi not attractive where timing is important. MIDI-over-Bluetooth became a standard in the last few years, and seems to be the preferred method for sending MIDI over wireless links.

But Network MIDI persists, and new implementations of the protocol as software pop up, as do new hardware products implementing the protocol. This article is a round-up of some of the implementations available in 2019.

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Network Musical Performance and Cloud MIDI-Bridge

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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Towards the Tactile Internet of Musical Things

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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