IK Multimedia iRing Review. The iRing is a novel invention that aims to change the way musicians interact with their portable iDevices, but unfortunately it fails to deliver on performance and practicality.
Over the past ten years interactive technology has vastly developed around us. Now, in 2014, it is common place to find ourselves jabbing our fingers at touch screens and, in terms of music production, the affordability and availability of portable tablets has allowed more people than ever before to experiment with music. As such a new technology has been born with the intention of allowing the musician to interact with music in three dimensions just by waving their hands. Yes thats right, the intuitive personnel at IK Multimedia have developed a eye grabbing product that utilises the users hand movements to engage them with audio applications on their iOS devices. With the use of two brightly coloured polycarbonate rings held between the fingers.
Brightly coloured and friendly, the iRing packaging is easy on the eye and sufficiently protects the iRings inside. Before use it is important that you refer to the included documentation as you will need to register your product before use. Each iRing is made from an fluorescent polycarboate with three printed dots on each side which act as data points for the front facing camera to register your movement. In terms of build quality the iRings are strong and fit quite comfortably, but people with smaller hands might find them slipping as you become more animated in your movements when in use!
For the installation, IK Multimedia have used a simple method of enabling the user to use there iOS device to scan QR codes, which consequently directs them instantly to the downloads of the required software. IK Multimedia offer two free software packages that are available on the iOS App Store; the iRing Music Maker and iRing FX/Controller. Please beware that the iRing is currently only comparable with iOS devices with front facing cameras, Mac OS X is not supported.
IK Multimedia claim that the iRing works best it good lighting conditions. This already flags a problem for their product to be used in a live context, as live music is hardly ever played in a well and evenly lit room. Furthermore, we have discovered that the colour of clothes that you wear can effect the cameras accuracy at following the rings and, as such, IK Multimedia advise to wear a single colour garnet with no prints for optimal performance.
To control the various apps, you need to hold your iRings in the visual area of the camera that is shown on the screen of you iOS device. Following this procedure your iOS device will assign a combination to each side of the screen. For example I was controlling the drum lines with the left hand (triangle dots) and my right (line of dots) was controlling a filter on the drums. Moving my hands vertically changes drum patterns and the filter amount. Next by rotating your iRings parallel to the screen will change what that iRing is controlling.
Whilst using both free apps I found the experience both exciting and revolutionary, but also frustrating at times. The random acts of lag during a complex beat move can disrupt the music your creating and can leave you wondering what would happen if you used this in a live context. The controls are simple but do take a while to get used to, however you expect to have to learn and instrument so why would it be different for this. The most elegant part of the application is when you’re using the rings to control a filter. Raising a high pass filter over a kick beat for that authentic club sound is rather rewarding when conducted in this way with the iRing. It is this sort of musical application that I believe the iRing could excel at; being used to control a fixed parameter allowing as little cause for timing problems in the music. I can picture a live performer raising his hands up with the iRings to then drop them to bring on the next track parameter or having a mix queued up to be triggered by this action.
IK Multimedia constantly develop and innovate interesting products and this really comes through when you study the iRing. However I'm really not too sure if I can see the IK Multimedia iRing being used in a live environment. I think there is a learn curve that needs to be honed by the user, which at first can be frustrating, but the interest and fun the product brings will encourage you to do so. The software is feature packed but at times a little quirky and at the lag between movement and audio response would prove difficult to use effectively in a live music context. I want to see a second generation product that progresses where the iRing started, I believe this is a great way to bring human intuition and music together and this start is extremely promising! That all said, I have to award the IK Multimedia 3.5 stars.