Some doctoral thesis are much cooler than some others. Amit Zoran from the MIT’s Media Lab got it, as he hopes to focus on his invention, the Chameleon Guitar, as his doctoral project. And, I think the idea worth the shot!
Digital modeling guitar is not a novelty. To be schematic (and consequently approximative, I’m sorry for this), in a modeling guitar signals generated by the strings vibrations are transmitted to a computer. Then, the information is processed, and ultimately what you get is a guitar sound.
But the project of Amit Zoran goes a little further. Could the modelised sound be prettier and more realistic if sending an acoustic signal rather than a synthetic signal? I think that’s a clever application of a basic recording rule: the better the source is, the better the recording will be.
So his concept is pretty brilliant. The guitar is pretty much a basic guitar with an extra feature: a switchable central section, the soundboard. The soundboard is a piece of wood made of different kind of wood and different structure. Piezzo sensors on the soundboard capture the vibration of the piece of wood and send it to the computer. The computer processes this acoustic signal and emulate different kind of resonating chambers to modelise different type of guitar bodies. Sweet! This could the first step toward the next modeling guitars generation. Sky is the limit… You could imagine a lot of variations of the soundboard mixing kind of woods, using different materials (such as metals for dobro modeling?), different structures… Here is a video of Amit Zoran, Marco Coppiardi his collaborator and the prototype of the Chameleon Guitar.
I wish him the best of luck with this nice project. However, may I suggest a little thing? As he is planning to work on a better and faster switching system for the soundboard… Amit, Pleaaaase!! Don’t let this toilet seat look alike at the back of the guitar as it is… I am sure that there are a lot of designers out there willing to work on such a project!! Or maybe you already have some ideas yourself which is good too!!